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Summary Commentary EXCERPTS OF THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (13 – 17 FEBRUARY 2017) BY ELCOTT COLEBY Bahamas participates in 28th CARICOM Heads of Government meetings The Bahamas is taking part in the 28th InterSessional Meeting of CARICOM HEADS OF GOVERNMENT CONFERENCE currently being held in Georgetown, Guyana. Head of delegation Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration is shown along with the shadow Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Hubert Chipman M.P.; His Excellency Ambassador Stan Smith; Foreign Service Officer Mrs. Charlene Johnson, hidden is Dr. Monica Davis Bahamas Honorary Consul in Trinidad. Among critical issues expected to be discussed at the conference are the CARICOM Council for National Security and Law Enforcement and Implementing Agency for Crime and Security and the issue of correspondent banking in which The Bahamas has a vested interest. Minister Mitchell is also expected to raise other matters of specific importance to The Bahamas. Minister Mitchell also met in the margins with Mr. Jovenel Moïse, newly elected President of Haiti. The delegation returned to The Bahamas at the weekend, following the conclusion of the conference. In Passing… “Set goals, draft strategic plans to attain them and demonstrate fiscal prudence,” said Prime Minister Christie to public servants attending the 17th Annual National Public Service Week Awards Luncheon, on February 12, 2017, at Atlantis that the event’s theme, “The Public Service: In Pursuit of Productivity and Accountability.” He also told them to “be prepared to work in and out of Nassau, to interact with your international counterparts and to base your work, through research and sound data, upon the best practices suited to The Bahamas.” The select committee appointed to probe the 2011 sale of BTC is making “steady progress” despite a rocky start, according to Golden Gates MP Shane Gibson on Friday, 10th February. The Bahamas Olympic Committee President Wellington Miller, on Monday, applauded the Christie Administration for its “Intense and proactive approach” to sports development and commented that largely because of this central administration, the historic Commonwealth Youth Games will be a “huge” success” in The Bahamas. Sandals Emerald Bay General Manager Jeremy Mutton said Monday the occupancy rate at the resort is high and is expected to continue until the summer months, showing that occupancy is picking up to its normal pace following the resort’s closure after Hurricane Matthew. Attorney General Maynard-Gibson on Monday clarified the Interception of Communications Bill as an important anti-crime tool that would enhance the privacy of law abiding citizens rather than encroach upon it, as detractors claim. It enhances the privacy of citizens because the authority of the interception was taken away from the Minister in the case of the Listening Device Act and placed in the authority of the Commissioner of Police and the courts. The Attorney General’s statement was carried in the international press
with the Caribbean News Now! noting that Mrs. Maynard-Gibson addressed concerns about the Interception of Communications Bill, 2017 (ICB), by noting that the proposed legislation is a very important tool in the fight against crime, much of which is gang-related, transnational and involves guns and drugs. Prime Minister Christie likened The Bahamas’ crime situation to the “Wild West” as he said the recent wave of murders in the capital must solicit a “major” and “continuous” effort by his administration to “flood the streets” with officers in a bid to do “all that is necessary to bring this madness to a halt.” The Prime Minister also said that the criminal activity was confined to a small number of gang members. While acknowledging his administration’s efforts to deal with crime, Mr. Christie admitted that fighting crime “demands more” from his government and the general public. New cruise lines are looking at the Bahamian market, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe told Guardian Business on Monday, as he and his ministry seeks to introduce upgrades to the cruise product in order to keep the country’s cruise industry attractive. Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said recently that The Bahamas has arrived at a significant milestone in implementing the Electronic Single Window (ESW) in the “action phase” of a trade sector support program. The contract between the Ministry of Finance, Crimson Logic and the Customs Department was signed at the Ministry on 31 January 2017. Brian Moree, QC, yesterday backed calls for The Bahamas to switch to a ‘low tax’ business model, warning: “The survival of financial services is not an option.” He urged the OECD to “take notice” of The Bahamas’ progress in meeting its automatic tax information exchange commitments, adding that further attacks on this nation would “benefit no one”. As the Government begins to seriously consider privatizing Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, the Bahamas Carnival Band Owners Association (BCBOA) is insisting it should get first opportunity at becoming the franchise owner of the festival. One carnival band owner has asked for $1million in government subsidy for the 2017 event. Air Canada Vacations (ACV) recently met with members of the Bahamas Tourist Board to enhance its current product offerings and explore the expansion of access to the island. Official Opposition members of Parliament took legal action against the Government over the recently passed boundaries report resolution, filing an application in the Supreme Court on Tuesday that seeks leave to begin judicial review proceedings of the order. The plaintiffs, Montagu MP Richard Lightbourne and Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins are represented by Attorney Michael Scott. Arguments were submitted on Thursday before Justice Ian Winder and a legal judgment is expected at 2pm on Tuesday, 21st February 2017. Yamacraw MP Melanie Griffin referred to the FNM as “weak and divided” as she urged Bahamians to entrust the PLP and Prime Minister Christie with another five years of governance. The “full-scale” taxpayer bail-out of Bank of the Bahamas (BOB) has deepened, with the Government taking up its entire $10 million bond issue amid a 51.3 percent increase in half-year losses. The Bahamas’ new mobile operator has pledged to “redouble efforts” to introduce number
The Eleutheran | Feb/Mar 2017
portability as rapidly as possible, after yesterday’s planned launch was pushed back to March 2017. Bank of the Bahamas Acting Managing Director Renee Davis acknowledged that the bank’s return to profitability is largely dependent on the performance of its loan portfolio, meaning a great part of the bank’s focus will have to be on resolving its non-performing loans. Obie Wilchcombe, Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), chaired his first meeting of the Council of Tourism Ministers and Commissioners since being elected chairman last September. Baha Mar has received more than 11,000 applications for employment as progress is being made with the hiring process, with the company’s new Vice-President of Human Resources Kristy Cowper yesterday expressing “excitement” with applicant turnout on the weeks since the once stalled hotel property resumed activities last month. Meanwhile, in an interview with The Miami Times, Graeme Davis, president of Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Limited’s (CTFE) Bahamas subsidiary, said the convention center, golf course, casino and Grand Hyatt hotel at Baha Mar will open on April 21. Davis also noted they are “in the process of hiring more than 1,500 associates and it will grow quickly. We are expecting over 5,000 jobs and more than that in the indirect and induced jobs which will be close to 10,000.” Calls to have labor laws in The Bahamas reformed to limit and repeal the powers of local trade unions by Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (BCCEC) Chief Executive Edison Sumner earlier this month were branded as “disturbing” by the National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas (NCTUB). Labor leaders struck back demanding that employers be held to the “same standard” over their calls for trade unions to be struck off if they are insolvent or fail to file their annual returns. Government lawyers argued in the Supreme Court Thursday that the court should reject the request from members of the Official Opposition for leave to begin judicial review proceedings of a parliamentary order on constituency boundaries because the judicial review attempt is doomed to fail even if leave is granted. As part of an ongoing collaboration, the IDB Group and the University of the Bahamas (UB) hosted the launch of ‘Development in the Americas’ on Thursday at UB’s Harry C. Moore Library Auditorium. The Government is targeting an extra $400 million within two years from its crackdown on tax cheats, a top official revealing enforcement efforts were already yielding mllions per month. The IDB grant funding portfolio for The Bahamas is well over $5 million, a bank executive noted on Thursday, hinting that plans for an historic and touristic attraction for San Salvador, which will bring focus to the European discovery of the new world by Christopher Columbus in 1492, are in the
works. Central Bank Governor John Rolle on Thursday outlined several industries which will be afforded more flexibility to raise financing from foreign sources should the Central Bank’s latest proposed exchange control relaxations be approved. The Parliamentary Comissioner Sherlyn Hall has reported that voter registration is in excess of 111,000 as of Friday 17th February 2017. With the passage of the resolution to adopt the current Boundaries Commission Report, his office will begin distributing voters cards for the upcoming 2017 General Elections.
MORE FROM WEEK OF JANUARY 30th t o FEBRUARY 3rd UB Law degrees now equivalent to UWI Law Degrees Law students at the University of the Bahamas received some good news this week when Bahamas Attorney-General Sen. Allyson Maynard-Gibson announced at her office on Wednesday that the 2017 LL.B. graduates from the University of The Bahamas “will be granted automatic admission into The Eugene Dupuch Law School.” This is another milestone for the newly minted University of The Bahamas. Last week, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, QC led a delegation to Jamaica and secured an agreement from the Executive Committee of the Council of Legal Education to recommend to the Council of Legal Education that the University of The Bahamas’ Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) program should be considered equivalent to the degree program offered by the University of the West Indies. Dr. Pandora Johnson, University of The Bahamas Vice President for Academic Affairs, called the announcement “a great day, representing a huge step forward.” The delegation to the Executive Committee meeting included Marco Rolle, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Legal Affairs; Antoinette Bonamy, Director of Legal Affairs; Justice Ruby Nottage (retired), University of The Bahamas LL.B. lecturer; and Dr. Pandora Johnson, University of The Bahamas Vice President for Academic Affairs. In Passing… Prime Minister Christie denounced a claim made by a reported American expert in security and terrorism that The Bahamas has terrorism links, suggesting that this country’s “tremendous collaboration” with US law enforcement would have provided ample forewarning of such a threat had the
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