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THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (12 – 16 OCTOBER 2015) COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT COLEBY

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sildenafil case times;”>colebyPrime Minister Christie committed to “organized” rebuilding process

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie addressed a myriad on issues at his Wednesday press conference at his Cable Beach office and in so doing declared that The Bahamas Government has made a commitment to reconstruct, to rebuild and to establish an organized process to do so, in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Joaquin. 

Below are excerpts from Mr. Christie on a number of related issues. 

Post Hurricane construction and building team:

In announcing the appointment of former Director of Works Ms. Melanie Roach as the head of the reconstruction and building team, Prime Minister Christie said that “The Bahamas has a very dynamic capital development budget that the Ministry of Works and their officials must continue to implement in our country; so we thought we have to bring specific focus to the combined efforts of the private and public sectors, and that Ms. Roach will lead that charge, supported by engineering teams from the Ministry of Works, from the Ministry of Housing, (and) from the private sector.” 

Post Hurricane rebuilding cost:

“We have not yet quantified the cost of the damages or the cost of repairs; but I can tell you that when I looked at some of the figures, we were over $60 million dollars and we were still having assessments come in,” Prime Minister Christie said. 

Borrowing to fund rebuilding and construction:

“I have already asked the Ministry of Finance to review the opportunities for borrowing money from the Caribbean Development Bank, from concessional financing made available by the Chinese to the region, and other traditional sources because the country cannot wait; and that even if we were to have the most successful fundraising campaign, these initial requirements must be met by the government.” 

This is a particularly smart policy decision by a savvy and astute leader because the aggregate interest rates on the current national debt are significantly higher than the interest rates on loans sourced through the Chinese government would attract. Borrowing through the Caribbean Development under the China infrastructure development program will save The Bahamas tens of millions of dollars long term. Some have suggested the use of VAT revenue to fund the reconstruction in the southern islands. This is an ill-advised policy proposal as The Bahamas will be better served if the government continues to draw down on loans that attract higher interest rates.    

Public subventions to impacted businesses and families:

Prime Minster Christie pointed out that assessments will also be made as to whom the Government would build homes for during this process. 

“There are others we will help partially and there are others who will just do it on their own; so the question is being able to make the best assessments and to be able to move ahead with a programme that is very broad. Obviously, we are going to have to raise monies and there are situations that I have seen this time that causes me to believe that we even have to help some people who are in business.” 

During the briefing, several government agencies and utilities presented snapshots of their assessments so far. 

Presentations were delivered by the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) and the Ministry of Works (MOW). 

Government Immediate Relief Services:

The Prime Minister reported that the Department of Public Health stated that Health Relief Assessment Teams were deployed to Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador, with a team of five doctors and seven nurses being sent out as early as Sunday, October 4, 2015. 

Government releases exigency order

The exigency order Prime Minister Christie announced in Parliament on Wednesday of last week was released this past weekend. 

Effective from the 3rd October and valid for ninety days, the order allows for the duty and VAT free importation of building materials, plumbing fixtures and materials, household furniture, appliances, generators and vehicles into Acklins, Crooked Island, Cat Island, Long Cay, Mayaguana, Ragged Island, Exuma, Inagua, San Salvador, Rum Cay, Long Island and Samana Cay. Imported items must be certified by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). 

Prime Minister Christie said that the government would extend the order if necessary. 

Additionally, the government has waived landing fees and departure tax for non-commercial flights bringing in hurricane relief goods and customs processing fees on imports into the islands that are covered by the order. 

Crooked Island, Long Cay and Acklins were declared sufferance port areas for three months; this means that dutiable goods are detained for a specified period of time until the duty is paid. 

Imports by registered charitable organizations are also customs and VAT-exempt. 

Government issues eight conditional web shop gaming licenses

At the close of business on Thursday of this week, the Minister of Tourism, true to his word, released the identities of the eight conditional license holders for the operation of web shops. They are as follow: 

FML Group of Companies Ltd. (t/a FML Web Shop)

GLK Limited (t/a A Sure Win)

Jarol Investments Limited (t/a Chances Games)

Paradise Games Bahamas Limited (t/a Paradise Games)

Playtech Systems Limited (t/a Island Luck)

T.I.G. Investments Limited (t/a Percy’s at The Island Game)

The Four Point Group (t/a Asue Draw + Spin)

Bahama Dreams Web Café Limited (t/a Bahama Dreams)

The statement said that on October 19, 2015, each applicant will be notified of an award or disqualification, as appropriate pursuant to Section 85(22) of the Act. On November 2, 2015 the Statement of Condition review period ends and Gaming House Operator Conditional Licenses will be issued by the Gaming Board under Section 32(5).

 Upon issuance, annual license and monitoring fees will be assessed as follows: 

                             Operator:  $250,000.00

                             Premises:  $ 2,000.00 per Premises

                             Agent:       $ 1,000.00 per Agent

The effective closure date for the disqualified Applicant will be October 26th 2015.

This conditional issuance does not stop there as the successful applicants must now complete a series of regulatory requirements before receiving a plenary Gaming House Operator License. 

Joint Provisional Liquidators (JPL’s) report on “all-party talks”

The Joint Provisional Liquidators (JPL’s) for the Baha Mar resort, Edmund Rahming of KryS Global and Alastair Beveridge and Nick Cropper of AlixPartners, updated the public on the progress made after two days of closed door meetings with all stakeholder groups.

In a press release on the 11th October, JPL’s Alastair Beveridge said the following:

“The talks this week are another important step on the road to resolution. We would like to thank all parties for their good faith participation in and constructive approach during the meetings. Whilst there is still work to be done, it is clear that all involved are focused on quickly reaching a viable solution to ensure that the Baha Mar resort is able to open for business for the benefit of all stakeholders, including the Bahamian people. We will continue to work with all stakeholders as we explore the best route forward and will issue further updates as talks continue”.

The JPLs chaired the all-party talks that involved Government representatives; the financier, the Export-Import Bank of China; China Construction America Bahamas Ltd. and parent company, China State Construction Engineering Corp. Ltd.; and the resort’s founder and Investor, Mr. Sarkis Izmirlian.

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