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THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS 14 to 18 December – By Elcott Coleby

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sildenafil treatment times;”>colebyThis week in Parliament

viagra canada find times;”>The House met from Monday to Thursday principally to continue debate on the amended Honours Bill and the compendium of Petroleum Bills that will collectively “address the reformation and transformation of the upstream petroleum sector” and “govern the Petroleum industry here in our country” according to the bills’ sponsor, cialis the Hon. Kenred Dorsett. The bills are the Petroleum Bill 2014 and the Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill 2015.

The attendant regulations are as follow:

  • Petroleum Regulations;
  • Sovereign Wealth Fund Regulations;
  • Environment and Pollution Regulations;
  • Health & Safety Regulations;

    A cursory summary of Minister Dorsett’s communication is as follows:

The Ryder Scott Report, accessible from the website of the BEST Commission, indicates that through 3D seismic data collection, crude oil exists in commercially viable quantities.

The four locations studied from the northern Bahamas near Florida to Cuba in the south contain what scientists call Recoverable Prospective Resources (EUR) with a “summed mean EUR greater than four billions of barrels of oil equivalent (bboe).”

The compendium of bills encompasses the following key legal frameworks:

  • Governance Regulations and Institutional Framework
  • Legal, Licensing and Contractual Framework
  • Fiscal and Commercial Framework
  • Health, Safety and Environmental Framework

Key provisions of the Petroleum Act 2014:

The Minister is to be a corporation sole in order to administer the act much like the Housing Act.

The Minister is legally empowered to grant leases, permits and licenses etc.

The Bahamas government has the option to participate in the extraction, refining and distribution of petroleum deposits.

The Minister has general powers under the act to grant alternative petroleum agreements.

The act provides for the licensee to engage in joint and cross border operations.

Assignment and transfer of a permit require previous consent in writing of the Minister.

With Ministerial approval, a licensee is exempt from paying certain customs duties.

The Minister has the flexibility to determine and approve the details of the form and amount of the financial security lodged with the Minister in order to guarantee performance of commitment and obligations of the licensee.

Petroleum Regulations 2014 have six parts as follow:

  • Land and submarine area division
  • Procedure for application and competitive bidding
  • General Obligations
  • Explorations work program and expenditure
  • Production and drilling
  • Miscellaneous (force majeure etc.)

The Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill 2015

According to Minister Dorsett, the purpose for the creation of the Sovereign Wealth Fund as set out in the bill in section 4 (1) is as follow:

  • save and invest surplus funds derived from oil, gas minerals and other natural resources to provide a heritage for future generations of the citizens of The Bahamas;
  • to support and increase savings for future generations;
  • to enhance sustainable long term capital growth for The Bahamas; and
  • to support and promote any other strategic development objectives of The Bahamas.

The opposition members are opposing the Petroleum Bills, claiming that the economic rewards are not worth the environmental risks. Debate continues on Monday, 21st December 2015.

More development earmarked for Cat Cay

Prime Minister Christie signed a Heads of Agreement on Monday of this week for a $94 million mixed use resort development, residential community and marina for South Cat Cay.

The resort developers are Dr. Enrique Murciano and Mrs. Murciano, residents of Florida and Mr. Ernesto Andrew Estrada Fernandez Salvador, a citizen of Ecuador. The Ernesto family has a 40 year history in The Bahamas, with a home in Lyford Cay and extensive assets in The Bahamas.

“The project will comprise a 53 room five star branded boutique hotel with related amenities, 29 marina condo units, 37 residential units, a 137 slip marina, restaurants, shops and recreational facilities. This high end resort will also include an upmarket residential community” said Mr. Christie.

“During the course of construction in two phases” continued the Prime Minister, “it is estimated that some 75 Bahamians will be employed, and upon completion and build out some 170 permanent jobs will be created. In addition to the $94 million capital investment by the developers, their economic impact assessment projects over $200 million in real estate sales over the first five years, which will significantly benefit government revenues, suppliers and employment.”

The agreement also calls for the developer to provide suitable accommodations of customs, immigration, the police and other public offices.

Mediterranean Shipping Company to develop Sandy Cay

The government of The Bahamas and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) inked a $100 million Heads of Agreement on Wednesday of this week at his office for the development of the former Ocean Cay, now renamed Sandy Cay into a marine reserve and cruise destination for its cruise passengers. The signing ceremony took place on Wednesday, 16th December.

MSC, the world’s second largest privately owned container shipping company, with 480 vessels on 200 routes, and second in the industry only to the global shipping giant, Maersk, is the sole supplier to the Freeport Container Terminal. Further, MSC has committed to a $250 million dollar, Phase V investment that will re-position the Freeport hub to compete with similar hubs in Panama and Jamaica which are undergoing aggressive port expansions in 2016. Mr. Christie revealed that the contractors for Phase V have been short-listed and one will be selected in the coming weeks.

“MSC has committed to an investment of up to US$100 million for construction and the self-sustaining operation and environmental management of the Cruise Port and Marine Park at Sandy Cay and plans authentic and engaging Bahamian experiences to compliment the construction of private a cruise destination paradise for its 369,000 annual guests” said Prime Minister Christie.

“Amenities will include shopping, dining, retail and recreational spaces, including an Amphitheatre and a ship-based infirmary among other facilities. MSC is also developing a Marine Reserve at Sandy Cay, offering unique diving experiences for guests of the island, further adding to the Bimini experience.”

This three-hundred year old company has grown by 800% to date, has developed a fleet of twelve cruise ships and 15,000 staff now carrying 1.7 million passengers to 45 countries on its global itineraries. This great demand has led to the recent ordering of seven (7) new ships capable of carrying 5,300 passengers and crew of 1,600.

Contract executed for New Fishing Hole Causeway

After many years of flooding; after one hurricane related death during the passage of Floyd in 1999 (Mr. Robert Tinker – may his soul RIP); and after much lobbying, demonstrations and waiting, Grand Bahamians are finally and rightfully getting what they had worked so long and hard for when Prime Minister Christie and Deputy Prime Minister Davis led a delegation to Grand Bahama on Friday to break ground for the construction of the new $6.55 million Fishing Hole Causeway. It was clearly an equally emotional time for many Grand Bahamians.

“This new Fishing Hole Causeway is not just a transport and economic link in the fullest sense of the word” said the Prime Minister, “but it will serve as an essential lifeline in times of natural as well as manmade disaster which we know will occur from time to time in this community.” Mr. Christie was speaking directly to the severe flooding on that road that literally blocks disaster relief efforts and cuts off the economic lifeline of the communities of Eight Mile Rock and West End from the city of Freeport in times of disaster.

This new causeway will become vital to building a modern Bahamas and essential to securing strong and sustainable economic growth in Grand Bahama and The Bahamas by extension said Mr. Christie.

  “I am proud this morning to be leading a Government who through this project is making a very worthwhile investment in first class infrastructure for the people of Grand Bahama. What is unfolding before us sits at the very core of our vision for a modern Bahamas, and is essential to securing strong and more sustainable economic growth in Grand Bahama, and by extension The Bahamas.”

The Prime Minister spoke reassuringly about the design/build specifications of the causeway and what the government sought to achieve in terms of environmental protection.

“Preliminary studies completed on the Fishing Hole Road site suggest that the causeway should be raised between ten to twelve feet. With that recommendation, the implementation of this engineering solution is design/build,” he said.

Additionally, the Prime Minister said the government “wanted to have something that would withstand normal to extreme environmental conditions, with minimal negative impact on the settlement of Queen’s Cove; one that provides for the environmental preservation and restoration of communication between the Hawksbill Creek and the Freeport Harbour,” he stated.

The contractor is Grand Bahama based All Bahamas Construction (ABC) Company.

Bahamas signs on to post COP21 Paris Agreement

As with other government heads, Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie delivered the Bahamas’ statement in Paris on the impact of climate change on low lying states like The Bahamas, then left his Environment Minister behind to negotiate the details of a legally binding agreement on the way forward.

At the conclusion of the negotiations, a proud Environment Minister, the Hon. Kenred Dorsett, reported on a successfully negotiated agreement by all United Nations member states on an action plan to arrest global warming.

“The Bahamas welcomes the ambitious commitments in the Paris Agreement, including the aim to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels, and also pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees” said the statement issued by Minister Dorsett. “The shift of ambition towards 1.5 degrees marks the recognition that holding temperature rise to such levels is the only way to ensure the survival of our nation and people.”

Of critical importance was the preservation of the special needs of small-island developing States (SIDS) like The Bahamas in the agreement. References to Loss and Damage “represent a work in progress” said the statement and even though the strong compliance language The Bahamas sought did not make the agreement, “the future process does not abandon it; and with respect to Transparency, the provisions are very fair and will help The Bahamas in the process of implementation.”

The Environment Minister felt that overall, “the Paris Agreement (was) a major achievement, and brings us one step closer to achieving the future we want and the survival of our planet. The Bahamas looks forward to ratifying the agreement in due course.”

These sentiments were expressed by Prime Minister Christie during his update to the House on Monday of his trip to the COP21 in Paris.

Damien Gomez does the honourable thing

Citing “personal” and “ethical” reasons, State Minister for Legal Affairs the Hon. Damien Gomez announced his resignation from the cabinet this week, effective the 30th December 2015.

Speculating on the circumstances surrounding Gomez’s announced resignation, the Nassau Guardian suggested that Mr. Gomez implied that his cabinet and parliamentary colleagues were somehow guilt of improprieties. To disabuse the public of that mistake, Gomez released the following statement.

“The ‘ethical’ concerns to which I referred in my interview with the Nassau Guardian do not relate to any impropriety on the part of any of my Cabinet or parliamentary colleagues. Any suspicion that that is what I was insinuating or implying would therefore be completely mistaken.”

Mr. Gomez was applauded in many quarters for following his conscience and upholding the conventions and principles of the Westminster system. Some have opined that if any cabinet Minister is involved in a conflict or dispute with another public agency that might seek legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General should on principle resign from the cabinet until such time as the dispute is resolved.

Mitchell and Justice Weeks butt heads over immigration law

Delivering remarks at the annual Christmas luncheon for the Honourary Consular Corps on Tuesday December 15, Bahamas Foreign Minister Fred Minister responded to a recent court ruling on the constitutional powers of the Department of Immigration to determine who can and cannot legally enter the Bahamas jurisdiction.

Mitchell said he was studying the judgment of the Bruno Rafa case in Freeport, but does not agree with Justice Petra Hanna-Weeks. The excerpt from his address on the court ruling is as follow.

“I am now studying a judgment recently issued in Freeport on a challenge to the authority of immigration. I await formal advice.

However, my preliminary view is that in the face of such a wide ranging judgment (with which I respectfully disagree) and if it applies beyond the instant case, we are forced to consider our options where the country and the public interest demands the immediate removal of someone from the country where in the opinion of the Department of Immigration, the continued presence in the country of that individual may be inconsistent with the peace and good order of the country. You may hear more developing on this policy shortly. However, the basic premise seems to me must be upheld that the Department of Immigration has in the first instance an unfettered right to determine who is landed and is excluded from The Bahamas, subject to law.”

Resorts World Bimini partners with NTA to assist disadvantaged youth

The National Training Agency has partnered with Resorts World Bimini (RWB) to provide an opportunity for its graduates to secure employment at the high-end resort.

Under the partnership, selected graduates from the NTA’s hospitality programmes will be given the opportunity to be employed at the Resort.

Executive Director of NTA, Agatha Marcelle, said that the partnership is another opportunity for the NTA to invest in Bahamian youth and to enhance their ability to contribute to the growth and development of the Bahamian economy.

“Our mandate to provide the Bahamas with a highly-trained and certified workforce is one which we take very seriously. This partnership, which will benefit many of our graduates, is both timely and relevant,” Marcelle said.

She added that the partnership comes at a time when disadvantaged Bahamian youth need new avenues to be engaged in productive enterprise and new opportunities to achieve sustainable means of income-generation.

Lennie Kravitz’ dental operation shut down

It appeared that international rock star Lennie Kravitz, son of Bahamian actress Roxie Roker, brought in some dentists to North Eleuthera to provide free dental services to that family island community. Only two problems though according to the Department of Immigration and other government agencies: the foreign dentists could not produce the necessary business license and work permits to practice dentistry in The Bahamas.

“It appears that dental work was being done without a license to conduct dentistry in the Bahamas. That is a violation of the law. No work permits had been issued for the people performing dentistry” said Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell.

“The officials were called on 12 and 14 December and after no licenses or permits could be produced, (the officials were) asked to shut down. There was some back and forth between officials on the scene, the sponsor, and the potential patients. The operations were closed without further incidents and the sponsor told the necessary licenses and permits had to be obtained if the operation is to continue. The Dental Council formally objected to me about the operation. The law must be followed” said Mitchell.

IN PASSING…

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the new fee schedule for consular services effective the 12th January 2016. To view the full list of revised Consular fees, please visit The Bahamas Laws Online website.

Labour Minister the Hon. D. Shane Gibson hosted a press conference at the Bahama Grill on West Bay Street on Wednesday, December 16th at 10am to officially announce the upcoming 2nd Annual King Eric Gibson Regatta to be held on January 9th, 10th, 11th, 2016.

The board and management of Bahamasair issued a statement earlier this week expressing shock at the position taken by president of the Airport, Airline and Allied Workers Union Nelerine Harding over protracted labour negotiations; the president threatened industrial actions over the Christmas holidays if the demands were not met. Pay increments appeared to be at the heart of the impasse as the union claimed its members were owed 18 increments over 5 years. Labour Minister Hon. D. Shane Gibson told the media later in the week that the government and the union had reached an agreement in principle and that formal sign-off was imminent.

The Minister of Financial Services and Local Government, the Hon. C.V. Hope Strachan, led a Bahamian Delegation to the 10th biennial Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) taking place in Nairobi, Kenya from 15th -18th December 2015. In a statement released earlier this week the Ministry said “the World Trade Organization is responsible for the creation and development of the legal framework governing international trade. The rules on international trade established by the WTO are benchmark rules. All other trade agreements entered into by members of the WTO outside of the framework of the WTO must comply with the minimum standards prescribed by the WTO.” Notwithstanding that the Bahamas government has worked steadily towards full membership in this global body for more than a decade, The Bahamas is the only country in the western hemisphere that is not a member of the WTO.

The Hon. Dr. Daniel Johnson, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture announced the new schedule of seed financing for the upcoming junkanoo parades. The announcement came at a press conference on December 16. While the Bahamas government remains the largest sponsor, Dr. Johnson congratulated sponsors Coca and encouraged corporate Bahamas to come forward in support of this fine Bahamian art form. Junkanoo Corporation of New Providence (JCNP) Chairman Silbert Ferguson thanked the government for the increase in funding. The subvention for “A” category groups increased from $8,000 to $30,000 and the “B” category groups enjoyed an increase from $4,000 to $15,000.

The Department of Inland Revenue advised the general public this week that due to a printing error, some property tax bills were directed to the wrong mailing addresses. “New bills are being issued for the affected accounts” said the statement and affected persons were asked to contact Taxpayer Services immediately at telephone number 1(242) 461-8050; 1(242) 225-7280 or by email at: taxinquiries@bahamas.gov.bs.

The Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) notified the general public of a major failure on our water transmission main on Robertha Avenue (Ridgeland Park West) on Thursday. In a press statement the WSC stated that the transmission main failure “resulted in Low Pressure and/or No Water to parts of Northern, Central, Southern and Eastern New Providence. “The Corporation advised that teams of technicians were on site and as of Friday, the work continued.

In fulfillment of a commitment he made to the principal of Anatol Rodgers Senior High, Myrtle McPhee, Environment and Housing Minister the Hon. Kenred Dorsett assisted two graduates, Kacey Duncombe and Octavio Obainyear, with partial scholarships to attend the College of The Bahamas to pursue degrees in Architecture. “It is my hope to be able to continue this scholarship on a yearly basis to assist high performing students of the Anatol Rodgers High School in obtaining a tertiary level education” said Dorsett.

The late Rt. Hon. Sir Lynden O. Pindling, former Prime Minister, was inducted posthumously into the National Junkanoo Legends Circle during a ceremony held at Government House under the patronage of Governor-General Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Daniel Johnson. The 2015 class is made up of 20 males who were key persons in the survival of Junkanoo in the 1960’s, guiding it from marginalization to the central and important art form that it is today. The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the National Junkanoo Committee hosted a reception for the honorees.

Noted Grand Bahamian educator, coach, youth leader and politician Norris Bain made it official on Friday, 18th December when he announced via press statement that he had joined the governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). Mr. Bain was the Free National Movement’s (FNM) candidate for Marco City in the 2012 general elections. 

About the author: Elcott Coleby is a Deputy Director at the Bahamas Information Services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry (B.Sc.) and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). He provides frequent commentary on public policy and communicates the works of the government. Address all comments to the following email: egcoleby44@gmail.com