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THIS WEEK CONTINUED…

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Labour and National Insurance Minister the Hon. D. Shane Gibson tabled a resolution in the House of Assembly for the appointment of a select committee to “investigate, exaimine, and inquire into the surrounding circumstances” of the controversial sale of the state owned Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) in 2011.

 

In his contribution to the debate, Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis suggested then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham paid almost $500,000 over the BTC chairman’s recommended bonuses for 15 executives, and questioned whether this was an effort to “induce them to keep quiet” about the controversial sale to CWC.

 

Long Island MP the Hon. Loretta welcomed the select committee, insisting that the FNM has nothing to hide and to let the chips fall where they may.

 

Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said that the call for the BTC probe was just a distraction by the government from the controversies it finds itself embroiled in. It was nothing more than a “distraction” from the country’s real issue said Minnis.

 

Golden Gates MP Shane Gibson in his commentary on constituency matters said he believed the vandalism of his constituency office on Carmichael Road was politically motivated.

 

Reporting on the status of post Hurricane Matthew recovery and restoration efforts, Minister Gibson, who is responsible for coordinating repair and recovery efforts, said the Government has spent in excess of $7m on cleanup efforts, which have taken place in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Andros.

 

Mr. Gibson also reported that the Government has started issuing colour-coded vouchers valued at $100, $500, and $1000 to homeowners who have received approval for building materials in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. On the issue of post hurricane assessments, the Minister revealed that to date nearly 7,000 private homes across The Bahamas have been assessed by the government.

 

Deputy Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Brave Davis tabled Urban Renewal legislation. The bill comes at a time when Urban Renewal is expanding its scope to the Family Islands, including Bimini and Exuma. The Bill tabled a bill by Mr. Davis calls for the creation of an independent body called the Urban Renewal Authority, which would be empowered to approve loans to assist with the small home repairs (SHR) and other social programs.

 

In other Parliamentary news, the Senate met on Wednesday of this week to debate and pass legislation relative to the Securities Commission and the Hawksbill Creek (Deep Water (Harbour) Agreement.

 

American citizens advised to avoid the Sand Trap

It was on Monday evening around 8pm the 14th November 2016 when the shootout took place at the Sand Trap, a local eatery and entertainment spot; a vehicle pulled up, the occupants jumped out and fired shots into a crowd of patrons, killing a young woman and injuring several others.

 

Nine days later the US Embassy in Nassau issued a crime warning to its citizens visiting Nassau to avoid the Sand Trap due to “ongoing association with known criminal elements.” Additionally, the warning placed the Sand Trap “off limits to embassy personnel and their families” as some embassy employees live in close proximity to the Sand Trap.

 

 

Prime Minister Christie offers to meet with Black Friday March organizers.

On the eve of the Black Friday March that took place on Friday of this week, Prime Minister Christie released a response letter to the march organizers, inviting them to a meeting over their expressed concerns regarding the governance of the country.

 

“I invite your input into this document so that together we can continue to make this a truly collaborative effort, transcending partisan and other divisive differences” wrote Mr. Christie in his missive.

 

The Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to transparency and accountability; said that the government has accomplished much on behalf of the Bahamian people; and acknowledged certain challenges, especially the hurricanes. He continued that as a nation, there was a need to strengthen the country’s “institutional framework of governance, emphasizing the deeper involvement of our people in a more participatory democracy, one that allows our people a greater say in the formation of major policies that will guide our economic development and social transformation.”

Thousands wearing black joined the march from Arawak Cay to Rawson Square on Friday afternoon.

Education Minister Fitzgerald responds to letter from march organizers.

In his response to the letter written to the Prime Minister by organizers of the Black Friday March, Education Minister the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald sought to set the record straight on two issues contained in the letter: the need for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and education reform.

 

On the FOIA, the Minister promised that after extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders, he intends to bring the bill to parliament by the end of 2016.

 

Regarding education reform, Fitzgerald pointed to the bipartisan National Education Committee’s policy document called “A Shared Vision for Education 2030” where the government hopes to improve on the public school dropout rate – elevating it from the current 50% to 80% by the year 2030.

 

Additionally, Minister Fitzgerald pointed to the implementation of The Bahamas High School Diploma, the Student Achievement Unit, the Preschool Expansion Project, the Marjorie Davis Institute for Special Education, STEM education, computer upgrades in junior and senior high schools and more than doubling the government’s investment in scholarships from $7.75 million to $16.2 million as further evidence of the government’s commitment to reform education.

 

 

New ASR 12/MSSR Radar and Aircon to go live

The brand new multimillion dollar radar system at the Lynden Pindling International Airport is now installed and ready to go live so on Wednesday, the public was notified that there could be some delays during the transition period.

 

“The Bahamas Air Navigation Services Department informs the general public and the aviation community, that due to the recent “go live” of its new ASR 12 /MSSR Radar and Aircon Air Traffic Management Systems at the Lynden Pindling International Airport, members of the flying community who require air traffic services, and the general public are advised that some travel delays will be experienced, especially during the normally high traffic volume holiday periods of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year” said the public notice.

 

Pilots are now required to file domestic flight plans 45 minutes prior to departure and 90 minutes prior to departure for international flights. Further, early morning flights must now be filed the previous evening and round trips must now be filed simultaneously.

 

 

In Passing…

Bahamas Power and Light’s “increased” billing should have been spread over several months and up to a year to facilitate those Bahamians who are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Matthew, FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis insisted yesterday as he criticized the electricity provider for “inconsiderate” and inhumane actions.

 

The use of the Bahamian people’s “sacred” NIB monies to bail out troubled Bank of The Bahamas has been challenged by an FNM MP, Loretta Butler-Turner, who is calling for policies governing the investment of public monies to be tightened.

 

The establishment of a Bahamas chapter of the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association is a historic event for the country. According to Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin, this marks an important milestone for Bahamian women in the maritime industry.

 

Prime Minister Perry Christie has said his PLP must be re-elected to government as he urged Bahamians to register to vote at a time when registration numbers are low.

 

The branch officers of three FNM seats have rebelled against their candidates – and are refusing to work and campaign with them (Reuben Rahming – Pinewood Gardens, Lanisha Rolle – Seabreeze & Romauld Ferreira – Marathon).

 

The Ministry of Finance announced on Sunday night a broad tightening of the Government’s tax collection system, revealing that, among other measures, it intends to inform 5,000 property owners that they are underpaying their real property taxes, either because the valuations are out of date, the properties are misclassified or they are unregistered entirely.

 

Former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette said this week that while FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis has asked him to run as a candidate for the FNM in the next general election, he is enjoying retirement and has not made any decisions in that regard.

 

After having five of his food stores robbed this year, Super Value owner Rupert Roberts said armed police officers will be stationed at all of his locations to ensure the safety of his staff and customers.

The Bahamas’ second mobile operator promised to deliver superior customer service and “phenomenal” plans, as it outlined pay-per second call rates and “no contracts” as key components of its new mobile services offering.

Despite calls by Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese Patrick Pinder for regional legislators to abolish the death penalty, another religious leader, Bishop Walter Hanchell, has come forward with demands for the enforcement of capital punishment.

FNM candidate for Mount Moriah and former Baha Mar VP of Security Marvin Dames denied claims that his campaign is being funded by ousted Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian and said he would not accept any money from Izmirlian if offered.

It was a red letter day on Monday for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology as bowling was added to the after-school curriculum for the Government Secondary Schools Sports Association.

The impact of the Government’s “11th hour” bid to institutionalize the Urban Renewal 2.0 programme will not be fully realized until next term, according to Urban Renewal Commission Co-Chair Algernon Allen.

 

AG and Minister of Legal Affairs Senator Allyson Maynard-Gibson said this week that the law on the death penalty will be followed: “We will follow the law so long as the death penalty is on our books. It will be available as a remedy for the judges.”

 

President of the Consultant Physician Staff Association (CPSA) Dr. Locksley Munroe expressed concern this week that consulting staff at PMH “may resign or withdraw their services from the hospital” following the resignation of former Medical Chief of Staff Dr. James Johnson.

 

While expressing concern about the proliferation of gaming houses in The Bahamas, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe is considering issuing an invitation for an additional gaming house operator license, according to the Gaming Board. This brings the total number to eight. ASUE DRAW + SPIN did not apply for a gaming license renewal.

 

BCPOU President Bernard Evans welcomed the appointment of a select committee of Parliament to probe the 2011 sale of BTC, saying it is long overdue and it would be “good for history just to close that chapter”.

 

Former Cabinet minister (Phenton Neymour) encouraged the Government to proceed with creating a select committee to probe the 2011 BTC privatization, arguing that reviewing Government decisions should become “common practice”.

 

The Bahamas was yesterday urged to abolish Business Licence fees and cease “nickel and dime-ing” taxpayers through streamlining numerous “little middling” levies. FNM Deputy Leader K.P. Turnquest states: “We have taxes that don’t make sense.”

 

The Chamber of Commerce’s chairman (Gowen Bowe) pledged on Tuesday to “hold the Government to account” over VAT filing extensions grant to businesses hit hard by Hurricane Matthew.

 

Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe on Wednesday warned protesters to be mindful of their actions during the Black Friday march and occupation of downtown Bay Street as the American Embassy and US cruise ships have expressed security fears over the rapidly-growing demonstration set for the busy Thanksgiving weekend.

 

State Minister of National Security Keith Bell advocated for the government to take more aggressive measures against Dominican poachers, claiming that the intruders are becoming “more and more violent” towards fisherman and the RBDF.

 

On Wednesday of this week the Government announced it has asked the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHCR) to lift the precautionary measures it prescribed earlier this month after upholding a claim by five Bahamians that their lives are in danger because of their political advocacy and that some have had to flee the country.

 

After eight years of championing the cause, Bishop Simeon Hall yesterday announced he is “throwing in the towel” on agitating for Government to resolve the CLICO debacle. This comes after policyholders received $12 million in cash pay outs and a promise of seven year bonds with a premium of just under 5% to make their policies “whole” in the wake of the CLICO bankruptcy.

 

The Bahamas Gaming House Operators Association called on Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe to resist the urge to issue a new gaming house operator license and recommended a moratorium of up to 10 years on any new license being issued.

 

Minister of Labor and National Insurance Shane Gibson has announced the appointment of veteran career business professional Felix N. Stubbs to the position of chairman of the National Insurance Board with effect from November 1, 2016. He replaced Willamae Rene McKay who was appointed an Acting Justice on the Supreme Court bench.

 

Craig Flowers urged the Government to clarify how many gaming hose locations will be allowed to remain open, adding: “You have to start everyone evenly.” Mr. Flowers proposed twenty houses.

 

Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe revealed that several groups have registered their interest in obtaining an eighth license to operate a gaming house.

 

As the implementation date for NHI approaches, the Government received three proposals from local and international companies at its deadline on 21st November, according to Permanent Secretary and NHI Secretariat Peter Deveaux-Isaacs. This brings the Request for Proposals (RFP) process to an end.

 

The charred remains of Audrey Symonette were found inside a home in North Eleuthera after police extinguished a massive fire that destroyed four homes, burned six vehicles and left eight people displaced.

 

Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) “back door” entrance should have been a “red flag” to the Ingraham administration that BTC’s 2011 privatization was ill-timed, according to Sir Franklyn Wilson, who headed the committee that negotiated the deal for the 2 percent share return to the Bahamas government, placed in a BTC Foundation.

Elcott Coleby

Deputy Director

Bahamas Information Services

326-5833

477-7006