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THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (22 – 26 FEBRUARY 2016) BY ELCOTT COLEBY

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generic viagra case times;”>Description: C:UsersAdministratorDownloadsIMG-20160227-WA0012.jpgColumnist Elcott Coleby celebrating his 53rd birthday at Island House Restaurant in Lyford Cay on Friday 26 February. Congratulations.  Joining him his wife: Sharon and son Shaquille 

decease times;”>This day in Parliament

The Bahamas Parliament convened at 10am on Wednesday, 24th February to debate and pass amendments to the Bail Act. 

Minister of Social Services and Community Development the Hon. Melanie Griffin officially presented to the House the report on gender-based violence and its recommendations inclusive of the establishment of a Gender Based Violence Authority to supervise the various programs proposed in the report. This comes days after the report was presented to Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie at a press conference at his office in Cable Beach. The committee is chaired by Justice Rubie Ann Nottage.

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Dr. Daniel Johnson presented his Junkanoo report. There were 23 Junkanoo parades held around The Bahamas said the Minister, starting with the Junior Junkanoo parade here in Nassau in December 2015. Bimini won the 2015 Junior Junkanoo parade which indicates the great strides the Family Islands have made in this premier cultural expression.

The Minister named just a sample of the 40 local festivals across The Bahamas, all under the supervision of the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC). He also defended the government’s commitment to keeping Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival Bahamian and within the bounds of decency.

An anthology of Bahamian Rake and Scrape music is now at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, thanks to Fred Ferguson and Ronald Simmons noted the Minister.

The Minister also took the opportunity to name a number of elite Bahamian athletes who continue to excel on the international stage. They were Zhivargo ‘Buddy’ Hield of the Oklahoma Sooners, the Big 12 NCAA Div 1 player of the year; Clay Thompson of the world champion Golden State Warriors and three-point shooting champion; basketball players Yonette McPhee and Jonquell Jones with the later of George Washington University.  

Finally, Dr. Johnson announced that the Junior Commonwealth games will be held in The Bahamas in 2017 and praised the country’s judo team for their recent success in regional competition.

Immigration and Foreign Affairs Minister the Hon. Fred Mitchell reported on several immigration matters currently in the public domain. In doing so he responded to Attorney Fred Smith QC, the Nassau Guardian and the chairman of the Free National Movement. The minister’s statement was interrupted on several occasions by House members for being ‘controversial’ as private citizens were named in his statement. The Minister argued that the issues he was addressing were raised in the public domain; the attacks on his character, his privilege and integrity were made in the public domain so what more appropriate a place to defend himself than the democratic parliament.

Minister Mitchell pointed out that the immigration board is the cabinet and a minister is only a delegate. He pointed out that a request was made of the immigration board to make a decision on the status of the detained Cuban nationals and the board did. He said he stands by the decision of the immigration board. Attempts by individuals to accuse him of untruths either demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of the Westminster system of government or just pure political mischief by those individuals.

Mitchell read a dossier on the two Cuban detainees chronicling their arrests, membership in the Cuban military, their arrests and detention, participation in a fire, attempts to escape lawful immigration custody, their criminal activities and applications by The Bahamas government to their home and foreign countries for their asylum and the rejection of those applications. The dossier spanned more than two years.

Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie also delivered a communication on the immigration matter. He said the Republic of Cuba, the United States of America and the Republic of Panama refused to accept the two Cuban refugees. Mr. Christie stressed the difficult position the government of The Bahamas was placed in with these two refugees and revealed that just recently, he penned a letter of appeal to the government of Cuba to reconsider the matter.

National Security Minister the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage led off the debate on amendments to the Bail Act. Citing some of the challenges connected with the granting of bail, Dr. Nottage revealed that a number of persons murdered this year were out on bail. He lamented that persons who are aware that bail conditions are being violated are not forthcoming in reporting these violations to the proper authorities. He also told House members that some people use their properties as surety on behalf of persons applying for bail only to profit from this. He believed this practice to be illegal and would like to see it stopped.

The amendment to the Bail Act, according to Dr. Nottage, makes it a criminal offence to violate the terms and conditions of bail, an offense punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and five years imprisonment.

House members from the government side were generally supportive of the amendments while the opposition members characterized the amendments as “window dressing” and a “public relations exercise.” In the end the amended Bail Act passed the House unanimously late Wednesday night.  

Minister Nottage gave notice to the House that the four constitutional amendment bills before the House in committee will be put to a vote at the next sitting of the House on Wednesday, 2nd March 2016. He advised that after further review of the bills, a decision was made against further amendments to the four pieces of legislation.

As a refresher, the proposed constitutional amendments are as follow:

Bill #1:

This bill seeks the grant the legal right to a Bahamian woman to automatically pass on her Bahamian citizenship to her child born in a foreign country with her non Bahamian spouse just as a Bahamian male married to a non-Bahamian woman currently has the legal right and privilege of doing under the current constitution.

Bill #2:

This bill seeks to enable a Bahamian woman who marries a non-Bahamian man to secure for her foreign husband the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man married to a non-Bahamian woman currently enjoys under the constitution.

Bill #3:

This bill seeks to grant to an unmarried Bahamian man the legal right to pass on his Bahamian citizenship to his child he fathered with a non-Bahamian woman. Under the constitution, only an unwed Bahamian woman enjoys that legal right and privilege. The unwed male must provide proof of paternity by any method listed under the constitution.

Bill #4

This bill seeks to eliminate gender discrimination by inserting the word “sex” into article 26 of the constitution to make it unconstitutional to discriminate against anyone on the basis of them being male or female.

PM Christie opens first phase of February Point redevelopment

“We are witnesses today to a state-of-the-art newly constructed Welcome Centre, Restaurant, Bistro Bar and Spa. The small boat marina is 90% completed. Construction has begun on the 20 unit condominium complex. And plans have been completed to begin construction of six (6) penthouses and four (4) estate homes.”

Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie was delivering the keynote address on Friday morning on the occasion of the completion and official opening of the first phase of the February Point Resort, Spa and Marina development in picturesque Exuma.

The latest investor at February Point is John Garvey, an accomplished commercial and luxury residential developer mostly in the Southwest Florida area. Prime Minister Christie said that Mr. Garvey now leads a group of investors and are embarking on a mission to “make an impressionable mark on Exuma Island through the creation of an ultra-luxury resort that will transform the landscape of Georgetown.”

Mr. Christie commented on the community outreach and corporate citizenship of the Garvey investment group for the advancement and development of Exuma.

“In addition to a $40 million project investment” continued Mr. Christie, “February Point will donate a minimum of 150 acres of land in Flamingo Bay to Government and will contribute $250,000.00 for a joint venture Master Plan with Government for the transformation of Georgetown into a mini city with a state-of-the-art Government Administrative Complex, a primary and a high school, an Industrial Park, Community Sports and Recreational Centres, a hydroponic botanical farm, residential subdivision, and a commercial retail and entertainment district.”

Bahamasair pilots get new 5 year contract

Admitting that the nearly two years of negotiations were sometimes beset by delays and unfortunate events, the Board of Directors and Executive Management of Bahamasair Holdings expressed satisfaction at the announcement of a new industrial agreement between the national flag carrier and the Bahamas Airline Pilots Association (BALPA).

The announcement was made via press release on Tuesday, 23rd February 2016.

“This brings to a close almost two years of negotiations which at times experienced unnecessary delays and unfortunate events” said the statement. “However, both Management and the Pilots Association express their total satisfaction that this process has been concluded. The contract, signed on February 19th will go into immediate effect and is for five years covering the period January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2017.”

The unnecessary events included sickouts by pilots at critical times such as the Christmas holidays as the sometimes contentious negotiations played itself out in the media.

The statement also revealed that Bahamasair had successfully negotiated and signed off on three industrial agreements with the IAMAW, the PMU and the Pilots Association, respectively. “Moreover,” said the statement, “the company looks forward to announcing the signing of its fourth and final agreement with the AAAWU hopefully, later this week. With the acquisition and integration of the new fleet, research of new routes and improved performance Bahamasair looks forward with a renewed sense of purpose and vigor.”

Chamber of Commerce meets with NHI Secretariat

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) released a press statement on Tuesday of this week, one day after meeting with the National Health Insurance (NHI) Secretariat for further discussions on the proposed NHI Bahamas plan.

“At the end of the meeting” said the statement, “a decision was made for a wider private stakeholder consultation meeting and the BCCEC agreed to facilitate that meeting. While there were still many questions and concerns expressed by those present, the meeting was informative and engaging. The BCCEC is pleased that the NHI Secretariat expressed their openness to have further dialogue and to consider the views and expressions of the BCCEC to be included in the draft Bill, as well as their plans going forward.”

In its statement, the BCCEC did not list any specific stakeholder concerns.

This meeting which included the insurance industry, medical and allied medical services, came on the heels of the December 2015 meeting, the first private sector stakeholder symposium with the NHI Secretariat, organized by the BCCEC.

Only blue NHI Smart Card necessary for NHI enrolment

The National Health Insurance Secretariat issued a statement on Thursday reminding all Bahamians that they only need one card – the NIB Smart Card – in order to be prepared for enrolment in NHI Bahamas once that phase begins.

The statement sought to clarify misinformation that created some confusion in the public domain about the need to secure a separate NHI Bahamas card as a precursor for enrolment in the NHI Bahamas programme.

“There has been some confusion where persons believe they need their NIB Smart Card and another card specifically for NHI Bahamas,” says Dr. Delon Brennen, Project Manager for NHI Bahamas. “The system is designed to be efficient and coordinated, therefore it is intended that your NIB Smart Card will not only be used for NIB purposes, but for NHI Bahamas as well.”

Only legal Bahamian residents who register for, and receive their NIB Smart Card will be able to enroll in NHI Bahamas once that phase begins.

Bahamas regional leader in airlift per hotel room says IMF report

In 2014, The Bahamas attracted 20,920 outbound commercial aviation flights from the United States, making this country the regional leader in airlifts per available hotel room and the third leading Caribbean destination in attracting outbound commercial flights. The Dominican Republic was first with 25,684 flights followed by Cancun with 25,360 flights. With a stopover visitor count of 1.286 million, The Bahamas placed fourth behind Cancun, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. This was according to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) study on the impact and role played by airlift on Caribbean tourism.

During that year, The Bahamas was serviced by 18 international airlines, also the highest in the region. These airlines departed 18 US cities – placing The Bahamas third in the region in this category.

On a more sober note, the report found that the number of flights to The Bahamas has declined by 50% since mid-2000 while the number of flights leaving US cities for the Caribbean has picked up since the financial crisis.

The authors of the report entitled ‘Flying to Paradise’ are Sebastian Acevedo, Lu Han, Hye Sun Kim and Nicole Laframboise.

IDB optimistic about The Bahamas in 2016.

“The groundwork laid paints a positive picture for 2016” for The Bahamas said the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in its latest Caribbean Quarterly Bulletin. The bulletin echoed the sentiments of The Bahamas government that it was engaged in the requisite ‘heavy lifting’ over the past three and one half years in order to stabilize the economy and place it on sound footing and poised for growth.

“With the arduous demands and pains of 2015 now behind, the foundation has been laid for a 2016 that is rich with new mobile options, lower electricity rates, universal health care, and maybe a new mega-resort, among other things” said the IDB bulletin.

The report however pointed out that the delay in the opening of Baha Mar has slowed the country’s economic recovery, delaying its acceleration for one or two years with the positive economic impact of Baha Mar likely to be felt in 2018. Baha Mar’s eventual opening is expected to give the Bahamian economy a strong boost; this boost will support the government’s fiscal consolidation plan, facilitate a reduction in the debt-to-GDP ratio and build up stronger buffers against external shocks to the economy said the IDB report.

In Passing…

The Ministry of Finance Accounting & Audit Officers Comprehensive Assessment Course officially began at the C.A. Smith Building in Freeport, Grand Bahama, on Monday, February 22, during which representatives dealing with financial matters in various government departments began training upgrade in proper financial procedures.  At the opening, they were addressed by Financial Controller I, Eloise Nixon, and by Acting Financial Secretary Simon Wilson, who emphasized the importance of accountability.

The Utilities Regulatory and Competition Authority (URCA) held a town hall meeting in Marsh Harbour Abaco on Tuesday evening, 23rd February, to educate local residents on the role of URCA, the current regulatory regime governing utilities and how their decisions affect the lives of ordinary people. URCA also sought to hear the concerns of residents and secure a better understanding on how URCA can better serve the community.

The Bahamas Insurance Commission held its 5th annual workshop at the Yacht Club on Tuesday, 23rdFebruary. The meeting brought together all stakeholders who shared information on the latest trends and developments in the local and international insurance industries. The hottest topic is National Health Insurance and one industry leader said that they want to work with the government and other stakeholders in creating the best National Health Insurance system possible.

Public servants participated in a one day workshop on the Andros Sustainable Development Plan Master Plan at the Harry C. Moore Library, College of The Bahamas on Wednesday, 24th February 2016. This project on sustainable development is being implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister and the Inter-American Development Bank.