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THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (19th – 23rd JANUARY 2015)

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discount viagra tadalafil times;”>elcottBAMSI 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%).            

 

Security Intelligence Unit for Corrections Dept.

The establishment of the new Correctional Intelligence Unit (CIU) at the Department of Correctional Services (formerly Her Majesty’s Prison) represents a more focused, interagency approach to security and intelligence in The Bahamas – especially at the Correctional level.

One of the primary goals of the Unit will be to help reduce possible internal and external threats to the Correctional Services, its facilities, staff and inmate populations.

At a dedication ceremony establishing the new CIU at the Department of Correctional Services on Monday, Minister of National Security, the Hon. Dr. Bernard J. Nottage said the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) must be aware of all threats within and outside of the institution that may disrupt its normal operations or threaten the safety and security of staff and inmates.

Effectively managing security threats at the Correctional Facility, Dr. Nottage continued, depends upon timely and precise information.

“The Correctional Intelligence Unit is comprised of personnel trained in observation and information gathering. They are tasked to continuously scan the environment inside the prison to produce information dealing with threats for the attention of decision-makers,” Dr. Nottage said.

“This information (will) help correctional officers and other prison officials to foresee, control and even prevent the risks faced. The scope of intelligence gathered will also cover environments outside of prison facilities to give a broader picture of the threats from both inside and outside the walls of the institution.”

One such threat is possible gang activity within the walls of the Correctional Services. Dr. Nottage said as the Royal Bahamas Police Force responds to criminal activities of gangs, more and more gang members will find themselves at the facility.

 

Prime Minister Christie on Bank of The Bahamas

Prime Minister Christie addressed the House on the bank of The Bahamas on Wednesday (21st Jan). The bank was the recipient of a $100 million government bailout in 2014, a policy criticized by the opposition in the House. Below are excerpts from his address:

 

On public confidence in the banking system:

“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.”

 

Industry-wide losses – but BOB singled out

 “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.”

 

The future of BOB

“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!”

 

 

Young Bahamian scholars honoured

A bright spot for our young people this week was the National Awards Ceremony for the high scholastic achievers in the standardized Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) and the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations. The ceremony took place on Thursday, 22nd January at the William Johnson Auditorium, Joe Farrington Road.

 

Addressing the young scholars was Education, Science and Technology Minister Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald whoencouraged the students to embrace the statements of Sir John Templeton in his book “Essential Worldwide Laws of Life.” He advised the students to prepare for success, activate their dreams, study hard and acknowledge their parents, teachers, tutors and peers who have helped them.

 

“It is imperative that we continue to develop a culture of learning,” he said. “Education is the pathway to better opportunities in life. Our country requires an educated, skilled and well-trained workforce. As you continue to thrive and excel in your future academic pursuits, our country will benefit from having a contingent of well-prepared nation builders.”

 

Minister Fitzgerald congratulated the top achievers and encouraged them to pursue degrees in careers of their choice as they become lifelong learners and global citizens of excellence.

 

Critical Care block officially opened

In financial circles, it is a rule of thumb that the cost to construct a medical facility can be conservatively estimated $1 million per bed. So when the capacity of the Princess Margret Hospital’s Critical Care Block (CCB) was described, I quickly calculated the cost at just over $100 million. The 66,000 square feet CCB has six operating theaters, eighteen pre-op beds, eighteen post-op recovery beds, twenty Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and forty-eight neonatal beds. This is a total of 104 beds or just over $100 million in construction costs; this much was confirmed by Dr. Perry Gomez during his welcome remarks.

 

Construction of this medical facility began in November 2011 with an initial budgetary allocation of $55 million, covering the construction costs, or the outer shell. The government later borrowed another $45 million for the purchase of medical and surgical equipment, Management Information Systems (MIS) and furniture. This CCB represents the single largest investment in the Bahamas healthcare system since the construction of the Princess Margret Hospital (PMH) more than sixty years ago. The PMH was constructed in 1952 and was renamed the Princess Margret Hospital during the visit of the princess to The Bahamas in 1955.

 

Delivering the keynote address was Prime Minister Perry G. Christie who used the occasion to reiterate his government’s commitment to the introduction of National Health Insurance by 2016 as the Critical Care Block will represent a critical infrastructural component of that far reaching and transformational policy.

 

“I wish to reaffirm the commitment of my government that through a national health insurance scheme, my government will endeavour to ensure that every citizen of The Bahamas has full access to quality care when they need it…make this work because the intention is after considerable research is that it will serve the best interest of the people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and just as we have committed to the University of The Bahamas coming in 2016 and for all that it represents, we are committed to the same thing here. So I am not asking you to tell me whether or not it should happen, I’m inviting you to get involved with us and make it a wonderful thing for you and the people of this country” said the Prime Minister.        

 

Mr. Christie also summed up the significance of that healthcare facility this way:

 

“My fellow Bahamians, the construction and equipping of this modern hospital facility is a high water mark in our progress as a nation. Completing this project has not been without challenge but this edifice stands as a shining testimony of the wonderful democracy that we have and of that commitment that we as Bahamians have and should have that nothing is impossible to achieve

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Also bringing remarks were Public Health Authority (PHA) Managing Director, Herbert Brown, the PHA chairman, Sen. Frank Smith and Health Minister Dr. Perry Gomez. The Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentarians, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, senior government officials and members of the clergy were all on hand to celebrate this momentous occasion.

 

The funding for this project was secured through a partnership between the PHA and the Royal Bank of Canada, First Caribbean International Bank and the National Insurance Board (NIB).         

 

In passing…

The Ministry of Tourism continued its 50th anniversary celebrations this week as a corporate sole ministry with “Tourism Week.” The occasion was used to reflect on the past and prepare for the future as industry leaders highlight the industry’s many achievements over one half century of marketing, branding and national development; those who made it all possible were also recognized. A number of activities marked the occasion, including a church service of thanksgiving at the Zion Baptist Church on Shirley and East Streets; school visits; a two-day TourismSymposium at Breezes for frontline industry workers; an awards ceremony at Government House on Friday for ministry employees with long and meritorious service; and the week will culminate with the 16th annual Cacique awards on Saturday at the Melia Resort where Prime Minister Christie is scheduled to address those in attendance. The Cacique awards recognize the industry’s most outstanding performers.

 

An appeals committee of the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) has overturned the suspension of President Belinda Wilson and Treasurer Lorraine Knowles. The appeals committee claimed it found no evidence of wrongdoing in its decision reached at noon on Monday, 19th January. According to the committee, the funds were expended with the knowledge or permission of the executive of the committee. Wilson and Knowles were suspended for allegedly using $1.1 million of the union’s savings and pension accounts over four years.

 

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 school, 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.

The much talked about Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) came one step closer to reality when on Thursday afternoon the Office of the Attorney General invited the media to a luncheon meeting where they were consulted on this piece of legislation. One noticeable difference this time around is that when this amended bill is tabled in Parliament in a few months, it will be with the attendant regulations. It is expected that the bill will come into force by year’s end. The meeting was co-chaired by Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Sen. Allyson Maynard- Gibson and Education Minister Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald who also has responsibilities for the country’s archives.

At 6’ 7” in statue he was larger than life on and off the basketball court during his career with both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is none other than Julius “Dr. J” Ervin II and he made an appearance at the College of The Bahamas this week to address students not only on sports, but to share life lessons with the youngsters.

Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie toured the state of the art Lowell J. Mortimer Maritime Academy on Friday, 23rd January 2015. The $30 million academy represents a commitment by the career educator, jurist and entrepreneur Lowell J. Mortimer to training and educating young Bahamians with a desire to have a career in the shipping industry.

 

A Corporal on the Royal Bahamas Police Force was arraigned in court on Friday, 23rd January on the charge of “voyeurism” in connection with videos that appeared on the internet containing strong sexual contents. It is interesting how legal arguments surrounding a virtual “Peeping Tom” charge will be developed.