This Week in The Bahamas Commentary by Elcott Coleby: Mar 30 – Apr 3

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PM Christie stresses youth and human capital development at the UN

Deputy Director at BIS Elcott Coleby.

Delivering the statement on behalf of CARICOM, Bahamas Prime Minister and CARICOM Chair the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie told delegates that as the region tackles youth unemployment, efforts must be made to integrate human capital and youth development into the region’s strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change and resulting natural disasters. The Prime Minister delivered this proposition during his address at the 2015 Integration Segment of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in New York City this past Monday.

“Efforts will be made to advance human capital development, through the enhancement of key skills, education reform and youth development. We will build capacity and create green jobs in our efforts to manage adaptation to climate change and mitigate its effects, and enhance our resilience to natural disasters. And we will forge a culture of innovation, increase job creation, entrepreneurship and new business development in Information and Communication Technology (ICT).”

Turning his attention to his CARICOM portfolio of sports and culture, Christie proposed innovation or new thinking as a critical component in maximizing the growth potential and entrepreneurial opportunities for the region’s people. He suggested sports assets as an example.

“We expanded our range of potential growth poles to include, for example, our sporting assets, in a bid to encourage new thinking in seeking to generate employment and create avenues for entrepreneurship. The areas identified have significant potential for enhancing and re-energizing our tourism product in particular.

“These are also areas that will be enhanced by the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)” continued Mr. Christie, “a field in which our young people are particularly adept. The idea therefore is to promote these sectors as viable for sustainable economic activity as well as an outlet for creativity and innovation among our youth.”

Dorsett finalizes alternative energy RFP

Minister Kendred Dorsett

Updating the media at a press conference at his Shirley and Charlotte Street office on Monday, Environment Minister Hon. Ken Dorsett revealed that the government is in the final stages of preparing a Request For Proposal (RFP) for the provision of alternative energy sources by Independent Power Providers (IPP) in selected Family Islands. This pilot project is a joint venture with the Carbon War Room (CWR) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) that will provide policy oversight and support.

Minister Dorsett said the Government has committed not only to ensuring that the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Sciences Institute (BAMSI) becomes a green facility powered by solar energy, it has also committed to providing 11 Family Islands with solar or wind powered utilities from Independent Power Providers (IPP). These islands include Eleuthera, Andros, Cat Island, Acklins, Bimini, Inagua, Crooked Island, Exuma and Long Island.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed and the less developed islands will receive the major focus. “You would see that a concentrated focus on some of our southern islands has been factored in to ensure that we do not find ourselves focusing on our populated and more developed islands,” Minister Dorsett said.

The outcome of the CWR’s Ten Island Challenge is as follows:

  • Developing more than 20 MW of solar PV generation across the Family Islands;
  • Bringing energy efficiency and solar solutions to Anatol Rodgers High School;
  • Performing a nationwide LED retrofit for street lights;
  • Implementing a thorough process designed to transition the Bahamas away from fossil fuels;
  • Documenting best practices.

Deputy Prime Minister on World Water Day

One decade after the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the period from 2005 to 2015 as the International Decade for Action under the 2005 theme “Water for Life,” The Bahamas commemorated World Water Day this week. Under the 2015 theme, “Water and sustainable development,” the Deputy Prime Minister outlined the advances made in The Bahamas in managing our water resources.

“The crisis in sourcing groundwater, though, gave birth to now-thriving private water supply companies as we resorted to desalinated saltwater systems. On a larger scale, Consolidated Water Co. Ltd. (CWCO) began providing bulk water under long-term contracts to the Water and Sewerage Corporation. Consolidated now owns and operates two desalination plants on New Providence and supplies over 90% of the potable water distributed by the Corporation. One day, if the world continues in its current trend with respect to sea level rises, groundwater resources will become a scarcity such that the only source of potable water available will be desalinated.”

Acknowledging the growing threat of climate change to the country’s water resources, DPM Davis pointed to the SAMOA Pathway, which was adopted last year, as an “opportunity to bring about action toward the effective, inclusive and sustainable implementation of the integrated management of water resources and related ecosystems.” He went on to say that logistically this pathway “is to be implemented through developing institutional and human capacities; providing and operating appropriate facilities and infrastructure; expanding wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse; and improving water-use efficiency, all in the broader context of Small Island Developing States’ (SIDS) sustainable development” said Minister Davis.

Transport releases draft regulations for use of “Drones”

The Ministry of Transport and Aviation issued a statement this week advising the public that it had posted on the site of the Department of Civil Aviation draft regulations to govern the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) also known as “drones.”

“The Ministry is aware that the use of UAS devices has increased in The Bahamas and is used by both hobbyists and in commercial enterprise. Concerns have been raised about both aviation and public safety matters and concerns about privacy issues in the use of these devices.” The statement went on to say that the Minister of Transport and Aviation, the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin recently travelled to Washington with a high level delegation to discuss with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a number of important aviation matters including the issue of drones.

“The FAA is itself in the process of reviewing its own regulatory regime in response to safety concerns and innovation in commercial enterprise” said the statement

The draft regulations can be found at www.bcaa.gov.bs. The public is asked to register any comments suggestions or concerns on or before 15th May, 2015.

Bahamas Nominated For World Travel Awards

The Ministry of Tourism recently announced that The Bahamas had secured nominations for the top Caribbean destination in 24 categories of the 22nd World Travel Awards. These nominations signal the resurgence of The Bahamas as a preeminent tourism destination both regionally and internationally.

The Bahamas has been nominated for the Caribbean’s Leading Airline; Caribbean’s Leading All-Inclusive Family Hotel; Caribbean Leading Luxury All-Inclusive; Caribbean’s Leading Boutique Hotel; Caribbean’s Leading Conference Hotel; Caribbean’s Leading Green Hotel; Caribbean’s Leading Hotel; Caribbean Leading Hotel Suite; Caribbean’s Leading Boutique Resort; Caribbean’s Leading Casino Resort; Caribbean’s Leading Private Island Resort; Caribbean’s Leading New Resort; Caribbean’s Leading Spa; Caribbean’s Leading Airport Lounge; Caribbean’s Leading Beach Destination; the Caribbean’s Leading Cruise Destination; the Caribbean’s Leading Cruise Port; the Caribbean Leading Tourist Attraction; the Caribbean Leading Dive Destination; the Caribbean Leading Honeymoon Destination; Caribbean’s leading Tourist Board; the Caribbean Most Romantic Destination and the Caribbean’s Leading Airport.

World Travel Awards was founded in 1993 to recognize, acknowledge and reward excellence in the travel and hospitality industry worldwide.

In order for The Bahamas to win, the general public must vote online at www.worldtravelawards.com/vote where the closing dates for each region can be found. Travel professionals and consumers cast votes with a vote cast by registered travel professionals carrying a weight of two votes.

Government and Paradise Fisheries partner to teach fisheries

Minister of Youth Sports and Culture Dr. Danny Johnson.

In a Public Private Partnership (PPP), the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, the National Training Agency and Paradise Fisheries have come together to expand the number of trained fishermen in the industry while addressing some of the country’s social challenges related to youth unemployment and general truancy.

Under this pilot project, the first cluster of about twenty young and “at-risk” Bahamians will be trained in the skill sets of boating/navigation, diving, and fishing and will be certified through the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) and the National Training Agency (NTA) upon successful completion of this course. Ministers Gray and Johnson announced this joint venture on Monday at a press conference held at Paradise Fisheries.

Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources the Hon. V. Alfred Gray said that the government is addressing the problem of shortage of fishermen in the marine industry while investing in our young people.

“We’ve always had problems finding young people, who are willing to be fishermen and I can assure you that you are a cadre of young people who the Government will invest in and try to support to make sure that the owners of fishing boats will soon no longer be able to say they cannot find Bahamian fishermen who are willing to work or who are willing to stay on the boats.”

Minister of Youth, Sports & Culture the Hon. Dr. Daniel Johnson congratulated the young men and told them that this was a community effort and that they were being introduced to opportunities to ownership which is the “wealth of nations.”

The Youth Minister also extolled the virtues of training, preparation and benchmarking industry leaders as keys to business success.

“If you don’t learn the rules right, you do yourself in and you don’t come back,” said Dr. Johnson.

“It’s just like the airline industry you have to train to be a pilot. You have to train if you’re going to fix a plane. The same thing with this industry, you have to train yourself. You have to expose yourself to the best people in the business, if you’re going to be successful in this industry.”

Transport Ministry reassures the airline industry

Lashan Gray, president of the Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union (BATCU), issued what amounted to a veiled threat to the government ahead of the busy Easter holiday weekend. She told the press that the union was considering taking industrial action during the Easter holiday weekend. This sounded eerily like the Bahamasair pilot “sickout” during the December 2014 Christmas holiday. The Transport Ministry shot back saying that the BATCU comments created alarm within the airline industry and airlines indicated that they were making alternate plans to protect their businesses from losses. The ministry again characterized the BATCU comments as irresponsible, especially in light of a written notification from the Permanent Secretary to the union president that the public treasury was processing the checks for the Air Traffic Controllers and the checks would be available on Tuesday, 7th April 2015.

On Thursday, the Transport Ministry issued another statement effectively reassuring airlines and the travelling public that the Department of Civil Aviation had put contingency measures in place to protect against potential disruption in this essential service during this busy period. The statement read as follows:

“The Ministry of Transport & Aviation wishes to advise the public that in light of the reported statements from the President of the Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union, and the potential threat to the Bahamian economy, the Department of Civil Aviation has put in place contingency measures to ensure that air traffic services are not disrupted during this busy travel period. Those plans have been communicated to the Air Operators Committee, which represents both domestic and international carriers.”

In Passing…

Governer General Dame Marguerite

His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona, O.R.T.T., S.C., President of Trinidad and Tobago, was on a private visit to The Bahamas this week. He met with Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell on Sunday (29 March) and paid a courtesy call on Her Excellency Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling at Government House on Monday, March 30, 2015. Prime Minister Christie hosted him to dinner and The President’s wife participated in a blue light ceremony in Rawson Square on Thursday evening to heighten public awareness about autism. Prime Minister Christie was in attendance and delivered the keynote address.

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) has taken delivery of the fourth and final Stan Patrol 4207, named HMBS Rolly Gray. The four Stan Patrol 4207s form part of the six-year Sandy Bottom project. The Stan Patrol 4207s carry a 24-person crew, have a range in excess of 2000 nm and can achieve speeds of 20 knots. Additionally, each of their weapons system carries two RHIBS for fast interception and boarding.

The Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (ZNS) has signed on for the second consecutive time as the official broadcaster for the upcoming IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2015 to be held at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on the 2nd and 3rd of May 2015 here in beautiful Nassau, Bahamas. More than 1,000 athletes and officials representing some 47 countries will take part in two days of competition.

Scotiabank announced its branches consolidation schedule in the latest restructuring of its Bahamas operations. Scotiabank branch transition to retail service centers will take place on June 12th in Buckley’s Long Island and on July 17th at North Eleuthera. Further, its branch consolidations in New Providence begin on May 8th of this year where the Cave Village branch will merge with the Cable Beach branch. On June 19th the branches on Navy Lion Road and Marlborough Street will be closed and the operations will move to its main branch in Rawson Square and the Wulff Road and East Street operations will close, moving to Thompson Boulevard on August 21st. In Abaco, Scotia’s Cooper’s Town Sales Center of Business will close and will move to Marsh Harbour. These changes were announced on Monday and will result to fifty job losses to its Bahamian staff.

Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie met with Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations and Acting President of the sixty-ninth session of General Assembly, in New York, March 30. The Bahamas Prime Minister and CARICOM Chairman visited New York to deliver the region’s (CARICOM) statement during the integration segment of the 2015 Economic and Social Council of the UN.

She was known as Mother Blue Jay within the Grand Bahama community and devoted much of her life to educating generations of Bahamian students. Deputy Director of Education and daughter of former Fox Hill MP Sandra Edgecombe died suddenly on Wednesday morning when she was found unresponsive in her vehicle. Condolences and tributes poured in from several government ministers including Ministers Wilchcombe, Mitchell and Dr. Darville. She will be sadly missed and may her soul rest in peace.

Bahamas Minister of Foreign of Affairs Fred Mitchell visited the Bahamas consulate in Atlanta and took time to meet with the political leadership and members of the Atlanta business community during his two-day trip of “goodwill.” Mitchell was on the return leg of his trip to the United Nations in New York where he participated in the high-level dialogue of the Economic and Social Council of the UN. He also met with the Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed and Andrew Young who served as Mayor of Atlanta before his post as US Ambassador to the United Nations.

During an official visit to the Honorary Consulate of The Bahamas office in Chicago on Tuesday, March 31, 2015, Mr. Chet Neymour, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Bahamas Embassy in Washington, D.C., and Mrs. Paulette Zonicle, Bahamas Consul General to Washington, D.C., whose consular jurisdiction includes Chicago, paid a courtesy call on officials at Morton Salt Headquarters, 123 North Upper Wacker Drive. They were accompanied by Mr. Michael Fountain, Bahamas Honorary Consul in Chicago. A little history about the iconic Morton Salt operations in The Bahamas: Morton Salt has a main facility in Great Inagua, Bahamas that comprises 300,000 acres and produces about a million pounds of salt per year. This has been Inagua’s main industry since the late 1930s, when three American brothers, the Ericksons, came to the island and built a mechanized salt operation. The Morton Salt Company bought the facility from the Erickson brothers in 1954.

The lawyer for 19 year old Jaquan Charlton, Christina Galanos, filed an appeal recently charging “material illegality or irregularity” in the arrest and prosecution of her client in Mayaguana by island administrator Zephaniah Newbold. It was also reported that the police was investigating the charges of judicial interference in connection with the matter by Minister and area MP, the Hon. V. Alfred Gray according to a report signed by Mr. Newbold. Charlton was tried, convicted and sentenced to jail for three months for disorderly conduct and profanity.

In local sporting news, both our CARIFTA track and field and swim teams left the capital on Thursday to participate in the CARIFTA games. The track and field event will be held in St. Kitts and Nevis. The swim team will defend their 2014 title and the track team hopes to improve on their 7th place finish last year. In international sporting news, Bahamian Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn and his Michigan State Spartans made it to the final four of the NCAA Division One National Collegiate Basketball Championship Tournament. The Spartans play the Blue Devils of Duke live on television on Saturday night. Good luck to Nairn and the Spartans.