This Week in The Bahamas Commentary by Elcott Coleby: July 6 – 10

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Deputy Director at BIS Elcott Coleby.
Deputy Director at BIS Elcott Coleby.

BAHAMASAIR TO GET FIVE NEW AIRCRAFT

Calling it a “red-letter day for Bahamasair and The Bahamas,” Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis presided over a short ceremony on Monday where the Bahamas Government signed a $100 million contract with Avions de Transport Regional for the purchase of five ATR 600 model aircraft on behalf of Bahamasair, the country’s national airline.

Pointing out the strategic significance of the fleet upgrade, Davis said that the new fleet presented an opportunity to cause the airline to “service designated routes in The Bahamas while seeking to expand its transnational flight operations to service new tourist routes.”

He went further, stating that the fleet replacement was “critical” in maintaining the airline’s record of “safe, reliable and economical air service” in addition to rendering the airline “economically viable in the short-term and to make it attractive to private investors in the longer term.”

The new aircraft comprise three 50-seat ATR 42-600 and two 70-seat ATR 72-600, an upgrade to the existing fleet of Bombardier Dash 8-300’s. The aircraft are expected to be delivered between November 2015 and June 2016. The two 70-seat ATRs will be delivered before the end of 2015.

The signing ceremony was held at the Ministry of Works and Urban Development, JFK, and attended by senior government officials, members of the Board of Bahamasair and representatives of ATR

MARATHON RESIDENTS NOT AT RISK

Residents of the Marathon community received some good news Monday when the results of the health investigation into possible exposure to gasoline from a Rubis station leak were made public.

Health Minister Dr. Perry Gomez said that test results revealed that there was no indication of a current exposure to, or any long-term risks to the health and safety of Marathon residents despite concerns from some quarters.

The Report also revealed that during the spill and since the spill, no resident has been or was exposed to dangerous levels of contaminants.

Tests further show no significant, detectable levels of contaminants from the spill in well water.

“In short, residents of Marathon are safe,” Dr. Gomez said.

Addressing a press conference held at the Ministry of Health Headquarters early Monday afternoon, Dr. Gomez assured residents of marathon and Bahamians across the length and breadth of the Commonwealth that the Government of The Bahamas has done, and will continue to do, everything in its power to protect the health and safety of Bahamians everywhere.

The Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) engaged experts (toxicologists and epidemiologists) to ensure that a comprehensive, professional approach was taken in the best interests of the Bahamian public. A team was also appointed under the direction of Chief medical Officer Dr. Glen Beneby to complete health survey assessments and evaluations of the population to determine if any health intervention was necessary.

Baseline health assessments were conducted on 223 persons. The individuals were identified through the Department of Public Health Surveillance Team’s home visits in the area most likely to be impacted by the fuel leak.

BAHA MAR PRINCIPALS AGREE TO RESUME TALKS

Readers would recall that last week Thursday, Baha Mar filed an application in the Supreme Court of The Bahamas to rubberstamp the approvals of a Delaware court stemming from a bankruptcy filing by the fifteen Baha Mar group of companies.

The sole respondent, the government of The Bahamas, objected, arguing that an adjudication of this magnitude and national significance – involving Bahamian crown land, huge government granted tax concessions and hundreds of Bahamian creditors who are owed in excess of $100 million – must be adjudicated in Bahamian courts; it was a matter of sovereignty argued the Bahamas Attorney General. An adjournment was granted until Tuesday of this week where The Bahamas would be joined by the China EXIM Bank as respondents.

In a thirty – minute court hearing before Justice Raymond Winder, the application was adjourned a second time until the 20th July 2015. The principals agreed to return to the negotiating table to reach an out of court settlement on the terms of the completion and opening of the $3.5 million Baha Mar resort on Cable Beach. The principals were required to provide the Justice with an update of the progress made in chambers on the 14th July 2015.

As for the payment of salaries of the 2,400 Baha Mar employees that the government agreed to, the Financial Secretary, John A. Rolle, confirmed that his office received all the payroll information on Monday afternoon and was able to make the salary payments on Tuesday.

PM CHRISTIE SUPPORTS COURT ADJOURNMENT ON BAHA MAR

Reiterating that without question, “the best thing for the country and for the Bahamian people is for Baha Mar to open successfully and swiftly, so that we can all benefit from the economic activity and jobs that it will contribute to our country,” Prime Minister Christie expressed his support for Tuesday’s Supreme Court proceedings to adjourn the Baha Mar matter in pursuit of an out of court settlement.

“For this reason” said Mr. Christie via press release, “the Government supported the adjournment petition brought forth by Baha Mar today (Tuesday, 7th July) during Supreme Court proceedings, but with one singular condition: that all parties reconvene negotiations on an urgent basis and develop a way forward that would see construction resume immediately. The judge approved the petition and adjourned hearings until July 20th, 2015. The judge also required a status hearing on July 14th” said the statement.

The Prime Minister also indicated that he has accepted an invitation by all parties “to mediate continued negotiation sessions.”

NOTTAGE: “DEEP ROOTED PROBLEMS CANNOT BE FIXED OVERNIGHT”

In listing a number of initiatives in the fight against crime and social decay such as the Swift Justice Initiative, Urban Renewal, community policing, skills training and shock treatment, National Security Minister the Hon. Bernard Nottage conceded that while these programs hold great promise, much work has to be done and there are no quick fixes.

The Minister was addressing the Opening Session of the Ninth Annual Conference of the Association of Caribbean Heads of Corrections and Prisons Services (ACHCPS) at the British Colonial Hilton, June 6.

“Community policing, skills training and other social programmes have been introduced with some success, including marching bands, to create positive outlets for our young men to grow and develop.” Additionally said Dr. Nottage, the introduction of the “Shock Treatment” Programme will also play a key role in the overall plan as it was designed specifically for male high school students between the ages of 10-17 who have been deemed “high risk.”

To ensure that the programme benefits the widest segment of persons, a television programme around the treatment has been developed and is aired on national television.

“All of these policies and strategies have been created and implemented to address young persons and offenders with a view to making our community safer by discouraging our young people from turning to a life of crime,” Dr. Nottage added.

NEW APPROACH CONTROL CENTER COMMISSIONED AT LPIA

A brand new state of the art aircraft Approach Control Center (ACC) for the $14 million radar system was officially opened on Wednesday of this week by Transport and Aviation Minister Hon. Glenys Hana-Martin.

Hanna-Martin said that the ACC, the new radar system and secondary surveillance radar system, the latter pair to be commissioned within a few months, together represent a “transformation in our aviation sector.”

The new facility and system will cover 160 square miles from its base at the airport.

“This new radar will further enhance capabilities in air navigational services” said Hanna-Martin.

She continued that “this new building called the ACC will be the operational center for our radar controls.

“It also includes a radar simulator room with two stations. These simulators will broaden and expand the training experience and training opportunities for controllers on the new radar and air traffic control systems” said the Minister.

Ten Bahamians will be recruited and trained on these state of the art systems.

On hand to show his support was Prime Minister Christie who noted that as the Bahamas government meets greater global air navigation standards, it must find more funding to facilitate such infrastructure developments.

42 BAHAMIAN “LEGENDS” HONOURED

Honouring 42 Bahamians and conferring on them the title of “Legend,” Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie told a gathering at Pompey Square on Wednesday that the state must find a way to more formally honour its national heroes.

Referring to a speech he delivered in Sea Breeze last Christmas at the naming of a public park in honour of Charles Carter, Mr. Christie said “I told those gathered that as a government and as a people, we had to find a way to more properly honour our national heroes – men and women who at great personal sacrifice spent their entire lives contributing to the embellished reputation, identity, growth and development of this country.”

The Prime Minister also said that the State must find a way to “institutionalize” Bahamian culture by formally teaching the arts in schools throughout the country and preserving the stories of our heroes for future generations at our premier tertiary institution of higher learning, the University of The Bahamas.

Also addressing the honorees was Commission Chairman and Tourism Minister Hon. Obie Wilchcombe who reiterated his message of the need for Bahamians to tell our stories.

“Too many have died and their stories with them. We want many more stories told. We want to hear stories about the (likes) of Dry Bread, Sir Sidney Poitier, Johnny Kemp and Fred Ferguson who has never let his gift die,” he said.

Honourees ranged from Vaudeville icon Bert Williams to the youngest, Terez “Dynamite Daisy” Davis and many in between including Cyril “Dry Bread” Ferguson, Greg Lampkin, Claudette “Cookie” Allens, Hope Curry, Eugene Davis, Fred Ferguson, Eddie Dames, Kirk “KB” Bodie, Neta Ellis, Nehemiah Hield, Johnny Kemp, the Cooling Waters and the Rahming Brothers.

DPM DAVIS OPENS CANADIAN QUANTITY SURVEYOR’S CONGRESS

Underscoring the “paramount” importance of infrastructure development to the health and strength of the Bahamian economy, the Hon. Philip Davis, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Development officially opened the 2015 Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (CIQS) Congress at Meliá Resort, Cable Beach.

The two-day conference, which opened Thursday, July 9, brings together professionals from five Canadian provinces and the Caribbean to discuss matters concerning the profession of quantity surveying. Arnold Forbes, Minister of State in the Ministry of Works and Urban Development participated in the opening ceremony.

Speaking on the topic “Effective Delivery of Infrastructure through Public-Private Partnerships” (3Ps), Davis told delegates that this public policy figures prominently in the government’s thrust to develop and upgrade public infrastructure.

He noted that the 2015/2016 Budget allows the Government to promote approximately $200 million in 3P investments. Among those listed are improvements to roads and bridges in the Family Islands, upgrades to Family Island airports, construction of new government buildings, repairs to existing government buildings and expenditures on healthcare infrastructure and schools.

$20 MILLION IDB LOAN EARMARKED TO FIGHT CRIME

Minister of National Security the Hon. Dr. Bernard Nottage announced that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a $20 million loan to help The Bahamas Government in organizing various social re-engineering programmes and strategies of rehabilitation to help fight crime in the country.

Dr. Nottage delivered the announcement during the 9th Conference of the Association of Caribbean Heads of Corrections at the British Colonial Hilton, Wednesday, July 8.

According to the Minister, the anti-crime initiative will have four components:

The first component seeks to improve behaviours for non-violent conflict resolution in New Providence by applying differentiated evidence-based interventions.

The second component aims to help at-risk youths find jobs through training and employability programmes.

The third component seeks to strengthen the administration of justice through an integrated electronic system for case management and the introduction of innovative dispute resolution mechanisms among other programs.

The fourth component seeks to better help reintegrate offenders into society through activities such as the design and implementation of a comprehensive rehabilitation model and a curriculum built on evidence-based practices.

Minister Nottage said there are 1,500 men and 50 women incarcerated in The Bahamas, and half of those behind bars have not been found guilty of any crime although they have been charged and are awaiting trial. “We have decided as a government that is not a tolerable situation, it is not a desirable one, and we should seek to overcome it.”

Additionally, Minister Nottage explained that the Government itself has also allocated over $20 million in the 2015/2016 fiscal year for training programmes that will provide skills acquisition and help the youth complete basic education.

PRELIMINARY REPORT ON RUBIS SANDY PORT SPILL RELEASED

A preliminary report and an addendum compiled by the Environmental Monitoring and Risk Assessment Division (EMRAD) of the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) were released on Wednesday after inspections of the Rubis Sandy Port fueling facility and meetings with relevant stakeholders.

In a statement, the Minister for the Environment Hon. Kenred Dorsett revealed what corrective actions were taken thus far and restated the government’s commitment to the establishment of the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection.

“It was found, upon inspection, that there was a leak at the dispenser closest to the boat fueling dock. That dispenser has since been deactivated and remains inoperable. An unreported historical spill among other factors is being considered in the ongoing investigation. The DEHS continues to monitor this situation and is satisfied with the response of the station owner and RUBIS Bahamas thus far.

“With respect to this type of environmental incident, the Government is committed to the establishment of the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection and the regulation of the downstream petroleum industry.

“I would like to commend EMRAD for their work thus far. I will continue to keep the public abreast of this matter” said Minister Dorsett.

SIR LYNDEN’S BRONZE STATUE UNVEILED AT LPIA

The Father of the nation officially elected to Parliament on the 9th July 1956; retired from the House on the 9th July 1997; so it was only fitting that Sir Lynden would be memorialized with the erection of a life-sized bronze statue of his image at the entrance of the nation’s premier gateway, the Lynden Pindling International Airport, on the 9th July 2015.

In a passionate tribute to Sir Lynden, Transport and Aviation Minister chronicled the life and work of Sir Lynden – part politics, part governance – emphasizing the recurrent theme of social justice, even as she listed the numerous public institutions established by the Pindling administration that collectively form the modern Bahamas.

Delivering the keynote address was Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie who recounted the over-arching dream of Sir Lynden. His dream was that one day, Nassau would be the financial capital; Grand Bahama the industrial capital and Andros the breadbasket of The Bahamas even as the agricultural land of Florida become increasingly urbanized.

Christie pointed to BAMSI as a significant step in the realization of Sir Lynden’s dream of food security and self sufficiency. He told the gathering that representatives from Samford University will shortly deliver the findings of a $600,000 research and agri-business feasibility study of Andros that would serve as a business development and investment blueprint for Andros going forward.

Sir Lynden’s children weighed in – remembering their dad as a loving, doting father who was a disciplinarian; a strong advocate for education; and a health and fitness conscious individual who walked, jogged or swam every morning before work while encouraging his children to take a walk after dinner.

Sir Lynden’s youngest child, Monique, who was born while he served as Prime Minister, delivered the response from the family.

The grand children of Sir Lynden were tasked with unveiling the bronze statue at the entrance of the $400 million ultra modern international airport that bears his name.

12 physicians posted to Family Islands

Health Minister Hon. Dr. Perry Gomez foreshowed the posting of resident physicians in the Family Islands during the 2015/2016 budget debate. Well that promise became a reality when this week the Ministry of Health revealed that it had recently recruited 12 physicians who will be posted to the Family Islands.

Public healthcare officials were also able to successfully recruit four Bahamian graduates who were among those recording the highest academic results from the University of West Indies’ Doctor of Medicine (DM) Post Graduate Family Medicine Training Programme Examinations that were held this past June.

Dr. Glen Beneby, Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health, said, July 6, that the successful recruitment of the physicians will allow officials of the Ministry of Health and the Department of Public Health to post the new physicians to a number of key Family Islands including San Salvador, Abaco and Exuma.

The successful recruitment process comes as the Ministry, the Department of Public Health and the Government of The Bahamas prepares to launch Universal Health Coverage for all Bahamians through the National Health Insurance Initiative scheduled to come on stream in January 2016.

42nd INDEPENDENCE: “OUR CHILDREN, OUR FUTURE”

Under the theme, “Our Children, our future,” the traditional ecumenical service of thanksgiving, the flag raising ceremony, the cultural show, the inspection of the guards, the military march by and salute took place on Clifford Park on Thursday evening with all of the pomp and pageantry.

Delivering the spiritual message on behalf of the Bahamas Christian Council was Fr. James Palacious who commended the good work of the police force; commended the government on its immigration policy and praised the work of Urban Renewal.

He urged the government to act quickly in regularizing the country’s crown land policy; called for a speedy resolution to the Baha Mar impasse; called for stronger laws against “dead-beat” dads; called for a national family planning program; and called for unity among government, opposition and the church in solving the nation’s problems.

About the author: Elcott Coleby is a Deputy Director at the Bahamas Information Services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry (B.Sc) and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). He provides frequent commentary on public policy and communicates the works of the government. Address all comments to the following email: egcoleby44@gmail.com

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