COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT COLEBY
Mitchell addressed OAS Council
Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell flew to Washington DC on Sunday to attend a series of meetings that culminated in his address to the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Tuesday of this week.
The new administrative measures being taken by the government of The Bahamas to strengthen the country’s immigration policy and eliminate fraud took center stage during these meetings. These administrative measures that took effect on 1st November 2014 have been the subject of much commentary both locally and internationally, much of which were based on misinformation. The meetings and address were meant to clarify the misinformation and restate the policy of The Bahamas government.
While in Washington DC the Minister met with CARICOM’s OAS Caucus and the Secretary General of OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza al on Monday, 15th December and addressed the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States on Tuesday of this week.
The respondents to the Foreign Minister’s address were the permanent representatives from the Republic of Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia. The issue of xenophobia raised by the Haitian ambassador raised eyebrows at home and was quite interesting given the fact that the wealth of The Bahamas and its open and highly integrated economy are driven by international tourism and travel and international financial services; the Bahamas welcomed 6.2 million tourists in 2013. Additionally, foreign expertise and labour figure prominently in our education, construction and health service sectors.
371 promoted at the RBDF
In the largest promotions and advancement exercise in the history of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Minister of National Security, The Honourable Dr. Bernard J. Nottage confirmed the approval of promotions and advancements for 371 men and women in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force effective from the 1st October 2014.
Approximately one quarter of the entire Defence Force was affected. Promotions and advancements comprised 57 Officers, 3 Warrant Officers, 112 Non-Commissioned Officers and 199 junior enlisted personnel.
More good news for Grand Bahama
Prime Minister Christie was in Grand Bahama on Monday with more good news in the announced return of Bahamas Celebration cruise line to Freeport from the port of Palm Beach, Florida in February 2015. The cruise liner was out of operations since 31st October. Its return with the new and larger MS Grand Celebration promises to strengthen the tourism product with greater stopover visitors for Grand Bahama.
“The new Grand Celebration replacement ship comes with 50% increased capacity and projects some two hundred and eighty thousand I am told year round passengers with not less than one hundred thousand electing to purchase a two or more night stay in Grand Bahama combination with the cruise boosting room nights will take it from just under 50,000 in 2014 to 125,000 minimum in 2015.”
The Prime Minister went on to say that the first phase of the operations will create at least 300 local jobs and the ship’s owners are hopeful that Bahamians can qualify for 100% of the 632 jobs on this Grand Bahama based ship.
Further, the announcement of another vessel, a $100 million superfast ferry by Balearia Caribbean is also good news for Grand Bahama. The new cruise ferry has a passenger capacity of 1,000 which is almost triple the capacity of the vessel currently servicing Freeport from Fort Lauderdale. This operation can potentially create as much as 250 direct and indirect jobs because Balearia is also moving all of its call center sales operations from the US to Freeport in support of the Ministry of Tourism marketing initiatives.
Reiterating the Prime Minister and his government’s commitment to bringing about an economic turnaround in Grand Bahama was Tourism Minister Hon. Obie Wilchcombe
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. He said that the country’s executive team has the leadership, the ammunition and all that is required to get the job done.
“He (the Prime Minister) is here today because it represents the exaltation of his words. It represents what he believes in and he made a commitment to Grand Bahama that we will come and turn this island around. With his leadership we are mandated; with his leadership we are given the ammunition – we are given all that we require make this island great again” said the Tourism Minister.