Comment of the week
(THE PHONY PORNOGRAPHY OUTRAGE)
(The photo shows Police Constable Edmund Lewis Jr. being led to court in Nassau before a Magistrate on Friday 23rd January to be charges with offences related to the circulation of graphic sexual videos allegedly with a minor and without the consent of the parties – Editor)
“JUICIN” is an expression that Bahamians use to describe sex, a kind of raw secret and satisfying sex, with the connotation of nasty wickedness in it. All during the past two weeks on the closed ended What’s App groups, on Facebook and on Twitter, Bahamians have been sharing photos of politicians and various scenes in The Bahamas with the legend “ JUICIN” or some derivative thereof, mainly aimed at dissing the PLP and the Government. The idea it appears is that some opposition people are running the campaign that the PLP somehow “ juiced” the Bahamian people or some use the continuous tense “ juicing” but all of it is a polite expression to say the Bahamian people have been fucked or are being fucked by the PLP. This is all too clever by half and outrageous nonsense but such is the bankruptcy of the FNM, the DNA and the other assorted nasties and trolls around that the campaign is being run.
You may remember our comments a few weeks ago when the morally indignant Cable Bahamas, got up on their high horse, and in the name of moral purity, fired or more accurately suspended the young teenage singer Angelique Sabrina because of a video, allegedly circulated by a boyfriend of her in flagrante delicto and using a remote control to do the unspeakable. They pulled her contract until further notice, that is, until the investigation was complete, to determine the facts. We will of course never see her again on their promos we suspect. Her image is no longer family wholesome, they would argue. We said that she was the victim in the whole thing and the moral outrage was ringing just a little hollow in a society where sex infuses everything from morning through the noon and into the night and morning again and privacy has gone out of the window.
At the time of the Angelique Sabrina issue, we made some broader comments about sexuality about privacy in the common era. For example, we said it was surprising that Cable Bahamas would take the position that they did since every youngster in this milieu seems to have lost the division between what is private and what is public. You have reporters who record politicians on the phone and don’t tell them they are being recorded and they use the material and think nothing of it. You have half naked or naked pictures of youngsters everywhere and even oldsters, tattoos on every part and on Facebook. Yet Cable Bahamas chose to take a stand on that questionable moral and ethical platform.
We called it what we saw it as: a bunch of phoniness and fakery. Much ado about nothing.
The latest cataclysm for The Bahamas on this platform now are some videos that have been circulating during the past week which purport to be a policeman “juicin” some women. People identified the policeman. They then circulated an audio which heard his girlfriend and her friends cussin him out for secretly filming their sexual escapades. Then there was another video which allegedly shows the policeman being beaten by a woman who is outraged that he filmed her having sex with him and circulated the videos. The matter was said to have been reported to the police. The police responded with unusual alacrity, after all this was a case of morality at stake, a supposedly an under aged woman. The Facebook legal experts said that even though a woman can “juice “at 16 legally, you can’t film someone under 18 and circulate it because that would be child pornography and worse you canot do it without their permission.
Then on Friday 23rd January, the policeman Edmund Lewis Jr. was hauled before the courts, some say he was summarily dismissed, charged with offences connected with the video and not granted bail. On what basis we don’t know but he was refused bail would be interesting. It is favourite trick of the morally outraged police to take you to court late on a Friday, objecting to bail knowing that once bail is refused it’s only the Supreme Court you will have to go to and it’s impossible to do that on a Friday so you have to spend the weekend in jail. Was he a flight risk? Probably not. Was he going to interfere with witnesses? Probably not. There is also said to be another officer in custody who is to be charged.
We want to be careful here. Given the success of prosecutions in this town, we wouldn’t put a bet on the success of this one. That is the first thing. Secondly, this is just another bunch of phoniness, all the outrage about this. Here we go again. We end where we begin. This society is infused with it, everywhere you go. The kids are soaking in it on their Facebook pages and on Twitter and What’s App and all the other sites. Privacy is largely out the window. We agree that if there are genuine issues of consent here, then we think it ought to be prosecuted but too often, what we find when the passions have cooled down and all the excitement gone, that the facts simply don’t add up to the moral outrage.
Number of hits for the week ending Saturday 24th Janaury 2015 up to midnight:465,040;
Number of hits for the month of January up to Saturday 24th January 2015 up to midnight:1,470,110;
Number of hits for the year 2015 up to Saturday 24th Janaury 2015 up to midnight:1,470,110.
It appears that the Leader of the Opposition Hubert Minnis is targeting Fox Hill as a constituency.
Dr. Minnis is doing what all his predecessors as FNM leaders have done which is to put someone who lost to him in the general election in the House as a Senator as a form of harassment to Mr. Mitchell and to give them a platform for the next general election. Dr. Minnis recently forced out FNM Senator Heather Hunt because she supported Loretta Butler Turner in the FNM leadership elections. He is now set to replacing her with a Minnis loyalist Shonel Ferguson, the losing Fox Hill candidate who only returned to her home roots months before the last election claiming she was a Fox Hill girl.
(Raise The Minimum Wage In The Government Service To 310 dollars Per Week)
There was a story in the Tribune’s Business Section of Monday 19th January which quoted both James Smith, the former Minister of State for Finance and from the Inter-American Development Bank’s report on The Bahamas and its social systems. The Bank found a correlation between poverty and the ability of youngsters to finish school with qualifications. The report seemed to confirm what every MP knows and that is that the education system of The Bahamas appears to be failing our kids in the most fundamental way: not just in not preparing them for the life skills and tools they need to survive and make a living for themselves but more fundamentally even the two exams that students are to take to signal their readiness, most students cannot pass them. The poor are most venerable to failure, says the IDB. Now right now the Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald is busy trying to correct that issue with a number of initiatives but the report is sobering all the same. So many of the ills which we face as a society go right back to poverty. The fact is that during the Ingraham administration 2007 to 2012, poverty increased in The Bahamas because they scrapped so many social initiatives. The most recent figures show that the trend has not been reversed, despite the best efforts of the PLP to restore the attention of the country to tipping the balance back in favour of aggressive social programmes to be sure that people can eat and have adequate housing , transportation and health care. Crime is said also be tied to poverty. On that score we find ourselves in the peculiar position of trying to eke out a find of good news in a bleak picture of statistics: with statements like the one following the Police Commissioner’s Year In Review that crime is down but murder is up. We would like to suggest something. It again calls for money. We think that it is a bloody disgrace to us that Government workers are taking home 210 dollars per week at the entry level. So many people are making this salary. No one can make ends meet on that salary. The salary should be changed and changed dramatically to 310 dollars per week with the next national budget. People can’t buy food. They cannot pay their rent. They cannot get themselves to work or buy clothes and take care of their children on that salary. That means there is a broad cross section of the working poor in this country that we must know simply cannot make it without additional help. Let us raise the wage in the government service.
Bocchit Edmond (left), Haiti’s Ambassador to the United States and Permanent Representative to the OAS, and Bayney Karran (centre), Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States and Permanent Representative to the OAS, at the all-day retreat hosted by The Bahamas Embassy and Mikhail Bullard, Third Secretary
WASHINGTON, USA — Guided by an agenda covering a broad array of issues of common interest to their respective countries, ambassadors to the United States and permanent representatives to the Organization of American States (OAS) or their alternates from Caribbean Community (CARICOM)-member countries participated in an all-day retreat hosted by The Bahamas in Washington, DC, on Friday.
In alignment with Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie’s assumption of chair of CARICOM between January to June 2015, Dr Eugene Newry, Bahamas ambassador to the United States, officially became chairman of the CARICOM Caucus in Washington DC for the first half of the year.
The morning session dealing with OAS matters was chaired by Dr Elliston Rahming, The Bahamas’ permanent representative to the OAS and the United Nations, and the afternoon session, addressing matters specifically related to US bilateral relations, was chaired by Newry.
During the morning session, retreat participants were addressed by Sherry Tross, OAS executive secretary for integral development, on the topic “Shaping the OAS Development Agenda and OAS Reform,” after which caucus members participated in an open discussion on “OAS Reforms: Management Modernization Initiative and General Standards.”
Caucus members also heard a presentation by Col. Colin Mitchell, defence and military attaché of the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, who gave an update on CARICOM security-related matters.
Retreat members engaged in an open discussion on VII Summit of the Americas and strategized and finalized a number of recommendations before the luncheon break.
During lunch, delegates were addressed by Zulfikar Ally, executive director of the International Development Bank (IDB) on the bank’s Caribbean program for 2015 and new indicators of development need that were being championed by the Bank.
The principal speaker at the afternoon session was Francisco Palmieri, deputy assistant secretary with the US State Department, with responsibility for the Caribbean and Central American region, who spoke on the topic, “Policy Overview of Efforts in the Caribbean for 2015/Caribbean Energy Summit.”
He was accompanied to the retreat by John W. Dinkelman, director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs with the US State Department, and Nooshin Soltani, Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) coordinator in the Office of Caribbean Affairs with the US State Department.
Delegates held extended discussions on a proposed CARICOM-US summit and strategized and crafted a number of recommendations before Newry wrapped up the session by thanking delegates for their participation and providing an overview of future planned activities under his chairmanship.
In delivering the official “thank you” on behalf of caucus delegates, Bayney Karran, Guyana’s ambassador to the United States and permanent representative to the OAS, thanked The Bahamas for “a very timely, very productive and extremely well organized retreat.”
It is hoped that the retreat will lead to enhanced diplomatic engagement of the CARICOM Caucus in Washington DC in 2015, both bilaterally and multilaterally, not only with US and OAS counterparts, but also with other regional groups and multilateral entities, and redound to more tangible outcomes for the region.
Port Au Prince, Haiti
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
From: Bahamas Information Services
January 20, 2015
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A meeting was held Thursday at the Bahamas Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to discuss the possibility of a Haitian Trade Mission to The Bahamas in February and another later in the year. Pictured from left are: Frank Roberts – Vice President of Haiti’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Captain Godfrey Rolle – Bahamas Ambassador to Haiti and The Dominican Republic; Horacio Alvarez – Representative of The Caribbean Export Development Agency; Escipion J. Oliveira Gomez – Deputy Executive Director, Caribbean Export Development Agency; and Lucia Angelo – Commerce Development Expert, Caribbean Export Development Agency.
The Member of Parliament for South Andros Picewell Forbes visited with his constituents of Central Andros, having a look at the agricultural programme and the sports try outs for the Carifta Games coming up at Easter time. The visit took place on Friday 23rd January including a stop at the Stafford Creek Lodge. A sample of the visit in photos:
We want to congratulate the Artistic Director and Founder of the Grand Bahama Youth Choir Kevin Tomlinson for being nominated for the prestigious Cacique Awards by the Ministry of Tourism in two categories: Human Resources and Creative Arts. The Awards will be presented at the annual ceremony in Nassau this evening at the Melia Resort. It is the sixteenth version of the awards. This year the Ministry of Tourism is marking 50 years as a Ministry of the government.
The FNM and their operatives have been all around the country making an issue about the lack of the Freedom of Information Act. Hubert Ingraham just before he left office passed an unwieldy and expensive to administer act which was so cumbersome that it as impossible to implement. The PLP has not implemented it. We are opposed to it ourselves. This letter by Lester Mortimer explains why it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and the its benefits are more apparent than real.— Editor
Our Ref: LJM/ejma/
January 21, 2015
Re: VAT & the Proposed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
By your medium, I wish to ask the Radio Talk Show pundits and some of the political leaders to explain to the consumers and merchants how a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) would help them with Value Added Tax (VAT)? As part of their cry that a FOIA will help us with VAT, some also say that they do not know how the money collected from VAT will be spent or cannot trust the Government to spend the same. More recently, even my Bishop is reported to have called for the Government to give a proper account of how taxpayer’s money will be spent with the introduction of VAT. In reading the actual text of the Bishop’s speech, it become clear that he did not actually say these words.
Like all other taxes, VAT is required to be paid into the Consolidated Fund (see Section 12(9) of the VAT Act). Each year the Minister of Finance by Article 130(1) of the Constitution is required to introduce in the House of Assembly an Appropriation Bill containing, under appropriate heads for the several services required, the estimated aggregated sums which are proposed to be expended (otherwise than by way of statutory expenditure) during that financial year.
In recent years, it has been the practice for the Minister of Finance to table in the House of Assembly the Appropriation Bill and other budgetary documents (the Budget) on the last Wednesday of May. The Budget, inter alia, sets out how the Government revenues are to be spent in the following year. It must be noted that the Budget is debated by both Houses of Parliament in the month of June to coincide with the fiscal year which begins the first of July.
Any person concerned with how our taxes are being spent need only read the budget documents or listen to the Parliamentary debate on the same.
While a FOIA in certain circumstances can be helpful to inform the public on certain matters, it is not the answer to or a magic wand for the myriad of issues facing the country. The pundits would appear not to have noticed or appreciated that Part III of the FOIA Bill exempted 10 classes of records from disclosure. Furthermore, those who are expounding the implementation of a FOIA should consider certain provisions of the Freedom of Information Bill 2012 and in particular the new bureaucracy that will be needed to give effect to that Bill or any other and the cost of implementing the same. It may be more helpful to us at this time to require the Government to establish fully the Public Procurement Department as provided for in the 2013 Amendment to the Financial Administration and Audit Act 2010.
Thank you in advance for publishing the same.
Lester J. Mortimer, Jr., QC
P.S. The 10 exempted classes of records are as follows:
1. Records affecting security, defence or international relations, etc.
2. Records relating to law enforcement;
3. Records subject to legal privilege etc;
4. Records effecting national economy;
5. Records revealing Government’s deliberative processes;
6. Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs;
7. Records relating to commercial interests;
8. Records relating to heritage sites, etc.;
9. Records relating to personal information; and
10. Records likely to endanger health and safety.
He didn’t say where he was going but Kendino Knowles announced that he is leaving ZNS TV and the profession of journalism behind.
Prime Minister Perry Christie and Ministers of the government visit with the iconic Bahamian actor in his home in Beverly Hills, California on Sunday 11th January.
The House of Assembly met on Wednesday 21st January to finish the debate on an act which is designed to allow those who produce renewable power like solar in their own homes to be able to access the grid and thereby save money. You get a credit up to a certain amount of electricity that you contribute to the grid. It was an opportunity to raise a number of other matters but the Bill passed. Here is the text of Fred Mitchell MP’s contribution to the Bill. The video was captured by C Allen Johnson . You may click here for the full statement.
File photo by Peter Ramsay of the Bahamas Information Services—Fred Mitchell MP in the House of Assembly.
The following Communication was delivered by Fred Mitchell MP, the Minister for Immigration in the House of Assembly on Wednesday 22nd January updating the country on immigration matters. Mr. Mitchell responded to Fred Smith QC and his call for the government of The Bahamas to be bankrupted by law suits from migrants. He also answered critics of Chinese investment in The Bahamas. The video is captured by C. Allen Johnson.
You may click here for the full statement.
THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (19th – 23rd JANUARY 2015)
BAMSI fire ruled arson
Fire Chief, Supt. Walter Evans confirmed this week that arson was the cause of the fire that destroyed the roof of a male dormitory building under construction at BAMSI on Thursday evening, 15th January.
Also commenting on the fire was the Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government Hon. V. Alfred Gray who said his expectations are for the police “to prosecute and let the chips fall where they will.” He said that he was told that “it arose out of a dispute with the contractor and that’s the way he (the disgruntled worker) sought to settle it.”
The roof that was 80% complete at the time of the fire will cost $120,000 to be replaced at the expense of the contractor.
Serious crimes down nationally by 18%
“Last year it was my objective and hope that we could have brought down the number of murders…we failed and so I don’t take any comfort in the fact that other crimes are down. I think we need to get all crimes down and get as close to eliminating as much murders as we can.” This was the response of National Security Minister Hon. Bernard J. Nottage to the results of the 2014 crime statistics delivered by the Commissioner of Police at a press conference held earlier this week at police headquarters.
The overall results on crime revealed an 18% decline in serious crimes nationally, a 24% decline in Grand Bahama and a 16% decline in the Family Islands. Murder however was up by 3% from 119 in 2013 to 123 in 2014.
The Minister commended the police for being “able to bring down the numbers of crime across the board” last year, but warned that the police must not “rest on their laurels” as there is much more work to be done.
“The police force can take some credit for the work they are doing, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s a lot more work to be done.”
The serious crimes that declined last year were manslaughter (-25%), rape (-29%), attempted rape (-45%), unlawful sexual intercourse (-33%), armed robbery (-10%), and robbery (-4%).
Sorry Folks about the startling headline but we thought that said it best. The performance by Perry Christie in the House of Assembly on Wednesday afternoon 22nd Janaury as he wound up the debate on the Amendment to the Electricity Bill was electrifying. All of the arguments advanced in this column over the weeks about the Bank of The Bahamas showed up in the House in that statement. It was a ringing defence of the Bank. The FNM sat there like school children—silent. We ask again, what value is there in talking the Bank of the Bahamas into bankruptcy? Only their friends can benefit.
You may click here for the full statement by the Prime Minister.
Nassau, Bahamas – The following are the Prime Minister’s Remarks in the House Of Assembly on Wednesday January 21st, 2015.
Re: Bank of The Bahamas (BOB)
The one thing we should all be united on at all times is the need for a stable banking system. What this means is that we should never do or say anything that undermines public confidence in the stability of our banking system. It means that we need to avoid doing things publicly, or saying things publicly, that may jeopardize the stability of a particular bank or undermine public confidence in it.
If you have a concern about the way a particular bank is operating, if you have a concern about its stability or its viability, you can, if you’re really serious and well-intentioned about it, do one of two things, or perhaps both:
Firstly, you can seek to sit down with the bank directly to get the answers to the questions that you have.
Secondly or alternatively, you can seek an audience with the bank regulators, the Central Bank of The Bahamas, and discuss your concerns with them.
In fact, in the case of the Bank of The Bahamas, there’s even a third option. Because the bank is majority-owned by the government, you can simply come to see me as the Minister of Finance or see the Member for Golden Isles as the State Minister of Finance. If you don’t want to deal with political figures, you can even sit down with the Financial Secretary to discuss your concerns and get the answers to any questions you may have.
So that’s what you can do if you’re a responsible member of parliament who is really interested in getting the facts and if you’re really interested in being a part of the solution rather than being a part of the problem.
But did any of the members opposite do any of those things last week or any time before or after? No! They put on placards instead and marched down to the Bank of The Bahamas with the media in tow. They didn’t ask to meet with anyone to get the facts. No! They were just interested in grandstanding for the newspapers and for television, trying to score some cheap political points – but without any thought whatever for what their actions and their words might do to injure the bank; to put it in jeopardy; to put customers of the bank in jeopardy; to put hundreds of businesses and thousands of Bahamian jobs in jeopardy. No thought about that whatsoever. No! Instead it was all about politics of the cheapest, most opportunistic kind.
Happily, the demonstration by the FNM backfired badly or as the Guardian put it, it “failed to get any traction”. Indeed they couldn’t pull more than 50 people. What an embarrassment that must have been for the leadership of the Party and for the members opposite. Even their own supporters knew that it was complete nonsense what their leaders were doing out there on Shirley Street, and so they stayed away; they wanted no part of it.
Besides, FNM supporters understood only too well that BOB’s problems had actually come about on the FNM’s watch, years before now. So, raising the cry against the bank was really akin to raising the cry against oneself. Politically, it was just downright stupid!
Be that as it may, the point I’m making, Mr. Speaker, is that banks – all banks – are fragile things in the sense that they depend on public confidence. Great care has to be taken, therefore, to be responsible and circumspect in the way that we approach public criticism and public action against banking institutions.
Darren Cash and BOB
And speaking of the FNM and the BOB, I just need to add a word about Darren Cash, the former chairman of the FNM – the same man who could only muster 19 votes in his bid to become Deputy Leader of the FNM. His own party showed him what they think of him by those humiliating numbers. But he seems undeterred. He seems to have a particular obsession with the Bank of The Bahamas. He knows why he does. And he must know that I know why he does. And if he persists I will have no hesitation whatever in letting the whole country know what is really behind this obsession of his about BOB.
In the meantime, let me rest content by merely saying this: Darren Cash has zero credibility when it comes to speaking about The Bank of The Bahamas. Zero! In fact, he really has some nerve to even open his mouth about the Bank of The Bahamas. The words “Bank of The Bahamas” should never ever issue from his lips.
But like they say, you say some, and you save some. And so that’s all I have to say about Darren Cash today.
Industry-wide losses but everybody’s Singling Out BOB!
A lot of folks – and they include the members opposite – have been beating up on BOB over its loan losses. These critics want everybody to resign: the Managing Director, other senior executives, the chairman and the whole board. “They all have to go”: that’s been the war-cry.
Now isn’t that something! First Caribbean/CIBC (Bahamas) reported a loss of $183 million dollars for the first 9 months of last year because of its commercial loan losses – but not a peep from these same critics about that; not one peep! Why hasn’t the war-cry gone up for the management and board of First Caribbean/CIBC to resign? It’s a public company too. It made big loans and then got burnt in the recession and fallout from the global financial crisis. But not a murmur, not a peep.
And on top of that, FCIB/CIBC have been laying off people; cutting this and cutting that, but again not a peep. But when it comes to BOB, it’s the exact opposite “the war-cry goes up: they all have to go!
But it doesn’t stop there. RBC/FINCO also reported major losses, again because of loan losses. But again hardly a murmur of protest from the same people who are raising hell over BOB. And not a peep from the Opposition either!
Scotiabank is no different either. They, too, have been taking a beating on their loan losses. But again not a peep from anybody.
It’s unfair, Mr. Speaker, and it’s plain wrong! BOB is being portrayed as if it’s the only bank in town that has had its problems because of loan losses. All the big, multinational Canadian retail banks here are in the same boat for the same reason: they are all sustaining losses because of non-performing loans that were made in more or less the same period before the big recession and meltdown occurred.
And the same thing is happening to banks all across the region. Scotiabank, to take but one example, has announced that they intend to close 370 branches in the region.
Down in Bermuda, the Government in 2009 had to step in to orchestrate a “bail out” of Butterfield Bank to the tune of 200 million dollars.
As the then Minister of Finance Paula Cox put it in her statement to the legislature:
“Butterfield’s Bank approached the Ministry of Finance after it had exhausted options to raise capital in the private sector without any form of public assistance. That is a regrettable reality in banking sectors around the world in these times of financial and economic turmoil.
Banks in many jurisdictions, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia have resorted to different forms of public sector assistance to raise their capital levels.”
In Jamaica, CIBC had to bail out its FCIB subsidiary by injecting US$70 million.
Farther afield, the Canadian government has had to spend more close to 200 billion dollars to support troubled Banks.
In the U.S. the level of financial support was very considerable greater, of course.
So, why is BOB being singled out? The Government, as the majority shareholder, stepped in to provide the necessary support to protect the Government’s investment in the bank; to protect the interests of depositors and the very many businesses that depend on the bank; and to guard against systemic risk to the banking system as a whole.
So, with all the fuss that has been made about BOB and the Government’s support of BOB, you really have to wonder why. You really have to wonder if there isn’t a hidden agenda somewhere to weaken the Bank of The Bahamas so that the vultures can come swooping down and gobble it up.
BOB on an upward path with a bright future
Well, the vultures will never succeed – not while this Government is in power! If that’s their aim, they can forget it. This government will never allow them to succeed.
On the contrary, this government is going to continue to strengthen BOB; is going to continue to nurse it back to full health; is going to continue to stand behind it, is going to continue to assist it as it reforms its structure and policies, – including bringing on BOB’s board some new independent directors – as the bank re-positions itself to capitalize on new markets and increased volumes of government-related business, backed at all times by the full faith and credit of the government.
I have every confidence, therefore, that BOB is not only on the right track now but that it will return to profitability in the not too distant future. Certainly, its balance sheet has already been substantially improved as a result of more than 100 million dollars in bad loans being taken off its books and placed with Bahamas Resolve.
The future for BOB looks bright!
The other banks have brighter days in store too!
And happily all of the banks here can look forward with renewed optimism to a resurgence as well. Indeed the Jamaican Gleaner reported just yesterday that at a conference of the big Canadian banks in Toronto on Monday past, a spirit of optimism about 2015 and beyond resonated strongly.
Indeed RBC’s CEO, David McKay was quoted as saying:
“we feel strongly that we will have a strong rebound in Caribbean performance in fiscal 2015”.
I was assured of much the same thing about RBC’s prospects in The Bahamas when I met with the regional head of RBC on Friday past. Their faith and confidence in The Bahamas – which is still the major breadwinner for RBC in the region – is stronger and brighter today than ever before. Indeed I expect some important announcements in this regard to made shortly.
And there’s no question that the stable and prudent economic and fiscal policies of this government; the integrity of our regulatory regime and monetary system, and the comparatively brilliant economic prospects of The Bahamas, spearheaded by the imminent opening of Baha Mar, are major drivers of the renewed confidence that RBC has in The Bahamas today. I expect the other Canadian banks to follow the same path too.
BOB – Paul McWeeney
As you are aware, the present Managing Director of BOB, Paul McWeeney, has announced that he will not be renewing his contract and that instead he will be retiring as Managing Director. His contact requires that he give 6 months’ notice and he served this 6 months’ notice of his intention to retire in December. Thus, he will leave the bank in June of this year after having served the bank for 20 years, the last 14 of which were as Managing Director.
I want to make it clear that this was Paul McWeeney’s decision and his alone. He was not asked to do it; he was not made to do it. It was his decision.
But I can’t blame him for doing it because no one should have to endure the kind of abuse that he has had to put up with for more than a year now. And he has indeed been unfairly blamed for the Bank’s problems.
But now that Paul McWeeney has decided to leave, there are a couple of points I need to set the record straight on.
Firstly, under Paul McWeeney’s leadership of BOB, the bank grew impressively, and he needs to be recognized for that.
He joined the Bank in 1993, following a successful career with the Chase Manhattan Bank both here and abroad. He was hired under my predecessor, the former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham.
When Paul joined the bank, it had total assets of only 93 million. Under his leadership, this number increased more than 10 fold – to more than 900 million dollars by 2012.
In addition, the equity of the bank increased from only 11 million dollars to a high of $142 million dollars.
Net income rose from a mere $291 thousand dollars per annum to a high of $10.7 million dollars, resulting in dividends to the Government alone of more than 50 million dollars over the years.
Job creation for Bahamians expanded dramatically as well. When Paul joined the bank, it had fewer than 100 employees. Today the Bank employs close to 350 Bahamians.
Moreover, the bank has grown its branch network from only 5 to 13, servicing not only Nassau and Freeport but other islands of our Commonwealth that the other banks have no interest in serving at all. If it wasn’t for BOB these islands would have no banking facilities. In this regard, BOB has served an important national purpose even though the costs associated with it have obviously impacted profit levels over the years.
Under Paul’s leadership, BOB also scored a number of pioneering banking successes in The Bahamas:
• First bank to establish a stand-alone credit card issuing and processing centre in the Bahamas;
• First bank to introduce prepaid VISA branded cards
• First bank to introduce e-commerce;
• First to introduce “e-notifier”;
• Only bank to have Bahamian currency certified in a way that permits actual cash deposits at ABMs
In addition, Paul McWeeney chaired the Bahamas Automated Clearing House from infancy to its launch. BACH is fully functional today and is extremely profitable.
So, Paul McWeeney was a man of many successes and many firsts, and BOB was consistently profitable, year after year, until just two years ago when the Bank’s loan portfolio and the depressed value of underlying security deteriorated – just as happened with the other banks that had invested heavily in commercial and residential mortgage lending – indeed all the banks except Commonwealth and Fidelity that are really only low-risk consumer lending institutions that live or die on salary deductions from their customers.
But it needs to be emphasized that the deterioration in the quality of the loan portfolio at BOB was not because of Paul McWeeney but rather was primarily the result of the 2008 global economic and financial crisis and the impact it had on the ability of troubled businesses to service their commercial loans. That was no more Paul’s fault than it was Nat Beneby’s fault at RBC or Marie-Rodland-Allen’s fault at FCIB or the managing director of Scotiabank. It had nothing to do with any of them either.
In any case, the Bank experienced its first financial loss in 20 years. Strange, how people only remember the bad times, never the good.
Now that Paul McWeeney has decided to leave the bank and to pursue other things, I just want to take this opportunity to publicly commend him for his many successes in leading the bank over the years, and wish him success in his future endeavours.
The Chairman and the board
I also want to commend Richard Demeritte and the BOB board for being a part of the solution and not the problem . They have all worked very hard to address the bank’s problems.
The calls for them to resign are ludicrous, frankly. As the old folks would say “they just reach!”. They have only been in office for the past two years; indeed some of the members for even less than that. So, where does the Opposition get off demanding their resignation? For what? It makes no sense. What about the BOB boards that sat under the FNM when they were in power and when problem loans were made and approved by those FNM boards? What should happen to them? What’s the FNM’s position on that? It’s just plain crazy!
23rd January 2015
Nassau, Bahamas – At approximately 6 feet, 7 inches tall, he towered above them, and with an extraordinary legacy that still leaves many in awe, Julius “Dr. J” Erving II commanded the attention of just about everyone around him when he visited the Oakes Field Campus of The College of The Bahamas recently.
But what he said to the COB Caribs men’s basketball team that day leveled the playing field between them. The basketball legend spoke frankly about life, loving ball, winning and more importantly how to handle defeat.
“Nobody goes undefeated forever. Some of you may have that undefeated stretch, undefeated season, but team sport is just that. You can sometimes have the best player, but ultimately the winners are going to be the ones with the best team, not necessarily the best player,” he told the team.
Losing, the basketball legend shared, is also a worthy lesson.
“Nobody likes being on the losing side, but if you compete, you can walk off that court with your head held up high,” he said. “Say ‘look, they just have more man-power, they were better that day’, or ‘they are better this year, but we competed, we left it all out there on the court. We played up to the best of our ability and it just wasn’t enough’. And then, that day is over, that night is over, that game is over and it is a fresh start the next day. That is the beauty of sports. It is always a fresh start the next day.”
The COB Caribs is a relatively young team, but is full of athletes with potential and passion for the sport, something that Mr. Erving knows all too well. He began his professional career with the Virginia Squires and the New York Nets in the American Basketball Association. According to the NBA Encyclopedia, he is widely regarded as the greatest player of his time and is often considered to have been the main catalyst for the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.
But on the day that he visited with college students at COB, he was a man who had climbed the pinnacle of success in his career and was eager to share his experiences and words of wisdom. Another lesson from the basketball great? Make a realistic evaluation of one’s aspirations.
“If you are on a team and you averaging like three points and two rebounds and you are playing like five minutes a game, making a career out of basketball probably is not a good option for you to be considering, especially if you are already eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one years old. I am not trying to personally discourage you, but I am trying to tell you, you need to look at this and say ‘let me put this in perspective because I am not going to be able to feed my family based on that part of basketball’. Being a part of a team and accumulating good stats, maybe in terms of coaching, maybe in terms of training, being involved in some capacity like university administrator, athletic director, so you are still close to the game. Maybe you can end up close to the game, but not be dependent on the game,” he advised.
COB Caribs shooting guard, Glenn Davis, was grateful for the interaction.
“With ‘Dr. J’ it was more than just basketball; he gave life lessons and how to look at (things). I took from it, you don’t get discouraged and sometimes you have to look at the situation and think more than just basketball,” he said.
During his visit to COB, Mr. Erving also met College of The Bahamas President Dr. Rodney D. Smith; Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Eslyn Jones; Director of Athletics Kimberley Rolle, Assistant Director, Athletics Sean Bastian, men’s basketball coach Bacchus Rolle and sprint coach, Mark Humes. Dr. Smith said the experience was a motivating one for the basketball team in terms of building of character and their competition on the court.
“We are in the process of building, it is going to take us a little time to build our athletics programme, but we have started the process. I think having “Dr. J” on campus today, talking with our players is a very good first step as we transition to university,” Dr. Smith said.
The COB Caribs basketball team comprises twelve players. The team competes both locally and against college teams in Florida.
Letters to the editor
NASSAU, The Bahamas – RBC Capital Markets paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, January 22, at the Office of the Prime Minister. The RBC executives are pictured with the Prime Minister and several Cabinet Ministers — Prime Minister Christie and Minister of Financial Services the Hon. Hope Strachan are at centre; in the next row are Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration the Hon. Fred Mitchell and Minister of Labour and National Insurance the Hon. Shane Gibson; Managing Director, RBC Royal Bank Bahamas Ltd., Nathaniel Beneby is behind Mr. Mitchell; and at the back, from left: Minister of Education, Science and Technology the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald; Minister of State for Investments in the Office of the Prime Minister the Hon. Khaalis Rolle; and Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance the Hon. Michael Halkitis. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)
Fred Mitchell MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs, updates the House of Assembly on the trip to China on 14th January. The video is captured by C. Allen Johnson
Recently the $232,000,000 Royal Bahamas Defence Force Sandy Bottom Project came to an abrupt halt when a large manatee showed up. The dredging crew saw it earlier in the morning. The trouble after that was finding where it went. The fingers are an extension of the jetty used to track the ship lift and it was there at about 1000 hours that the manatee surfaced again.
“One trick I learned a few years back was to hang a fresh water hose overboard and it will come up to drink,” said Commander Adrian Chriswell.
The creature must have been thirsty. It drank more than 5 gallons of water. Commander Chriswell’s hose trick actually worked.
A special team from the BEST Commission and the Bahamas National Trust were notified about the rare sighting. Most of the onlookers had never seen a manatee or even knew what one was. Also known as a sea cow, this large protected aquatic mammal feeds on sea grass and has a secret lust for iceberg lettuce. The team used the lettuce to lure the manatee to safer waters.
Many attempts later, the team was successful in being able to lure the manatee to safety. The dredging resumed later in the day.
Fred Mitchell MP joined the Donaldson family at the 80th birthday celebrations of the matriarch of the family Cynthia at the Church of the Ascension in Freeport on Saturday 24th January. Happy birthday! We wish you many more.
The following statement was issued by the Bahamas Medical Council on the death of Henry Podlewski:
Dr. Henry K Podlewski O.B.E. , M.B., Ch. B., M.R.C. Psychiatry
Dr. Henry K Podlewski died at his residence 8th January, 2015, in Nassau, The Bahamas. He was 94 years old.
Dr. Podlewski was born in Poland, April 26, 1920 and came to The Bahamas in 1953. He was the first Psychiatrist to practice in The Bahamas. This was facilitated by an Act of Parliament that was created especially for him. The Henry K Podlewski (Private Practice) Act No. 66 of 1957. The Act is still on the books today. After serving as Chief Psychiatrist for 32 years, he retired in 1986.
Dr. Podlewski’s contributions to the advancement of care to those with mental illness in The Bahamas, the Caribbean Region and Globally is legendary. Dr. Podlewski was instrumental in the planning and the design of the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC) that commenced in 1956 and is credited with the provision of quality services to a largely marginalized stigmatized group of individuals with mental health challenges in a most caring and disciplined manner. He was a pioneer with the establishment of The Bahamas Mental Health Association, The Caribbean Psychiatrist Association, The Caribbean Federation of Mental Health, The Bahamas Association for the Mentally Retarded; and The Bahamas Council on Alcoholism.
Dr. Podlewski also served as Registrar of The Bahamas Medical Council 1978 to 1998, for 19 years with distinction.
Dr. Podlewski was the recipient of numerous awards including, Office of the Order of the British Empire, “Paul Harris Fellow”, Rotarian Award, the Distinguished Citizen Award from The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, The Golden Heart Award; and The Bahamas Government Silver Jubilee Award.
He is survived by his wife, Sandra; son, Henry; daughter-in-law, Tara; granddaughter, Mia; grandson, Henry; and numerous other relatives and friends.
(ends up voting with the FNM, effectively has left the PLP)
When people arrived at the PLP headquarters on Thursday 22nd January there were huge crowds, cars lined up as far as the eye could see and many wondered what this was about. Well turns out it was the fact that the press and the people there gathered were expecting the sword to fall on the neck of Andre Rollins, the rogue PLP MP, for attacking the leader Perry Christie in the House of Assembly. Mr. Rollins was at it again on Wednesday 21 January in the House. Shortly after a chat with the Prime Minsiter in the Committee room, he went upstairs and savaged the PLP again. He has to of course stay the course of this behavior, and make more and more outrageous statements to keep the intoxicating supply of headlines in the press coming. At evening’s end, he joined the black shirted Richard Lightbourne (FNM Montagu) in voting with the FNM to resurrect an inquiry into a case which Jerome Fitzgerald Acting Attorney General withdrew and ended the prosecution. The Government voted against it. Mr. Rollins voted with the FNM to open the inquiry. By all accounts then it seems that he is gone from the PLP. The press said a disciplinary committee of the PLP decided to recommend a six month suspension. That didn’t fly with the National General Council on Thursday night. They thought it was swatting a fly with a canon when a fly swat would do. Result was nothing is to be done. Mr. Rollins is free now to resume is attacks and descent into irrelevancy.
NASSAU, The Bahamas – Representatives of the Road Safety Committee led by the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Transport and Aviation, continued its public education programme at Columbus Primary, Collins Avenue, Wednesday where they observed the flow of traffic in the area and students and parents used the pedestrian crossing directed by a crossing guard.
Minister Hanna-Martin said the education programme is among other initiatives designed to heighten public awareness of road safety and reduce the number of traffic fatalities in the country.
Road Traffic Controller Ross Smith said the visit to Columbus Primary School was one of seven to be made to schools throughout New Providence. The Committee recently conducted a similar exercise at Yellow Elder Primary School, Baillou Hill Road. The initiative is in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
Guyana’s President has announced that elections will be held for a new Parliament on 11th May. The House of Assembly in St. Kitts and Nevis has been dissolved but an election date is held up awaiting court ruling on a challenge by the Opposition to the new boundaries. A ruling is expected on Monday 26th January.
Prime Minister Perry Christie will travel to Washington DC as Chair of Caricom and in his own right as Leader of The Bahamas for a meeting of Heads of Government, Foreign Ministers and Energy Ministers with the Vice President of the United States on Energy matters. The meetings will take place on Monday 26th January and Heads of Government from the Caricom region will be there. The Prime Minister is also expected to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry. He will be accompanied by Fred Mitchell, Foreign Minister and Kenred Dorsett, the Minister for Energy. This is the Prime Minister’s second meeting with Mr. Biden. He flies from Washington to San Jose, Costa Rica for the annual summit of Latin American and Caribbean nations on the 28th January and then returns to Nassau that evening.
ATTORNEY GENERAL, The Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, centre, on the March to mark the new 2015 Legal Year in the Northern Region, 16th January 2015. (BIS Photo/Vandyke Hepburn) . Some of the youngsters were offended last week when the caption appeared with their picture in costume at the Cathedral in Nassau it seemed to suggest that only the youngsters enjoy the regalia. Apologies.
Journalists Geoffrey Brown and Natario McKenzie, Business Reporters at The Nassau Guardian and The Tribune respectively, are headed to Washington D.C. January 25-27, to provide coverage of the Caribbean Energy Security Summit that will be hosted by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Geoffrey and Natario will join journalists from throughout the region who were selected to participate in the prestigious event. Prior to their departure, Natario and Geoffrey met with Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Neda Brown at the U.S. Embassy to discuss the Summit which will bring together leaders from throughout the Caribbean to discuss energy security initiatives with U.S. Government officials. Funding for the trip was provided by the U.S. State Department.
Mother Elva Ellis, of Bailey Town Bimini and mother of Bishop Neil C. ELLIS has died. We send our heartfelt condolences to the family.
Prime Minister Perry Christie paid tribute to the late Reno Brown for his contribution to the PLP and to the nation as a Banker and public official at a special memorial service held at the Party’s headquarters on Saturday 17th January. Mr. Brown served as a Chairman of the Licensing Authority and of BTC, the phone company. A bit of stir at the headquarters when former Chair of the PLP and now FNM supporter Andrew “ Dud” Maynard showed up to give a tribute to Mr. Brown but ended up castigating the PLP in its own House, the house he helped to build. One of the sore points is his establishment the Corner Motel is on the sales block. He blames the PLP for that. The PLP of course has nothing to do with managing the facility. The photos for history were taken with the present Chair Bradley Roberts and Mr. Maynard by Peter Ramsay of the Bahamas Information Services.
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