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Summary Commentary EXCERPTS OF THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (13 – 17 MARCH 2017) BY ELCOTT COLEBY This week in Parliament The Bahamas Parliament met on Wednesday of this week to consider Trafficking in Persons and labour legislation. Amendments to the Employment and Industrial Relations Acts were tabled by the Hon. D. Shane Gibson, the Minister of Labour. These proposed employee friendly amendments will among other provisions, increase redundancy pay by 67%. Also, readers would remember the recent passage of Trafficking in Persons (TIPS) legislation in the House. Well, that passage in TIPS law required amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code to complete the process. These two pieces of legislation dominated the debate in the House on Wednesday of this week. Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis told House Members that Chinese nationals who entered the country to construct the $3.5bn Baha Mar resort had their passports and work permits withheld, adding that this was done as a means to “control” the foreign laborers. Golden Isles MP Michael Halkitis accused FNM Leader Dr. Minnis of intentionally “provoking an altercation” between the FNM supporters and the campaigners for the PLP who were canvassing the Carmichael Road area on Tuesday. An emotional speech by Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell heightened speculation that the Government will “ring the bell” for the general election very soon. Mitchell thanked his colleagues in the House for their years of dedicated service and foreshadowed a win for the PLP at the polls. Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins delivered his farewell address. In a parting shot he suggested that FNM Leader Dr. Minnis had not shown he is ready to lead the nation, pointing to his attendance at House proceedings. Rollins further urged Prime Minister Christie to “call out” Dr. Minnis on his inadequate performance.
Christie: “Additional need for more Customs Officers” Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie has called on Assistant Comptroller of Customs in Grand Bahama, Sherick Martin to begin right away preparing another group of Customs recruits for another Customs Training program. The appeal from the Prime Minister came during his address of the 22 new recruits who officially graduated on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, during a ceremony at the Bahamas Union of Teachers Hall. Prime Minister Christie said his request for the formation of another immediate training program comes in light of the fact that the country’s expanding economy demands more Customs Officers, not just in Grand Bahama or Nassau, but throughout The Bahamas. “In speaking with the Minister of Tourism and knowing the extent to which the economy is being expanded, which will create an additional need for even more Customs Officers, I’m minded
to make policy right now on my feet,” the Prime Minister said at the beginning of his address. “As I think of those areas where you only have one officer – which is even dangerous to that officer – you can see why there ought to be coverage that goes beyond one person. “We’ve just indicated a new destination at Ocean Cay, which will require the appointment of more Customs Officers to that Port of Call. There are at least over 5,000 passengers a week on cruise ships going into that destination. “By the Heads of Agreement we entered into with Baker’s Bay in Abaco, we have agreed to have a Port of Entry there at that destination as well. So, that also calls for more Customs Officers. From a pure necessity point of view, we have agreed that we would establish a port of call in Mangrove Cay and that too will call for more Customs Officers.” Minnis proposes “real sale” of Baha Mar Resort FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis suffered a huge backlash and a slew of criticism during the course of the week from many quarters when he pledged to execute a “real sale” of Baha Mar to a purchaser that has the Bahamian people’s interests at heart, should the FNM win the general election. Minnis posted on Facebook: “Your Free National Movement government will engage and execute a real sale of Baha Mar to a qualified and respectable purchaser who believes in Bahamians; a purchaser who will utilize only Bahamian labor to complete the resort, and will put Bahamians back to work with real jobs as quickly as possible.” Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis lashed out at Dr. Minnis, accusing him of plotting for the resort’s demise for political benefit while spouting untruths. The Chamber of Commerce’s chairman warned all politicians to “not blow up the country for the sake of winning the election.” Education Minister the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald slammed Dr. Minnis’ coments as “disgraceful”, arguing that it would disrupt employment for hundreds of Bahamians. Fitzgerald further argued that the FNM leader’s assertions showed he was not fit to become Prime Minister. Prime Minister Christie told supporters at a joint constituency meeting that he hoped Minnis would come to the House to defend his comments but the FNM leader was a no-show. FNM Chairman Sidney Collie said while an FNM government would execute a “real sale” of Baha Mar if the current sale process is not complete, if and when it becomes the next Government of The Bahamas, nationalizing the resort is not in the party’s plans. PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts charged that the FNM’s policy position on Baha Mar “is to disrupt the lives of many and the Bahamian economy to satisfy one man who proved he was unable to finish the job in the first place”. Former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette however defended his leader, insisting that “fault” sits with the “untruths and half facts” produced by the Christie administration in recent months.
The Eleutheran | Mar/Apr 2017
Hanna-Martin: Doppler Radars “significant thrust” for Meteorology Department Four new Doppler radars are being installed to improve the functionality of the Department of Meteorology. The radar will be situated in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Long Island and Abaco. Currently, the only radar system, stationed on New Providence, is being refurbished and upgraded to be established in Ragged Island later. The contract for the radar system was awarded to Vaisala, a Finnish company, at a cost of $20 million. On completion, the entire Bahamas will be under full radar coverage. In addition, the company will install nine more weather stations. Minister of Transport the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin made the announcement during a press conference held at the Weather Station at Lynden Pindling International Airport on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. She said that this project puts the country on the ‘cutting edge’ of technology and is a ‘significant thrust’ for the meteorology department as it sets out to build capacity. She also said that this project is part of a larger vision by the government to protect and more effectively forewarn the Bahamian people against major catastrophes such as hurricanes and other storm systems. The Doppler radar will use the SmartMet and SmartAlert system, which means that several features will be built-in, including: automatic generation of weather forecast products, integrated display of various weather observation and data sources, advanced weather situational analysis and weather warning tools. The SmartMet/SmartAlert system is already in use in 10 Caribbean countries including Cuba, Antigua, Jamaica and Barbados. Chamber boss wants government to “reconsider” amended labour laws The Chamber of Commerce has called the latest amendments to the labour laws “ultra vires” existing laws and has asked the Government to withdraw and “reconsider” the reforms as “not one employer” is in favour of the changes. Bahamian employers were outraged at the proposed changes to the Employment and Industrial Relations Acts tabled in Parliament on Wednesday by Shane Gibson, the Minister of Labor. Criticism of the bills, which among other provisions, increases redundancy pay by 67%, employers argue that the amendments would deter Bahamian businesses from hiring and make it more difficult to tackle the 25 to 30 percent youth unemployment rate. The Director of Labor however shot back that there was “no basis” to the Chamber of Commerce’s assertion that the labor law reforms were “ultra vires” because they had not been unanimously approved by all National Tripartite Council members. Mr. Farquharson pointed out that the 40% increase in the minimum wage was not unanimously agreed
by the Tripartite Council as some members wanted a larger increase for workers. The minimum wage hike is now settled law. Also weighing in was the Bahamas Hotel and Restaurant Employers Association (BHEA) who also expressed concern over the proposed amendments to the Industrial Relations Act and the Employers Act. Elated union leaders said they were “ecstatic” over the reforms to the Employment and Industrial Relations Act, hailing them as a “victory for Bahamian workers”. UB to host series of panel discussions on public affairs The Social Sciences Department at the University of The Bahamas (UB) is hosting a series of panel discussions and public forums featuring representatives from every political party. The meetings will focus on national debate, political polling and scientific research. The first in this series was held this week at the Harry C. Moore Library on the administration of justice. Keith Bell, Marvin Dames and Stephen Greenslade represented the PLP, FNM and DNA respectively. Dr. Christopher Curry, chair of the School of Social Sciences at UB, said the concept is a step in the right direction for the country and its political climate, adding that the inclusion of the public and media at this level of the election process should translate into a more involved electorate. Government assessment underway after landfill fire The Department of Social Services said that 290 heads of households applied for assistance out of the estimated 600 homes located in Jubilee Gardens. It was also reported that 1,200 persons are set to receive government assistance as a result of the fire. Meanwhile Anthony Ryan, a public analyst at the Department of Environmental Health Services, said officials conducted air quality tests on 19 homes closest to the dump. He said that there was nothing alarming found. In related news, Geltech Solutions, a firefighting specialist, has been contracted by the Government to assist in extinguishing the massive blaze at the New Providence Landfill. Commenting on the landfill’s remediation cost, Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller pegged the cost at about $5 million. Environment Minister, the Hon. Kenred Dorsett, said the government was preparing to move “full steam ahead” with both the privatization of operations at the New Providence landfill and “fine tuning” its remediation plan.
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