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THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS BY ELCOTT COLEBY….CONTINUED

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viagra sales viagra times;”>elcottThe Baha Mar debate continues

viagra times;”>The public debate over the future and handling of Baha Mar continued this week with the charge of conflict of interest on the part of the Attorney General by the leader of the Opposition.

In her response, the Attorney General Senator Allyson Maynard-Gibson categorically rejected the suggestion of a conflict of interest, accused Dr. Minnis of “manufacturing an issue where none exists” and clarified what she characterized as the “undisputed facts” on the relationship between Baha Mar and Gibson family:

“I have no interest in or control of any company with ownership in Baha Mar.

“My husband, Maxwell Gibson, is the owner and CEO of one of the country’s leading 100% Bahamian family owned retail jewelry businesses. About 2 years ago Baha Mar announced to much media coverage that he, Fred Hazelwood and Wayne Chew A Tow – owners of two other leading Bahamian family owned retail businesses – had been granted leases for retail space in Baha Mar.

“The Government of the Bahamas played absolutely no role in this commercial transaction.

“Pending the opening of the resort, my husband’s company alone – as are so many other Bahamian businesses waiting on Baha Mar’s completion – is shouldering liability for the risks related to the delay” said the Legal Affairs Minister.

“These facts are easily available to Dr. Minnis” she continued.

“Nonetheless, as a warrant of my transparency, I reminded the Prime Minister of them prior to leading our Government’s delegation to Baha Mar negotiations in China.

“There is no conflict of interest” insisted Mrs. Gibson. “Baha Mar’s opening will serve all Bahamian businesses hoping to work within, or for, the resort – including my husband’s – and I make no apologies for this.”

The Attorney General again reiterated the sole objective of the government which is to facilitate the opening of the resort.

“One objective alone has informed my actions: facilitating the opening of Baha Mar so that it may fulfill its promise and serve the interest of all Bahamians” said the Attorney General.

Turning to the legal arguments surrounding Baha Mar, the hearing in a Delaware court to determine whether Baha Mar’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will be dismissed has been postponed until August 28.

 

Here in Nassau, in an attempt to allow negotiations to proceed in private and not in the public domain where unsolicited opinions are fast and furious, Prime Minister Perry Christie was mum this week on questions regarding the status of negotiations on an out of court settlement on the Baha Mar mega resort.

 

Also, and in the interest of transparency, the Prime Minister has removed Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez as the government’s lead Counsel on the Baha Mar court matter to prevent and appearance of “collusion” or “Cabinet involvement” in the case; the State Minister confirmed this change on Thursday. When the Supreme Court meets on the 19th August before Justice Ian Winder to argue for the appointment of a provisional liquidator, Simon Peter Knox QC will represent the crown as lead Counsel.

 

In other Baha news, the developer of Baha Mar is still unable to pay its expatriate workers despite securing nearly $15 million in debtor-in-possession (DIP) loans, according to resort Senior Vice President Robert Sands.

 

 

2015 BGCSE exam results revealed

At a press conference on Tuesday to discuss the 2015 BJC and BGCSE examination results, the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, indicated that he was “encouraged” by this year’s Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exam results.

 

Student performances improved this year in under half of the 27  Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exam categories compared to 2014, but students continued to average D+’s and E’s, respectively in English language and Mathematics, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Education.

 

The 2014 exam performances were the best in twenty years and 2015 builds upon the successes of 2014.  

 

Minister Fitzgerald noted that the number of students taking the exams is the largest in the last six years. While students still wrestle with English and Math, more students overall are attaining grades A to C in five or more BJC subjects. Most successful students were those who utilized the Ministry’s after-school exam preparation programme, a vital government service the Minister would like to see expanded with students taking greater advantage of.

 

Also in attendance were Evelyn Sawyer, Assistant Director of Education with the Examination and Assessment Division and Donella Bodie, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry.  

 

Christie celebrates emancipation in Fox Hill

Prime Minister Perry Christie led cabinet and Parliamentary colleagues to his 17th consecutive appearance at the annual Fox Hill Day celebrations, an event celebrated by Fox Hill residents to commemorate the emancipation of their ancestors from slavery in the British Empire in 1834, 181 years ago. The Prime Minister made appearances at Saint Paul’s, Macedonia and Mount Carey’s Baptist Churches. Fox Hill has celebrated this historic event since the 1880’s.

 

Room revenue grows in Freeport

More good news for Grand Bahama’s economy as the latest report from the Ministry of Tourism reveals that Grand Bahama is showing significant improvements in hotel room revenue, which has hit $16 million this year, $2million ahead of same period in 2014.

 

“Our room revenue this year is reporting somewhere around $16 million versus $14 million last year,” Ms. Bethel said. “So, it is all good news and the MOT has been putting in new experiences for these guests.”

According to Ms. Betty Bethel, director of the Ministry of Tourism in Grand Bahama, this increase is attributed to tourism business from Grand Celebration Cruise ship and the Sunwing Group, which together account for a total of 14,000 room nights per month on the island.

She reported that Grand Celebration is responsible for 6,000 room nights and the Sunwing Group for 8,100. Sunwing and Vacation Express provide airlifts to Grand Bahama from eight US cities, resulting in a significant increase in air arrivals.

According to tourism figures, there was a 4.6 per cent increase in the amount of available rooms on the island this year. In June, there were 352,767 rooms occupied compared to 337,009 last year.

 

This week in Parliament

The Senate met on Monday of this week and passed the Minimum Wage Bill and the Declaration of Currency Act. With these passages, the minimum wage in the private sector will be US $210 on 15th August 2015 and declaration of funds on a traveler’s person both entering and leaving The Bahamas becomes law.

 

 

Haitian Ambassador bids farewell

After serving in The Bahamas for five years, the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas His Excellency Antonio Rodrigue paid the customary and farewell Courtesy Call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration the Hon. Fred Mitchell. Also in attendance was Permanent Secretary Sheila Carey (Head of the Foreign Service), and other senior staff at the Ministry. The meeting took place on Wednesday, August 12.

 

During a formal dinner reception in the ambassador’s honour held on Thursday evening, Deputy Prime Minister and acting Foreign Minister the Hon. Philip Brave Davis reflected on the historic and cordial relationship both countries enjoyed even though diplomatic relations were formalized in 1977.

 

He recounted some major accomplishments between the two countries over the past three years, especially three critical bilateral agreements signed in July 2014:

A Framework Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation,

an Agreement on the Promotion and Protection of Investments, and

an Agreement on Technical Cooperation in Agriculture and Fisheries.

Ambassador Rodrigue’s last day in office is Friday, 14th August 2015.

 

 

Tax Compliance Certificate to be issued

In an attempt to strengthen its central revenue administration, the Department of Inland Revenue advised this week of the introduction of a new Tax Compliance Certificate (TCC) to be issued to taxpayers who are current with their tax obligations to the government. These obligations include filing tax returns and full payment of assessed taxes.

According to the statement, the certificate is required for individuals who fall in the following categories:

Individuals wishing to tender for the award of a contract with the government or a public body.

Individuals wishing to collect monies for services rendered under a contract awarded by the government or a public body.

Individuals wishing to register ownership or change ownership of a taxable good.

For individuals who receive concessions (or allowances) under the provisions of the legislation, the TCC will be valid for a period of one month or six months, depending on the value of the contract.

Information about the Tax Compliance Certificate (TCC) can be found in the Financial Administration and Audit (Amendment) Act 2015 Part IIB (of Section 19i).

The statement also noted that a Tax Compliance Certificate will not limit the execution of audits and will not rule out taxes that are owed to the Government. Business License operations are) now located in new facilities at the Department of Inland Revenue (CRA) in the rear of the Shops at Carmichael Plaza on Carmichael Road

 

Minister Rolle assesses upgrades at Paradise Island’s Warwick Hotel

Minister of State for Investment, Hon. Khaalis Rolle and members from the Bahamas Investment Authority toured the Warwick International Hotel on Thursday afternoon. Warwick is located at the old Paradise Harbour Club and Marina, Paradise Island.

The Contractor and senior executives of Warwick addressed the media after the tour, revealing that Warrick International is investing “north of $18 million” as it undertakes renovations to transform the former Paradise Island Harbour Resort which it acquired in 2012.

 

Bahamas government receives letter of appreciation

Kevin Cronk, Program Manager of U.S. Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, presented the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville, Minister for Grand Bahama, with a letter of appreciation from US Homeland Security, August 10, for the invaluable support of the Government of The Bahamas. 

It was in recognition of the fact that Decision Sciences, a well-known provider of integrated security and detection systems has implemented a cargo scanner at Freeport Container Port that quickly detects shielded and unshielded nuclear and radiological threats in containers, and prevents hazardous matter moving through the container port. 

 

All Bahamas Merit Scholars announced

Calling the All Bahamas Merit Scholarship “one of the most coveted (scholarship awards) in The Bahamas and is awarded to the most promising Bahamian High School graduates accepted to college,” Education Minister Fitzgerald thanked the staff of the selection committee, senior education officials and parents of the twenty-one worthy recipients who sacrificed much to ensure the consistently high academic performances of their children.

 

He was speaking at the award ceremony at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on Wednesday, 12th August 2015.

 

Additionally, the Education Minister reiterated the government’s continued commitment to providing greater educational opportunities to our next generation of national leaders and to youth development generally.

 

“This year, the Government of The Bahamas, is demonstrating its commitment to ensuring that our bright, young leaders of tomorrow are afforded the best opportunities for tertiary education locally and abroad. Our total financial contribution to you represents some $405, 000.00 per year or 1.62 million dollars over the next four years” said the Minister.  

 

The financial support for our scholars did not stop there as the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOE) announced this week that its partnership with four international colleges and universities will benefit eighteen more of our finest public school scholars to the tune of $1.4 million in the form of scholarships over the next four years. The breakdown is as follows:

 

Monroe College and the MOE are partnering to give 1.1 million dollars in scholarships.
 

Texas Southern University and the MOE are partnering to give $120,000.00 in scholarships.

 

Taylor University, a private donor and the MOE are partnering to give $160, 000.00 in scholarships.

 

Holland College and the MOE are partnering to give $150,000.00 in scholarships.

 

The award ceremony is scheduled for Monday, 17th August 2015 at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.

 

 

 

In Passing…

Scores of young people gathered at the E. P. Roberts Primary School on Wednesday to close out the six-week Z Bandits summer youth programme where the young participants showcased handicraft projects along with their acting, singing and dancing abilities. All in all the Z Bandits hosted a successful summer camp. In attendance at the closing ceremonies were Prime Minister Perry Christie and Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson.

 

 

State Minister for Investments Khaalis Rolle said on Thursday that the much awaited Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDA) would be launched in tandem with the National Development Plan, stating that under its current design “it won’t go as far as we need it to go.” Enabling legislation is also expected to be tabled in the near future.

 

Attorney Wayne Munroe said on Thursday that a Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) captain recently rejected his motion for a no case submission in the hearing into the alleged abuse of a group of Cuban immigrants by several marines at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre in 2013.

 

The government revealed this week that Minister of Financial Services Hope Strachan, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis and other senior technocrats will join Prime Minister Perry Christie on August 20 at the Office of the Prime Minister for a meeting with Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) representative Pascal Saint-Amans to discuss the recent — and much disputed — European Union (EU) blacklisting of The Bahamas and other jurisdictions.

 

Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade said he has no intention of publicly addressing the “intimate workings” of the Royal Bahamas Police Force as questions about his decisions to transfer members of the Police Staff Association linger.

 

In world news with direct impact on The Bahamas is the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and the Republic of Cuba. On Friday, 14th August, the United States Embassy in Cuba was officially re-opened after being closed for fifty-four years – since 1961. Former President Fidel Castro who celebrated his 89th birthday on Thursday, said that the US still owes Cuba millions over a lingering trade dispute. As for the Bahamas, its strategy on tourism is one of cooperation rather than direct competition with Cuba. The recent Air Service Agreement with China allows for Chinese tourists to visit both Cuba and The Bahamas on a single visit.