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THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (8 – 12 DEC 2014) BY ELCOTT COLEBY

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cialis usa doctor times;”>Prime Minister Christie at CARICOM-Cuba Summit

drugstore times;”>On the eve of his ascension to the chairmanship of CARICOM, Prime Minister Christie led a ministerial delegation to Havana, Cuba on Sunday to attend the fifth CARICOM-Cuba Summit. These summits are held every three years and the locale alternates between a CARICOM country and Cuba with the last meeting being held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2011.

 

Rounding out the delegation were Hon. Ryan Pinder, Financial Services Minister; Hon. Khaalis Rolle, State Minister for Investment and Hon. Fred Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister who joined the delegation in Havana on Monday.

 

Trade dominated the discussions generally with the Prime Minister pledging The Bahamas’ support for ending the trade embargo against Cuba; thanking Cuba for its frontline fight against Ebola, its continued support for special education and its support for health care, especially the miracle eye project that benefitted hundreds of Bahamian afflicted with eye diseases.

 

Prime Minister Christie also highlighted the need for route expansion for both flag carriers, Bahamasair and Cubana to facilitate trade between the two countries and the need for our countries to invest in the genius, talent and creativity of our people through greater collaboration and investment in the development of culture and sports.

 

On the issue of trade and bilateral trade agreements, the Prime Minister said that “in 2008, Cuba exported over $8million worth of products to The Bahamas, meaning cement and other such things; that is now reduced to $148,000 and so this significant area of trading is being addressed by us because we are about to sign agreements, phyto-sanitary agreements, to deal with plant and animals, being able to examine the agricultural produce produced here (Cuba) and import them to The Bahamas as we are doing with Haiti.”

 

Before returning home on Tuesday morning, the Prime Minister met with Cuban President Raul Castro for just over one hour.

 

Mitchell responds to immigration complaints

Speaking to the media last Sunday and again on Tuesday of this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Mitchell defended the Department of Immigration against claims of abuse in connection with routine interdiction exercises and stressed that the information received from the department does not match the claims made against the department.

 

“Each and every public allegation is reviewed by the Department of Immigration. The officials recall that a woman claiming that she had been abused came to the office last week on Thursday 4th December…but at this point the evidence is that her version of the facts does not match the records of the Department” said the Minister.

The woman in question initially left the department before her complaint could be processed but returned a few days later to complete the process. The department advised that the complaint is under investigation.

 

Cuban President apologizes for Flamingo incident.

During a one hour and ten minute meeting at the Palace of the Revolution on Tuesday morning, the Cuban President, Raul Castro extended an “open apology” to The Bahamas for the tragic event of 1980 where the Cuban air force sank the HMBS Flamingo, killing four Bahamian Marines. This was according to Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell at a press conference on Tuesday of this week.

 

“He said that he was the Minister of defense at the time” said Mitchell “and that he has always been embarrassed by the mistake that had been made and he wanted to say that he felt it was a tragic mistake and that even though reparations were paid…(and) that an apology had previously been made, he wanted to extend his own personal apology for that event.”

 

 

New Foreign Affairs Act passed in House.

After more than thirty years of labour and preparation which began under the leadership of the late Paul L. Adderley, the landmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bill 2014 was passed unanimously in the House on Wednesday. The bill is intended to achieve several objectives. Firstly, the bill provides for the continuation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the continuation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs as a Corporation sole; the establishment of a Department of Foreign Affairs; the appointment of a Director General in the Department of Foreign Affairs; the Administration and regulation of the Foreign Service; the repeal of Chapter 24 and for connected matters – all included in the long title actually. 

 

Leading the debate was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon

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. Fred Mitchell who spoke of the operational impact of the bill.

 

“So today we are seeking to pass this bill to create a foreign service for the first time as a discrete part of the public service with its own rules, promotion procedures and governance and the allowances and benefit to which diplomats are entitled when they serve overseas or at home.”

 

Two million dollars have been allocated in the current budget to fund this new department.

 

Leadership of Resolve revealed

True to the Prime Minister’s revelations on the future of Resolve on the 28th November, the government confirmed the head of Resolve and the accounting firm who will lead the way in collecting $100 million worth of non-performing commercial loans in an asset exchange with the Bank of The Bahamas. The promissory note issued by Resolve is back by a government Letter of Comfort.

 

“With this asset exchange, the Bank of The Bahamas has been able to reverse $49 million in loan loss provisions”, effectively placing the bank’s capital ratios “within the regulatory limits established by the Central Bank” at the end of October 2014. This according to State Minister for Finance Hon. Michael Halkitis who on Wednesday morning updated the House on the Bank of The Bahamas rescue plan.

 

He also confirmed that his predecessor, James Smith, was selected to chair Resolve’s Board of Directors. It was also revealed that the collection and management of the Resolve portfolio was contracted to accounting firm Deloitte and Touche.

 

“The collection and management of the Resolve portfolio is being contracted to the accounting firm Deloitte and Touche. Resolve itself will have in place a Board of Directors headed by James Smith, former Central Bank governor and former minister of state for finance.”

 

Halkitis further advised the House that to counter the negative impact that “significant provisions for loan losses” would have on the bank’s “overall profitability when adjustments are made,” the government placed $43 million in deposits in the bank between June and October 2014 and paid $1.1 million in preferred dividends.

 

 

Ryan Pinder resigns from the cabinet

The Cabinet Office confirmed late Tuesday night that Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie has accepted the resignation of the Hon. Ryan Pinder as the Minister of Financial Services. Mr. Pinder will be taking up a senior executive position with the Deltec international banking group here in Nassau.

 

In accepting Mr. Pinder’s resignation as a member of his cabinet, the Prime Minister said that Mr. Pinder had proven himself to be “a public servant of extraordinary ability, energy and dedication – an outstanding minister in every way, as well as a dear colleague and valued friend. Ryan has accomplished much for the financial services industry in a comparatively short period of time and for that I commend him wholeheartedly.”

 

2014 sports Hall of Fame class honoured

The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture celebrated the Class of 2014 National Sports Hall of Fame Honourees with a week of activities that included, on Wednesday, December 10, a courtesy call at the House of Assembly; participation in a C.R. Walker Secondary School “Memories of Treasured Knights” Special Assembly, where the honourees were introduced; and a luncheon at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.

 

The 2014 inductees are Kevin Johnson, Track & Field; Percival Andrew Knowles, Sailing, Swimming; Edith Powell, Tennis & Sports Administration; Marina McClain, Bowling; Donnie Martinborough, Sailing; Ray Minus Sr., Boxing & Sports Administration; Harcourt Rolle, Soccer & Sports Administration; Frederick Robert Sturrup, Sports Journalism & Sports Administration; Daniel Sumner, Bodybuilding, Powerlifting & Sports Administration; Franklyn Theodore Roosevelt Sweeting, Baseball; Frederick ‘Chicken’ Taylor, Baseball; Calvin Cooper, Golf & Sports Administration; Norris Stubbs, Track & Field; Allan Jackson, Baseball & Sports Administration; Wilfred Coakley, Boxing & Sports Administration; and Bertram “Cowboy” Musgrove, Cycling.

 

Government collects $5 million in gaming back taxes

Tourism Minister Hon. Obie Wilchcombe told the media this week that the transition period into webshop regularization was proceeding smoothly with eleven of the twelve operators submitting sworn affidavits for business continuation. He also revealed that as the deadline approached, the government had collected some $5 million in back taxes as per the gaming act.

 

The affidavits are currently under review by the Gaming Board before being turned over to the police said the Minister. Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Greenslade said that the police are documenting which webshops are compliant and will shortly commence their routine physical checks of those shops that might be in violation of the law. There were over 580 webshops in operations in The Bahamas at the start of the transition period.

 

An invitation to apply for a gaming license will be gazetted shortly by the government and the Minister expressed confidence that the industry would be fully regularized by mid-2015.   

 

Bahamas commemorates Human Rights Day

The Bahamas joined other UN member states in commemorating Human Rights Day on Wednesday. According to the UN’s website, its General Assembly proclaimed 10 December as Human Rights Day in 1950, to bring to the attention ‘of the peoples of the world’ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.

 

This year’s slogan, Human Rights 365encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. It celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights, that human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.

 

Parliamentarians recognized the day in Parliament and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized a number of activities to commemorate this day including school visits and presentations to educate and sensitize students about the principles of human rights.

 

 

BAMSI literally bearing fruit

The harvesting of crops planted in January 2014 at the commercial tutorial farm of the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) is in full swing and BIS visited the institute this week to see for ourselves. The first fruits were papayas and bananas.

 

Omar Thomas, Project Director and Consultant for the Tutorial Commercial Farm at BAMSI explained during an exclusive interview with BIS on Wednesday said that this is the fourth week that papayas will be in the market.

 

“Our export agent for now is the Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation. They take the product and distribute it to various clients.”

 

Mr. Thomas said the produce is being sold in Solomon’s, Super Value, and there are others who are asking the Institute to provide them with its produce.

 

“We want to maintain a particular minimum volume in the market on a weekly basis.”

The project director said BAMSI has 800 acres in size and that property has been divided into two sections.

 

“One is to accommodate the academic part of the programme for the institute and the students, and the other part is for the commercial tutorial farm and the experimental station for the students.”

 

Prime Minister: Culture and sports to drive Bahamas tourism

“The future of tourism is deeply connected to our being able to capture who we are, how we live, the songs we sing, the stories we tell, how we play and have fun and putting that as part of the tourism experience” was the proposition of Prime Minister Christie as he addressed a luncheon at the Annual General Meeting of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association. He continued that culture and sports will be the two principle drivers of tourism growth going forward, but success is predicated on the country’s ability to mitigate the impact of the internal force of crime and the external force of increased competition from our neighbour to the south.

 

“The cultural combination delivers unique experiences that attract the attention of travelers who desire exposure to the destination’s energy and cultural expression. A powerful marketing intervention in our tourism industry bolstering the notion of sports tourism but for it to work effectively in nation building there has to be a nexus – a connection with society.

 

On the issue of external forces, the Prime Minister said as a country we must be “very mindful of our positioning geographically and how we will be affected and therefore what steps we should take…to ensure that nothing – no development, no evolution and change of policies will impact us negatively or to the extent that it does, we are able to minimize it.”        

 

The meeting was held at the Atlantis resort on Thursday of this week.  

 

 

The Abaco Club purchased

At a press conference and signing ceremony at the Cliff House at The Abaco Club in Cherokee Sound Abaco earlier today (Friday, 12th December), the Abaco Club on Winding Bay was purchased. Leading a ministerial delegation to Abaco was Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie who brought brief remarks. Tourism Minister Hon. Obie Wilchcombe and State Minister for Investment Hon. Khaalis Rolle accompanied the Prime Minister.

 

 

In Passing…

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Hon. Fred Mitchell confirmed to the media on Sunday that he is now scheduled to meet with the Organization of American States (OAS) on 16th December 2014 to discuss the Bahamas’ new immigration policy. While in Washington DC, he is also scheduled to meet with the CARICOM Parliamentary Caucus.

 

The Royal Bahamas Police Force just got stronger as 32 ‘B’ Squad Cadets from the Grand Bahama and Northern District graduated in a ceremony on Monday at the Gerald Bartlett Police Complex. Addressing the graduates under the theme “the harder the battle, the more glorious the triumphs” was Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Bernard J. Nottage. He reminded the graduates that they were “all an integral part of the government’s strategy to combat crime in Grand Bahama,” and that they were “all intelligent, assertive young men and women who will make a difference.” He also told them that the government is investing in a proactive approach to crime fighting to ensure that “criminal activities and violent behaviours do not fester or take root” in our society.

 

 

The Bahamas Electrical Workers Union signed new industrial agreement with the government of The Bahamas on Wednesday. The agreement which is retroactive to May 2013 includes a lump sum payment of between $1,200 and $3,200 to 1,000 employees, $1.2 million in Christmas bonuses, and the establishment of a roster system in 180 days, or six months. The ultimate arbiter in the process will be the Minister of Labour, Hon. Shane Gibson. The contract which expires on 30th April 2018 stipulates no salary increases for the five year life of the agreement.

 

Attorney, Corporate Executive and educator Lowell J. Mortimer OBE was appointed non-resident ambassador to India. He was presented with his instruments of appointment in a short ceremony at government house on Wednesday. Mr. Mortimer is the Principal of Mortimer and Co., CEO of Campbell Shipping and the founder of the LJM Maritime Academy. He formally served as the Honourary Consul for the Republic of Turkey to The Bahamas.

 

The annual Honourary Consulate Corps Christmas luncheon was held this week in Lyford Cay and Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell addressed the body, telling them that “illegal immigration has been one of the three greatest priorities of The Bahamas in this year; the other two being crime and the protection of the environment.”

 

The Ministry of Transport and Aviation advised the public on Thursday that the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Meteorology are in the process of relocating from the Teachers and Salaried Workers Cooperative Credit Union Building, Independence Drive to the J. L. Centre, Blake Road, off John F. Kennedy Drive. Telephone contacts will remain the same: Department of Civil Aviation 326-0339, and Department of Meteorology 356-3734. Both Departments are expected to be fully operational by Monday, December 15, 2014.