Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis. Urban Renewal 2.0 Director on Grand Bahama Ms. Michelle Reckley along with DPM Davis in Pine Ridge. FREEPORT, Grand Bahama – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Public Works and Urban Development, the Hon. Philip Davis, on Friday urged young men to ‘make a change’ in their lives so that they may fulfill their roles in the growth and development of the country. The Deputy Prime Minister was the guest speaker at the Urban Renewal Mental Health Seminar for Young Men at the Pine Ridge Urban Renewal Centre. He said he was pleased to be in Grand Bahama, and it is particularly pleasing when he comes because of young people. “I have been advised that the staff of Urban Renewal has a particular concern for Pine Ridge. They have made certain observations – young men skipping school, just hanging around, and waiting to purchase another ‘fix’. In other words, our young men, those we depend on to be the foundation of good families, are headed down the wrong road. It is cause for grave concern.” The Department of Statistics, said the Minister, recently released results for its Labour Force Survey and for Grand Bahama there was a decrease in the number of discouraged workers at 55%. “We are resolutely moving ahead to bring relief to those most in need; and the numbers tell us that you, the young, are those most in need.” In speaking with a group of young engineers last year, said the Deputy Prime Minister, he said he challenged them as he was challenging the young men present. “Hard times come with opportunities. I challenge you to allow hard times to inspire you and drive you to seek new and innovative ways to use the diverse gifts and talents that God has given to each of you. Do not waste them.” He said that the engineers were once uncertain about their future, just as they are, and just as he (the DPM) was. “I came from humble beginnings. Back then, I never even dreamed that I would be the man that I am today. Hard work and opportunities helped me along the way. Most importantly, though, it was my willingness to embrace change that saw me through life’s twists and turns. “Today, I invite you to begin to look at the world and yourselves differently. Our country’s very survival depends on you. That is a difficult thought — to have so much responsibility rest with you. However, it is an essential part of becoming a man — a leader — a nation-builder.” Speaking with them based on personal experiences, Mr. Davis said, “If we are honest, each of us has something that we want to change about us. Think about what you really want to change. Maybe you already know it. It could be something in your social life, your family situation, or your living conditions. Take time to focus on these things because if you really want change, if you really want something, it becomes so much easier to keep motivated. I encourage you to write these things down so that they stay with you. “Then, I encourage you to choose one thing or a habit to focus on for now – just one! You may have several things or several bad habits, but start simple – just one – so that you have a better chance of succeeding. Changing three things at once requires lots of time and energy. An example for me is choosing to walk for health at least five times a week. Walking is not the only thing that I would need to do, but it is a step in the right direction.” He continued, “Taking small steps is very important. One step at a time, one day at a time gets you by the feeling that something is too big or too difficult. That feeling is one of the most common things to hold people back from taking action at all. Take for instance, if you want to be a lawyer, you have to first finish school. To finish school, you have to study. If you take the time to study, it makes better sense to go to school every day and finish. “Sometimes, the plan in your head or on paper is harder to execute when you act or when you may not move as fast as you thought. I encounter this every day of my life. But taking one day at a time has been immensely helpful. Young people call that living to live another day.” Deputy Prime Minister Davis then quoted Ecclesiastes 11:4 that warns against procrastination. Not having the complete picture is no excuse for inactivity, and added that Solomon encourages people to move as the good things God has to offer will not come to those who waiver. He urged them to just do it. “It is very easy to get stuck in planning – planning the plan. Sometimes, you do not have time to plan, because that too is time wasted. Get moving and keep the ball rolling. Procrastination – putting things off for tomorrow – is the biggest thief of time. Today is your only promise. Start now. Do what you need to do to rise above your challenges by just taking one small and practical step towards what you want today.” Everyone has a part to play in the development of the nation, no matter how young or old. The Bahamas, he said, is not a rich country but neither is it poor. While the country does not have all that it wants, it has all that it needs and it also has more than most, and for this, the people of The Bahamas should be grateful. In closing, Deputy Prime Minister Davis said, “We are counting on you to become successful individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to our communities. You will play a leading role in building the more successful Bahamas we all want for the future. As a Government, we commit to supporting you through the challenges of adolescence and the transition into adulthood. Because of you, The Bahamas will be smarter, healthier, wealthier, fairer, safer and stronger.” It was then that he focused on Michael Jackson’s hit ‘Make a Change’ and used to lyrics to make his point. By looking at the man in the mirror it means if you are going to make a change, it must begin with you. “The march to the future begins now. It begins with the ‘man in the mirror’.” Brave Davis speaks to Urban Renewal Mental Health Seminar for Young Men  Read More →
REMARKS UPON THE OPENING OF LEGAL YEAR 2015 Madam Allyson Maynard-Gibson QC - Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas - Nassau Guardian File Photo. The Honourable Allyson Maynard Gibson, Q.C. Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas January 14, 2015 May it please Your Lordship: May I note that Justices Ian Winder and Deborah Fraser have joined the Bench and thank Justice Claire Hepburn has retired? We thank her for her service. I also note the presence of the President of the Court of Appeal, Mrs. Anita Allen and other Justices of Appeal. This week marks the second time that we, Citizens of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, commemorate Majority Rule Day with a National Holiday. My Lord, with your leave, I reflect upon the responsibilities that we inherited when we secured Majority Rule. Through liberty, we accepted the challenge of hard work, enterprise and commerce, so as to secure prosperity for future generations and their loved ones. We took as our duty to safeguard the security of our brothers and sisters in Bahamian citizenship, such that they might enjoy the fruits of prosperity. And we vouched for justice to all Bahamians, meaning to ensure that any crime against our God-given freedoms was remedied with the appropriate sentence. To embrace Majority Rule, therefore, was to understand and in fact deem with the deepest conviction that – in the words of British Prime Minister William Gladstone – “justice delayed is justice denied”. In the wake of recent attacks against these democratic values in Paris, these ideas are as vitally important today as they were in 1967. The Bahamas – like so many of its fellow democracies – must never stop striving to fulfill the promise of its Freedom. My Lord – as I thank Hos Grace Archbishop Patrick Pinder for hosting the Bench and Bar at the Red Mass this past Sunday and His Lordship Bishop Laish Boyd and Dean Patrick Adderley for this morning hosting us at the Service for the Opening of the Legal Year, I thank them for reminding all of us upon whom our Legal system relies that we in particular have a special obligation to ensure that our nation never regresses in the face of challenges to our freedoms and our safety. We must work to create a safer and better Bahamas for our children and our grandchildren. If it please your Lordship, I would therefore like to take a moment to discuss how we are working to achieve this through our Swift Justice initiative. Only through communication, cooperation and collaboration can we succeed. Each of us has a responsibility to communicate, cooperate, and collaborate to ensure Swift Justice and work towards a better Bahamas – a safer, more secure Bahamas where justice rolls down like a river and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. By now, your Lordship, we know all too well the obstacles which were severely maligning our justice system: __Witnesses who do not turn up for trial; __Evidence that is not ready for trial; __Transcripts that are not ready for trial; __Scheduling conflicts for defence counsel; and __Difficulties in empaneling juries. Postponement of trials due to these issues leads to delays, backlogs and applications for bail. We know that serious offenders released on bail frequently violate their bail conditions and there is significant risk they will commit further crimes, interfere with and intimidate witnesses, and compromise ongoing investigations. This exacerbates fear of crime and creates cynicism about the administration of justice. That is why, in 2012, we reinstated the Swift Justice initiative. Swift Justice brings together stakeholders in the administration of justice at regular meetings so that through communication, cooperation and collaboration, focus can be brought to bear on ensuring that trials occur when they are set. I must tell you that Swift Justice is showing promising results. Things are moving in the right direction, and we are making this progress within our existing resources. Old cases are being thoroughly reviewed and prepared. Communication, cooperation and collaboration between the Office of the Attorney General and stakeholders has led to excellent outcomes -utilizing existing resources. Allow me to share a few concrete examples: __The time required to present a Voluntary Bill of Indictment(VBI) from laying of charges has decreased by 460% – from 344 days before October 2012 to 78 days, as of 31 December 2014; __The number of cases disposed of by the Supreme Court heard has increased from 118 in 2012 to 200 in 2014, which is almost double; __Supreme Court trials in 2014 yielded 54% guilty and 46% not guilty verdicts. Trials for murder and murder-related offences in 2014 resulted in 51% guilty verdicts and 43% not guilty verdicts. No one is charged in a serious offence unless the Office of the Attorney General signs off that there is cogent and admissible evidence likely to lead a reasonable jury to convict AND that everything that can be on the case file prior the charge is on the case file. This means that once a VBI is served we are prepared for the matter to be set down for trial. The Courts are also using new technology to efficiently and effectively manage time and processes, again through communication, cooperation and collaboration, at all levels of our justice system. For instance __Bails, remands, and case management can now done by videoconference, with only those whose physical presence is required appearing in court; and __Evidence is being received by videoconference – from Family Islands, Nassau and abroad. These new initiatives save money and time so our security forces and legal system have more resources to address the backlogs; as well as to confront current challenges on the streets. Analysis of Supreme Court bail applications from January to December 2014 is also instructive. __Of applications for murder and related offences - 55 were granted or varied and - 97 denied, revoked or dismissed. __Of applications for armed robbery and related offences - 70 were granted or varied and - 51 were denied, revoked or dismissed. __Of applications for possession of a firearm or related offences -36 were granted or varied and - 13 were denied or dismissed. My team and I have held important strategic meetings with the police, and significant decisions have been made to address the perception of a revolving door on bail, especially those involving the use of firearms. We shall continue to collate statistics and report on what we expect to be significantly different outcomes as a result of these strategic decisions. I thank the Commissioner of Police for his leadership and cooperation in this thrust. In 2012 we identified four “escape routes” that prevented matters coming to trial in a timely manner: __Unavailability of transcripts __Inability to empanel juries __Calendaring conflicts __Lack of defence counsel In fact, of the 43 delayed trials we’ve studied in the past year to determine the key factors contributing to the problem, we’ve been able to ascertain that 47% did not proceed because of the inability to empanel a jury; 21% did not proceed because the virtual complainant refused to pursue the matter; 16% did not proceed because defence counsel was not available to appear in court; and another 16% did not proceed because the defendant was unable to secure counsel. It is often said that awareness is the first step to recovery – and this is most certainly the case in relation to the primary causes of trial delays. So, while identifying these causes does not in and of itself solve our problem, it is fair to say that the deep understanding we now have of this challenge will allow us to develop effective policies to address it. The court reporting unit has been revamped and new processes implemented; amendments to the Juries Act are expected to aggressively address empanelment issues; the Public Defender Unit should address defence counsel issuesand the integrated justice calendaring system together with hands on management of the process by judges should address defence counsel calendaring conflicts. On the matter of the Public Defender Unit, as I acknowledge the presence of the President of the Court of Appeal and other Justices of Appeal, let me thank her for her persistence in her call for a Public Defender Unit. I thank the Prime Minister for his commitment to Swift Justice. The Executive has provided5 new state of the art courts; also, internet access, videoconferencing and the capacity to project digital images in almost all of the courts. And I thank the judges for using these facilities. I also thank our partners the United States of America represented here today by Deputy Chief of Mission Ms. Lisa Johnson, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Interamerican Development bank. It is clear that these tools, which are a part of Swift Justice, along with the principles of communication, cooperation and collaboration that guide our work under this initiative, are making a positive impact on administration of justice. In January 2014 we set a target of 270 matters to be disposed of in the Supreme Court. We believe that but for the aforementioned lost days, that target would have been met. My Lord, in 2015 we will continue to enhance Swift Justice initiatives. __We will complete introduction of digital recording in the Magistrates’ Court. __We will bring swift justice to the magistrates’ Court by a targeted focus on revamping administration and processes. __We will provide the resources and legal framework for a family court; community courts; and an environmental court. __Increased focus will be brought to bear on the civil side of administration of justice. __We will revamp the Office of the Attorney General in the Northern Bahamas. __We will ask the Inner Bar to formalize the manner in which they will make pro bono contributions. __And we will enhance public awareness including public reporting on Magistrates’ Court decisions. It is clear that we are expanding the number of courts we have operational, and improving efficiencies in our existing courts. This month alone, criminal trials will be held in 8 courts, and it is expected that criminal trials will commence in 10 courts in March 2015. My Lord, by further increasing communication, cooperation and collaboration we hope to dispose of over 350matters before the Supreme Court in 2015. This will have a significant impact. I believe if we work together on Swift Justice, our country’s “war on crime” will eventually be victorious so that together we can honour the sacrifices of our ancestors who fought for the freedom and democracy we all enjoy – the same freedom, democracy and security we want to bequeath to generations to come. My Lord with your permission I wish to acknowledge the presence of and thank the Team at the Office of the Attorney General, led by Antionette Bonamy, Garvin Gaskin and Cynthia Gibbs and our Consultants Loren Klein, Cleopatra Christie and Bernis Pinder for their tireless hard work, dedication and patriotic service in pursuit of justice. My Lord, I have known you for almost 50 years. I trust that your Lordship will regard this admission as expert qualification to speak about the Lord Chief Justice. Your Lordship is from a family dedicated to public service. Your Father, the late Arthur Barnett Sr. CMG, was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen for a lifetime of public service, including as Deputy to the Governor General. I am sure that he would be very proud of his son’s achievements, including those as Attorney General and Chief Justice. I would also like to honour and acknowledge his public service in being a family man and father figure. He and your Mother, Mrs. Beryl Barnett, here today, mentored a family larger than their own 9 children. Your life journey, including your service to your beloved Catholic Church, especially as its Chancellor, prepared you for this moment in history. As well as having considerable intellectual prowess, legal acumen and a deep and abiding love of the law, you have always had a keen sense of Justice. I will not abuse the time allotted to me traversing the many landmark Judgments delivered by you. For decades they shall speak for themselves. Rather, I acknowledge that the successes of which I spoke are in no small measure due to our commitment to the same vision. As friends and colleagues, we never differed on the goal of efficiency and fairness in the administration of justice. There are many accomplishments and qualities for which the nation can thank you. Today I will focus on those once enumerated by the former Lord Chief Justice of the United Kingdom, Baron Bingham of Cornhill. On behalf of the Executive and in turn the people within our borders who stand under the protection of the Courts, I thank you My Lord Chief Justice, Sir Michael Barnett, for your dedication in patiently ascertaining the oft times unclear facts in matters before you; your intellect in developing and making law; and your humble and God fearing approach in the exercise of your judicial discretion. We also thank your family – including your dear wife Lady Barnett, your children Michaela and Viola (counsel of this Honourable Court) and your Mother [all here today] for allowing you to sacrificially serve our Bahamaland as Chief Justice. I paraphrase the Psalmist, Long may you live! May gold be given you. May people ever pray for you and bless you all day long. My Lord, I thank you for your support of the principles Swift Justice which continue to undergird the Justice, Safety, Freedoms, Christian Values and the Rule of Law for which our forefathers so greatly sacrificed and which we celebrate today. I continue to be humbled by the responsibilities of the Attorney General. I am excited to come to work every day. I pledge my support and that of my Team at the Office of the Attorney General to continued and enthusiastic pursuit of justice and service of the Bahamian people – and through them, Almighty God. May he abundantly bless our pursuits in 2015 and always. —END–  Read More →
NASSAU, The Bahamas – Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling, Governor General, centre, hosted a dinner in honour of the Anglican Archbishop of the West Indies the Most Reverend Dr. the Hon. John Holder, third right, January 24. Present also were from left: Mrs. Bernadette Christie, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, the Anglican Bishop of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands the Right Reverend Laish Boyd, and Mrs. Joann Boyd. (BIS Photo/Peter Ramsay)  Read More →
A new man is headed to the top of the Supreme Court! Praise GOD! Justice Hartman Longley Nassau, Bahamas — A man who is known to send criminals deep into the bowels of the prisons for the rest of their natural lives, Justice Hartman Longley is expected to take the seat at the country’s new Chief Justice! Bahamas Press teams on Grand Bahama have just been informed of the great news which confirms Justice Longley will take the oath of office at Government House on Monday, Feb. 2nd at 10am. Dame Marguerite Pindling will do the honours before members of the beach and the executive. BP marks the occasion as a national event and we know Justice shall be delivered for the Bahamian people! Mr. Longley comes from a decent heritage. He is a contemporary of that first generation of Bahamian lawyers trained in the University of the West Indies legal training system. He is a success by any measure, and he has shown a capacity to be humane and dispassionate in his judgments at the Supreme Court level, and, most importantly, in his courtroom manner. We know he will help to improve the reputation of the Court in terms of the civility and treatment officers of the court. Bahamas Press sounds our glad hosannas and praise to GOD following today’s news. To Justice Hartman Longley and his most decent family we sound our glad and glorious CONGRATULATIONS! Hallelujah!!!!! We report yinner decide!  Read More →
Robinhood is better than ever! PRAISE GOD!!! Incredible prices at Robinehood's 'Everything Must GO'! Dear Editor, God always makes a way out of no way and VAT has proven to be a blessing in disguise. Since the holidays a close friend had told me to drop SuperValue like a hot potato and come to the east and pay a special visit to Robinhood’s newly opened store on Prince Charles Drive – “Everything Must Go!” I was reluctant to pay that visit after she noted how Bahamians were up there fighting over corn flakes. But finally after taking enough of Supervalue’s nasty abuse on my pocketbooks I decided to visit the new store and to my surprise the prices were incredible. Fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden and dirt-cheap. I saw people taking away whole boxes of Pineapples, which sold for $2.79 each. INCREDIBLE! Strawberries which sold in other stores for almost $9 were being sold for $2.74. INCREDIBLE! Blueberries were for $3.25. UNBELIEABLE! Fruits and vegetables, which usually take more than a quarter of my grocery bill, were significantly reduced. And then there were a dozen eggs, sold for $2.19. INCREDIBLE! Nowhere in all of New Providence can you find such fresh, name brand produce for pennies on the dollar. All I say is this: MY GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS – and in HIM – there are wonders to perform! Thank YOU LORD! Robinhood is back and the other stores soon close down! AMEN!!! Signed, Carla Basden  Read More →
Violent incident left this marine Tino Deangelo Dorsette dead. Nassau, Bahamas – Wanted suspect Emmanuel Rolle will appear in court at 11:00am to be formally charged for the murder of Defense Force Marine Angelo Dorsett Jr. and the attempted murder of two others that occurred on Sunday 25th January 2015. Also an adult female will appear in court at 11:00am to be formally charged for the murder of Andrea Carroll that occurred at Deadman’s Cay, Long Island on 29th November 2014. DEU OFFICERS RECOVER 2 FIREARMS POLICE has taken two more firearms off the streets of New Providence in separate incidents on Thursday29th January 2015. In the first incident, shortly after 6:30pm, officers from the Drug Enforcement Unit acting on intelligence went to an abandoned building located on Key West Street, where they uncovered a handgun along with 2 live rounds of ammunition. Also a quantity of marijuana was found. In the second incident, shortly after 7:00pm, officers from the Drug Enforcement Unit acting on intelligence went to a bushy area located at Millennium Gardens, where they uncovered a sub-machine gun.No arrests were made in these two incidents. 16 ARRESTED DURING TWO SEPARATE POLICE OPERATIONS POLICE are reporting the arrest of 11 persons in separate operations conducted by officers from the Southeastern and Southwestern Divisions on Thursday 29th January 2015.During the operation conducted by Southeastern Division officers, 7 persons were arrested for various offences such as murder, shop breaking and possession of dangerous drugs.During the operation conducted by Southwestern Division officers, 9 persons were arrested for various offences such as, house breaking, possession of dangerous drugs, stolen vehicle and outstanding court warrants. Additionally, two stolen vehicles were recovered. The Southeastern operation was under the command of Superintendent Maxine Leary-Rolle and theSouthwestern operation was under the command of Superintendent Matthew Edgecombe.  Read More →
Bahamas is now headed in the RIGHT DIRECTION with Christie! Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Perry Christie REMARKS BY THE PRIME MINISTER THE RIGHT HON. PERRY G. CHRISTIE, M.P. AT THE BAHAMAS BUSINESS OULOOK MELIA RESORT – NEW PROVIDENCE 29THJANUARY, 2015 Ladies and gentlemen, Good Morning! It is always a pleasure to address The Bahamas Business Outlook forum.  It gives me an opportunity to share with you my vision for the future of The Bahamas and to provide an update on the activities of my government, particularly as they relate to  economic development. You have a striking theme this year: “Securing our Bahamas through Planning, Partnership and Productivity”.  These three interrelated concepts have resonated throughout our country in recent years, especially in recent months as the work for my Government’s  National Development Plan has gathered pace.  Indeed these three concepts have been our guiding lights as we strive to promote a more dynamic economy, Bahamian entrepreneurship and ownership, and a better quality of life for Bahamians today and in the future. Productivity:  A Matter of Personal Responsibility Indeed as I ponder the last of these three themes – PRODUCTIVITY – I realize that nation-building is all about the essential ingredients of productivity, namely, “Personal Responsibility” and “Personal Action”.  We must therefore ask ourselves if we are each bearing our share of the responsibility and action needed for constructive and sustained nation-building. For example: Are we caring for and protecting our environment (land, sea and air) as an inheritance to pass to the next generation? Are we truly desirous of moving towards greater energy and food security as a priority? Are we prepared to fund critical infrastructure to ensure climate change resilience, business development and a better way of life for all Bahamians? Are we ready to put the time in to raise children who love and value themselves and their nation? Are we ready to fund the development of “first-world” education for our children and to create an environment in which higher education and quality health care are regarded as “the new normal” rather than a privilege? Are we prepared to take the necessary actions to secure a dignified retirement for our elders? Ladies and Gentlemen, these are critical questions for a young country such as ours!  Yes, we require Planning and Partnership – actions that a government can facilitate.  However, the “Productivity” aspect is 95% about personal responsibility– it’s about you and me taking the necessary action to ensure that we give more, give better, produce more, and work harder to achieve the goals we have set before us. Let us make no mistake about it: we are individually accountable for our actions in the stewardship of this land and in the shaping of our society.  Indeed, the legacy and  investments made today will ultimately benefit – or condemn – successive generations in the future.  Our society, after all, is merely a reflection of our individual selves and the choices we have made or have failed to make in our collective governance. And so, at this 2015 Bahamas Business Outlook, I charge all Bahamians to recognize that personal responsibility matters as we build our country.  History, and the stories which are passed on to our children and grandchildren about our stewardship of this country, are essentially the collective testimony about the personal actions of individuals.  I implore you, therefore, to become a part of this nation-building narrative, so that you too can make your mark as we build our future together. Planning: My Government’s Approach The Bahamas has entered a new age as it relates to Planning.  As I have said before, our view of planning is all about strategic thinking as we prepare for today and the future.  Over the years, I have looked around at how government was carrying out its duties; and while we have been extremely successful as a nation, I am also aware that there have been instances where a better result would have been attained had there been wiser strategic planning for development and investment. With that in mind, I met with the IDB early last year and asked them for assistance in developing a more structured approach to governmental planning for development.  This initial conversation led to a technical cooperation grant to develop an Economic Development and Planning Unit within the Office of The Prime Minister to oversee the development and execution of a National Economic Development Plan.  We have also had constructive discussions with the College of The Bahamas so that our future national university can be part of this new process as well.  President Smith and his senior personnel have pledged their support and we are now working on the modalties that will aim to maximize faculty and student participation in the development plan. In this plan, we hope to elucidate a shared vision for The Bahamas.  We will ask the Nation, “What do we want to be in 20 years?”;  “What do we want our country to look like?”   We would like to have not only a clear and coherent vision that answers those questions but also a clearly articulated strategy by which we can incrementally bring that vision to reality. This afternoon you will hear more about this work from a panel of distinguished individuals including Felix Stubbs, the chair of the Vision 2040 Steering Committee; Mr. Robert Pantzer – a representative of the IDB; Dr. Nicola Virgill-Rolle, the government’s lead on the National Development Plan and a dynamic young professional in my office, Samantha Rolle. Partnerships:  For the Greater Good Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to report that the partnerships in our country – that is to say the oartnerships between “citizen and government” and “government and business” are, from the government’s perspective, growing stronger.  I was deeply encouraged by the recent collaborative relationship forged between the public and private sectors in the implementation of VAT.  What we saw was deep and patient discussion between business, the citizen and the government.  Eventually, a consensus was forged on the way forward with VAT.   Today the citizenry is assisting the government in the orderly implementation of VAT in a way that will maximize revenue collection and ensure that the revenues raised are utilized wisely and sensibly for the greatest benefit of the country. I applaud the partnerships – government, citizen and business — which have helped to make the introduction of VAT as smooth as could be expected. As a result of VAT, we expect that many of our public/private partnership initiatives in energy, infrastructure and tourism development will be able to make important forward strides without over-depletion of the public purse.  There are also other reforms planned which focus on the modernization of systems in public management for greater effectiveness in planning and efficiency in revenue collections. The Economy The world is still emerging from the economic and social devastation spawned by the financial “hurricane” of 2008.  We have, however, slowly gained traction in our primary economic sectors. We do not underestimate this accomplishment, for although the United States declared an end to recessionary conditions in their country, many Caribbean economies are still plagued with unprecedented levels of unemployment, burgeoning social problems like crime and deterioration in family life, high public and personal debt,  fiscal and financial sector deterioration and, for many countries in the region,  economic stagnation. I am encouraged, however, that we have successfully arrested the downward spiral of our economy and that we remain on course to see accelerated growth this year.  When we took office my government prioritized spending on infrastructural development, energy, and projects that focused on poverty alleviation and job creation. We introduced fiscal reforms as mechanisms for cost containment and manageable servicing of debt. We have maintained a disciplined course in this regard  and are seeing the results. By the second quarter last year fiscal debt had fallen by some $65 million to $375 million due to fiscal consolidation and increased tax revenue resulting from the implementation of initiatives which yielded increased taxes to date and greater efficiency in collections. Energy My government recognizes that energy costs in The Bahamas are among the highest in the region at US$0.40 kWh for residential customers and US$0.44 for nonresidential customers. In addition, our energy infrastructure is outdated.  We also recognize that reducing the cost of energy is paramount to reducing the cost of living and doing business for both domestic and business consumers.  It would spur sustained economic development by both domestic and foreign investors. With that in mind we introduced last year a National Energy Policy and established renewable energy goals of 30%  baseline generation through renewable technologies by 2030. The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2014, and Electricity (Renewable Energy) Regulations 2014, which  just recently passed in Parliament, speaks to the requirements for installation and operation of generating stations and grid interconnections by renewable energy producers in areas of low population density. Such measures  will have profoundly positive implications for Family Island development moving forward. The restructuring of the country’s electricity corporation is a major initiative effort by my government, one that is designed to reduce energy costs through privatization of management while at the same time maintaining equity ownership of an important national asset and essential service, using for this purpose a model similar to the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) management contract with Vantage, formerly Vancouver Airport Services. We should complete a critical part of the BEC re-structuring exercise shortly with the selection of the successful bidder. Oil prices have dropped on international markets. The cost of a barrel of diesel dropped from $117 in October to $77 in January, and a barrel of heavy fuel oil from $99 to $50. Crude oil is purchased at a fixed-price over contractual periods and so there is expected to be a lag in rate reductions.  BEC has instituted billing reductions in the range of 11% to 12% for residential consumers for the specified period October 2014 to January 2015, based upon the customer type, basic rate, units consumed and fuel charge.  Fuel surcharge has dropped by about 5 cents, which is a reduction of 17%.  Commercial consumers will be getting reductions on their bills and  that further interventions will occur in the coming months. As Chair of CARICOM, I have just met in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and colleague Heads of Government from the region. There we discussed energy security matters and the potential transformative impact on our Caribbean sub-region with our US partner. This will be one of the themes on our agenda for our upcoming CARICOM Inter-sessional Conference of Heads of State and Government on 26th and 27th February in Nassau. In Washington we talked about: ·      Promoting opportunities for investment in energy, including renewable energy, oil and gas exploration and production, forestry, mining in areas such as gold, diamonds and bauxite, infrastructure development, tourism, airline services, financial services, agriculture and fisheries; ·      Pursuing a low carbon strategy and investments in solar power and other renewable energy sources such as geo-thermal, wind and hydro; ·      Supporting adaptation and mitigation measures.  Energy, water, sanitation, coastal protection, and protection of critical coastal infrastructure are central to the capacity of our countries to adapt to, and mitigate, the effects of climate change. The reality is that a five-foot rise in sea level would eliminate 80 per cent of The Bahamas. Climate change is real for The Bahamas; it is a threat to our very existence; and ·      Working together to eliminate GDP per capita as the determinant criterion for denying or allowing us access to concessional financing. GDP per capita does not adequately reflect developmental differences within societies. Happily, the United States and Japan are showing greater flexibility on the issue of GDP per capita as a determinant for concessional financing for development.  The United States announced on 26th January that they will no longer block concessional financing to middle income countries in the International Financial Institutions as it relates to energy and climate change financing, based on GDP per capita. It also announced that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation will be able now to finance projects related to renewables and climate change mitigation in The Bahamas.  I welcome this positive development and urge Bahamian and American business people to look at projects which can qualify for this financing. Food Security We have established the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) to bring a focusd effort to achieving food security in partnership with what will become the University of The Bahamas, and other international institutions. Along with its research and educational aspects, BAMSI has begun operations of commercial agricultural and marine farms. It will also provide technical assistance to a network of affiliated operations and independent farmers in Andros, Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama and New Providence. In fact, by way of illustration, much of the papayas and bananas supplied to wholesalers and retailers over the Christmas were produced by BAMI’s farms.  I am proud of this accomplishment. Tourism In our primary business sector, overall tourism performance improved last year, most notably in air arrivals which had consistently declined over the preceding six year period.  For the first 10 months of last year air arrivals grew 4.5% over the same period in 2013 and a small contraction in sea arrivals netted an overall growth in arrivals of 3.5% or 5 .1 million visitors to The Bahamas. Significant gains were made most notably in Grand Bahama which, for the first 10 months of last year, experienced an overall growth rate of 38% which was marked by a 43% increase in air arrivals, and a slight decline of 8% in sea arrivals. Gains were also made in the Family Islands which experienced an overall 3% growth in air arrivals and 9% growth in sea arrivals in the first 10 months of the year. Indeed last year most of the Family Islands experienced positive growth in arrivals with Exuma leading the way with a 15% increase in stopovers. Long Island followed at 11% and San Salvador with a 6% growth in stopovers.  Sadly, recessionary conditions continue to be evident in Cat Island, Eleuthera and Andros, all of which continued to experience negative growth in visitor arrivals.  However, I am pleased to report that we are progressing on touristic related development proposals which should be finalized in the coming months and which will significantly impact these islands. In New Providence growth has been sluggish, due mainly to the loss of room inventory with the closure for renovations of the Wyndham, Nassau Palm and Paradise Island Harbour Resort hotels, and the lack of new inventory available to compensate for these losses. This was demonstrated by only a 2% increase in air arrivals for the first 10 months of the year. Cruise arrivals increased by 3% over the same period, netting an overall growth of 2.3% for New Providence. Tourism becomes a fully functioning economic engine only with proper calibration of its four key drivers of airlift, cruise, product and events with stimulation of the marketplace.  Some drivers such as airlift and cruise can be influenced to produce more immediate results from stimulation while others such as hotel developments require anywhere from 12-24 months lead time before any economic activity even begins. Cruise The Bahamas, which remains the market leader in cruise product in the region, is poised for even stronger future cruise and stopover cruise growth from the Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach gateways.  The Bahama Grand Celebration Cruise Lines, Grand Bahama’s largest provider of longer-staying visitors will re-launch its company with the new “Grand Celebration” which has the capacity to bring some 280,000 passengers year round. The combination cruise-and-stay package has the potential to boost room nights sold to 125,000 this year, from just under 50,000 in 2014, and to provide new employment in Grand Bahama for an additional 300-600 persons. The Balearia’s $100 million dollar, superfast ferry which can hold 1,000 passengers and 200 containers sails from Ft. Lauderdale to Freeport (daily) and is now in discussions aimed at relocating its call centre operations to Grand Bahama. My Government is also in advanced discussions with two major cruise lines for the development of new cruise destinations with major attractions revolving around a Bahamian theme. We expect to complete these negotiations soon. Airlift My Government and our partners in the tourism industry have spent considerable time and effort in identifying the right target markets in this new global economic paradigm, one that can produce incremental visitor traffic from air seats into The Bahamas in tandem with growth of hotel room inventory. As a result, air seat capacity to Nassau/Paradise Island in 2014 increased by 5% compared to 2013 and the Ministry of Tourism, in close collaboration with Industry partners, has taken steps to secure the incremental nonstop air seat capacity needed to accommodate the new rooms coming on stream at BahaMar in 2015. Grand Bahama Island experienced a significant increase in stopover arrivals due to increases in nonstop flights from several Canadian gateways by Sunwing Airlines, Bahamasair/Xtra Airways Spring/Summer flights from several U.S. cities, Delta Air Lines’ increased frequencies from once a week to daily service from Atlanta and Silver Airways daily service from South Florida gateways. In the Family Islands, Air Canada inaugurated weekly service in May, 2014 from Montreal to San Salvador.  I should add that my Government, through the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, has completed a study by heading airport planners of all of our Family Island airports. We will be embarking upon a programme of upgrading which is estimated to cost over $200 million. In Bimini, through public/private partnership, the airport runway has been completed, with equipment installed to facilitate night flights and paving of the main road so that Resorts World was able to significantly increase seaplane flights to Bimini last year with 2500 flights carrying over 7,000 passengers, now making it the busiest seaplane route in the Caribbean. Operators of the Baker’s Bay Resort in Abaco are exploring private partnerships to provide weekly direct services via seaplanes between south Florida and Baker’s Bay. DLC Jet Shuttle Services, implemented in 2014, will expand to include 60 round-trips between White Plains N.Y. and Marsh Harbour.  Additional lift and private jet use is expected to yield an additional business from 15,000 Members, guest and prospects in 2015. The opening of the new Marsh Harbour Airport Terminal last year will provide new opportunities for further expansion of hotel and second home developments throughout the Abacos and we are presently in meetings with the China Harbour Construction Company to accelerate completion of the $39 million Port project in North Abaco. The Ministry of Tourism, working in close partnership with the Industry, is also vigorously promoting airlift growth opportunities from key European markets, Latin America, Canada and key U.S. gateways. Of particular interest, the Ministry of Tourism is currently in talks with airlines in China as well.  Indeed just two weeks ago, during our visit to China, the Minister of Transport and Aviation signed an Air Services Agreement with China to allow for direct air service to our respective territories.  This will enable The Bahamas to capitalize on opportunities to attract Chinese tourists who represent one in every 10 international tourists worldwide, and whose expenditures of US$129 billion in 2013 are made in only 44 countries outside of those such as The Bahamas with visa-waiver arrangements with China.  We are in discussions for both charter and scheduled, direct flights from China in conjunction with leading outbound tour companies. Moreover, it is noteworthy that Chinese visitors to the USA increased by 22% last year. The opportunity for direct service and one-stop service, combined with the growing popularity of beach resorts with Chinese honeymooners, is expected to significantly change the landscape for tourist arrivals to The Bahamas. My Government is promoting closer ties with China to identify opportunities, not only in tourism and airline services, but for investments in hotels, energy, including renewable energy, financial services, agriculture and fisheries. In pursuing these opportunities, however, my government will remain committed to its core-principles that stress the need to put “Bahamians first” in areas of the economy that do not require a heavy reliance on foreign direct investment capital. Foreign Direct Investment Early on in my Government’s term in office, however, we undertook an aggressive position with respect to foreign direct investment to stimulate economic activity across this archipelago so that the concentration of jobs and economic opportunities would be dispersed beyond the urban shores of New Providence and Grand Bahama, to Bimini, the Berry Islands, Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma and San Salvador. These islands were targeted in the first instance because more achievable gains could be affected in these destinations. The expansion and refurbishment of existing anchor-development projects in New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands; the opening of new hotel properties in New Providence, Bimini, and Abaco this year, should yield positive economic results. At the same time we are making capital investments in other islands as the economy continues to gain momentum and as previously invested capital bears fruit. Projects such as: A new, 300 room Resorts World hotel to be branded by Hilton. Capital expansion of the February Point property in Exuma and construction of a community development and sports centre at Flamingo Bay in a public/private partnership initiative with the government. A $4 million expansion and complete renovation of Club Med in Columbus Isle, San Salvador and a $20 million investment in two new properties by Club Med’s joint venture partner Sand and Ocean. A capital investment of $348 million over the next decade by Southworth Developers the new co-owners of the Winding Bay Golf Resort in Abaco; A $105 million expansion and refurbishment of the Baker’s Bay property in Abaco and construction of residential development, infrastructure and amenities In Norman’s, Culmer’s, Children’s Bay and Williams’ Cays, serious investors are acquiring properties for development of ultra-high-end, eco-sensitive developments. Other investors are in negotiations with the Government with respect to major expansion in Exuma which will necessitate the upgrade of the Exuma airport and other infrastructural works. Major expansion of the Freeport Container Terminal, to be completed over the next two years, together with other planned expansion in the industrial and manufacturing sectors in Freeport. A new FBO terminal, housing Bahamas Customs and the Police at the Grand Bahama International Airport opened last year and one year ago this month we witnessed the forging of a partnership between the government, Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts and Hutchison Whampoa to effect the opening of the Memories Grand Bahama Beach and Casino Resort (formerly Reef Village).This month the owners of Blue Diamond, Sunwing Travel Group which provided direct flights from Canadian cities, has added flights from six Canadian cities. During the summer season they will take over flights to Freeport from eight U.S. cities. The recent acquisition by China State Construction Engineering Corporation of the landmark British Colonial Hilton Hotel and plans for $200 million development of an eight storey facility containing 142 new units, auditorium, theatres, entertainment, restaurant facilities, marina, car park and auditorium and boardwalk – slated for start of construction in April. A $140 million expansion at Albany which is adding additional condominiums, residential resort amenities, commercial and sporting complexes to its development.  It was recently announced that Tiger Woods will move his golf tournament to the Albany golf course next year. A $50 million refurbishment and expansion of the Ocean Club by its new owners, Access Industries. A $20 million makeover by Warwick of the former Paradise Island HarbourResort which is scheduled to re-open its doors mid-2015. The acquisition and re-development of the new Holiday Inn, formerly Nassau Palm, which is on track to re-open this Spring. A $19 million renovation of the Melià at Baha Mar and the recent opening of four signature restaurants at that property A $5.7 renovation by Comfort Suites The Island House, a new, 30-room amenitized boutique hotel outside of Lyford Cay, owned by the Holowesko family scheduled for opening in the next several months. Development of a cultural museum at Graycliff and restoration of Mountbatten House as part of the soon-to-be Heritage Village. The $2 billion refinancing and continued refurbishment of Atlantis, the nation’s largest resort, and their preferred alliance with Marriott which is yielding significant new business for the resort. And leading the way……the opening two months from now in New Providence of the $3.5 billion Baha Mar Resort, along with its casino and 18-hole golf course-   the Caribbean’s first TPC Network golf course, and the nation’s largest convention facilities. They bring to The Bahamas new, exciting hotel brands: the 700-room Grand Hyatt, 300-room SLS Lux and 200-room Rosewood, the 1000 room Baha Mar Hotel and the 700 room Melià Hotel Baha Mar is expected to hire 5,000 new employees when fully operational. Culture Today, visitors have a plethora of options for warm weather vacations and the prevailing economic conditions in the region have made our competitors work harder and smarter at attracting visitors. As a result, every destination in the region has engaged its Sport and Creative Sectors in the generation of economic spin-offs from tourism. Festivals  have become extremely popular throughout the region, primarily because of its measurable impact on government taxes.   We expect that our Creative Sector through our festivals will deliver added value to the visitor experience and revenues to government, leading to significant economic benefits to be gained, both in taxes and employment from the development and sale of quality Bahamian music, entertainment, art and crafts; from Bahamian fashion and literature, and from our cuisine and cultural activities. I am introducing the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival this year.  This festival which integrates various aspects of Bahamian culture is expected to be an employment generator, an entrepreneurship creator while establishing a major festival in The Bahamas at the beginning of the summer season.  The festival adds more cultural components to our tourism product and introduces more professionally-executed events, beginning with Junkanoo Carnival over a five week period on  April 6 and ending May 9. These events will serve vehicles to improve the experiences of our visitors, generate employment, and stimulate economic activity and outputs in creative and cottage industries.  In Grand Bahama, where the Festival will launch, various business interests in the Creative Sector have come together in partnership and formed a company to create business opportunities around the Festival. Already the company, which has invested some $1.7 million for services and products produced by 173 small and medium enterprises, has had significant economic impact on the economy in Grand Bahama. Crime Our greatest threat continues to be crime.  As you would have learned recently, the most serious crimes increased by 3% on average last year, although overall crime rates are reported to have decreased by 18%.  But this is still unacceptable! Last year, the Royal Bahamas Police Force introduced new preventative strategies, such as saturation patrols in crime hot spots, and augmented community policing as a part of Urban Renewal. This year, we will see an expanded approach with the broader use of closed circuit television cameras, and increased support to better equip law enforcement, social services and the judiciary. Although we will continue to demonstrate our commitment to making this country a place in which our people can live and work in a safe and secure environment and without fear, you and I know that it will require a sustained effort in collective social responsibility over time by stakeholders such as government, NGOs, the Church, educational institutions, parents and families. Creating opportunities for the nation’s youth through employment, sports and culture, addressing their frustrations and social disorder, are of paramount importance to our future.  In this regard, I have placed this matter on the agenda for consideration during the CARICOM Heads Meeting here in Nassau next month, a meeting that I will chair. We will also continue to work with the National Training Agency to introduce remediation programmes and with Urban Renewal where we will introduce a Government building programme to create opportunities for the employment of persons who would be considered unemployable in the traditional economic sectors. Financial Services Today’s customers are opting to have greater control over the management of their assets and in our financial services sector we have been able to penetrate new markets through the introduction of the Investment Condominium Act and Regulations 2014 to create a new product — the ICON (Investment Condominium) which serves as a new wealth management tool which is tailored to meet the needs of the  Latin American market. In addition, we remain committed to continuing the culture of robust compliance, more targeted marketing of products and more aggressive promotion of the jurisdiction’s stability, and our strengths as a reputable, sovereign location for service and as a safe and secure place for the domiciling of wealth. Conclusion We are well on the road to economic resurgence.  I am extremely optimistic about our prospects going forward into 2015 and beyond.  We are mindful of our responsibility to future generations to ensure that the right foundation is laid, that our economy is sustainable; and that it provides a platform upon which the dreams and aspirations of our people, especially our young people, can be brought to glorious and sustained reality Thank you and I hope that your deliberations will be fruitful over the course of this day.  Read More →
Lucky 7 – It took more hard work than luck for Stuart Halbert, BRI, left, to be named Bahamas Realty’s top producer for the 7th time since 2002. Bahamas Realty Chairman Larry Roberts congratulates Halbert today outside the firm’s office on East Bay Street. Nassau, Bahamas — Sixteen years after he first walked into Bahamas Realty as a nearly novice agent with two years’ experience abroad and more hope than history, Stuart Halbert still can’t believe his good fortune. He loves Mondays, thinks Fridays come too soon and as for the weekend, well, that’s for working, too. It’s that attitude that has just made Halbert Bahamas Realty’s top producer in 2014 for the 7th time, a journey that has taken the industry through thick and thin and been peppered by sea changes in the economy and the profession. “When the economy took a sudden and dramatic turn for the worst in 2008, Stuart went on, working hard, never giving up,” said Larry Roberts, chairman of the real estate company celebrating its 65th year. “But for several years, the returns did not match the energy he expended and what made everyone admire him so much is that he was always there, always ready to show a property, to co-broke a sale, to bring a positive approach. He put in the extra hours and is always highly motivated.” That drive and motivation paid off again in 2014 for Halbert, who is among fewer than 5% worldwide to qualify as a Certified Residential Specialist. Halbert says much of the success is due to advent and growth of MLS, the Multiple Listing Service that permits all participating firms to share information on listings. “The MLS has changed the way we do business, allowing us to expose our listed properties to a much wider market, accumulate more statistics, provide better information to prospective buyers or sellers, maintain more accurate appraisals, enjoy more co-brokes (sales shared by listing agent or firm and other participating BREA MLS agents),” said Halbert, a director of the Bahamas Real Estate Association for the past six years and a past treasurer. While the MLS has boosted activity, Halbert suggests other measures he is convinced would substantially open up the industry and provide a flash charge to a housing ownership phenomenon with positive broad and sustained economic benefits. The first, he believes, is banks releasing their hold on foreclosed properties and, instead, letting industry professionals take the lead. “People wanting to buy a home go to real estate agents, not to banks,” says Halbert, calling the hundreds of homes being held by local banks “the 500-pound elephant in the room.” He also believes that an increase in inventory is needed, with a greater number of small scale developments. “Given that more people are out looking (for homes) now than had been for several years and the name Bahamas is synonymous with a fabulous place to live, I am always surprised that there are not more developments underway,” said Halbert, claiming that older estates that are harder to maintain in today’s environment along the waterfront would make logical locations for small scale townhome or condo living. “Barring any international financial crisis, we are on our way to a very good run,” says Halbert, who is still singing the praises of living in The Bahamas and working at a company he believes is highly charged and on the cutting edge. But then singing has always been Halbert’s style. Long before he walked into that office that still makes him glad to be alive and in The Bahamas, the Scottish-born winner was the composer, musician and entertainer who penned and sang such favourites as Goombay, Goombay Summer as a member of the Nassauvians and entertained at the historic King and  Knights Club on West Bay Street. “Sixteen years and still having fun, can’t ask for more than that,” says Halbert, a twinkle in his eye, a smile on his face and the newest trophy in his hand.  Read More →
Victoria Lorena Bethel achieved 10 “A”s and one “C” in BGCSE Victoria Bethel Marsh Harbour, Abaco – Bahamas Press is once again reporting great news coming out of Education where we turn the spotlight on our nation achievers! The future of the country is bright as we celebrate the achievements of young Forest Heights Academy student Victoria Lorena Bethel for her accomplishments in the last BGCSE examinations. The District Education Officer at the Ministry of Education honoured her yesterday for her stellar performance in the academic year! Bahamas Press sounds our CONGRATULATIONS to Bethel on your great work as an achiever in the country!  Read More →
Customs Officers Honoured! NASSAU, The Bahamas – Bahamas Customs Department held its Long Service Awards Ceremony on Tuesday evening, January 27, at Government House, hosted by the Governor General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling, centre. Also pictured is Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, the Hon. Michael Halkitis , seated third left, and Comptroller of Bahamas Customs Charles Turner, seated fourth right.  Financial Secretary John Rolle is seated at right. (BIS Photo/Raymond Bethel)  Read More →
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