THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS BY ELCOTT COLEBY

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30 January to 2 February

Christie touts ‘multi-appealing tourism product’ of The Bahamas
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie addressed delegates at the opening ceremonies of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace, January 31, 2017 at Atlantis, Paradise Island.

At this tourism marketplace forum, the largest in the Caribbean, Prime Minister Christie touted the continuous growth of the ‘diverse and multi-appealing tourism product’ of The Bahamas, new developments in the national tourism product, and the drive to develop and market Bahamian and regional creative energies and entrepreneurial talent.

“The Bahamas continues to grow and develop a diverse and multi-appealing tourism product and is poised to benefit immensely from the imminent completion and opening of the mega Baha Mar resort project on Cable Beach” said Prime Minister Christie.

Indicating that occasions such as the Caribbean Marketplace provide an opportunity for the host country to provide an update on significant touristic projects and achievements, Mr. Christie did just that about Bahamas tourism development.

“These include Island House, The Pointe, Ocean West, Warwick, Albany and One & Only Ocean Club in New Providence.

“In addition, significant expansion is taking place for other resorts interspersed throughout our islands such as Resorts World’s Bimini Bay in Bimini; Baker’s Bay and Winding Bay in Abaco and February Point in Exuma.

“New projects will be coming on stream in the near future in Lyford Cay; at the JMMC Exuma Great Adventure Resort, and Stocking Island Club; as well as touristic developments at Children’s Bay & Williams Cay, Exuma.”

The Prime Minister included the creation and improvement of new cruise ports with partners like MSC, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Lines in new developments and partnership arrangements.

Griffin rolls out pre-paid card in Mayaguana

Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Griffin arrived in Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana, Friday, February 3, to begin a four-day official visit.

The highlight of Mrs. Griffin’s visit is the presentation of the Visa Pre-Paid Cards to qualified recipients of the Department of Social Services’ Food Assistance programme.

Minister Griffin plans to visit the three major communities of Mayaguana – Abraham’s Bay, Betsy Bay and Pirate’s Well. She will conduct a site visit of a proposed location for the expanded Social Services Office as well as meet with Local Government Officials, staff of the Department of Social Services; address a Town Meeting at the Abraham’s Bay Secondary School and visit with the elderly and other residents.

“One of the things I always attempt to do once I return from meeting with residents to find out their needs, is to try and ensure that their needs are met as soon as possible,” Mrs. Griffin said.

Mayaguana and Acklins are the final two islands to receive their Pre-Paid Cards.

Accompanying the Minister are Ms. Mellany Zonicle, Director, Department of Social Services; Ms. Cherely Kelly, Assistant Director for Community Support Services and Ms. Tianya Johnson, Manager, Bank of The Bahamas’ Card Services.

Strachan: “Effective National Quality infrastructure” an imperative

The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ) held a one-day National Quality Policy Workshop on Tuesday, January 31, 2017. Minister of Financial Services and Local Government, the Hon. Hope Strachan delivered the keynote address. She said the workshop is part of the government’s commitment to establishing institutions that ‘position’ The Bahamas to participate in more significant and meaningful ways in the evolving global community. The workshop was held at SuperClubs Breezes.

“If The Bahamas is to see continued growth as an emerging market for foreign investments, while creating opportunities for Bahamians to export goods and services to the rest of the world, it is imperative to implement an effective National Quality infrastructure that significantly improves the national quality standards, creates more competitive business environment that benefits consumers, while developing more vibrant regional and global trade agreements, while also continuing to create new markets for Bahamian products and services.”

The Minister said that the government is currently in the advanced stages of developing the National Quality policy to address organizational structure and corporate governance, the role of external stakeholders, legal financial and logistical issues, and the key regulatory framework.

Also delivering remarks was Senator the Hon. Jerome Gomez, Chairman, of the Consumer Protection Commission.

UB Law degrees now equivalent to UWI Law Degrees

Law students at the University of the Bahamas received some good news this week when Bahamas Attorney-General Sen. Allyson Maynard-Gibson announced at her office on Wednesday that the 2017 LL.B. graduates from the University of The Bahamas “will be granted automatic admission into The Eugene Dupuch Law School.”

This is another milestone for the newly minted University of The Bahamas.

Last week, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, QC led a delegation to Jamaica and secured an agreement from the Executive Committee of the Council of Legal Education to recommend to the Council of Legal Education that the University of The Bahamas’ Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) program should be considered equivalent to the degree program offered by the University of the West Indies.

Dr. Pandora Johnson, University of The Bahamas Vice President for Academic Affairs, called the announcement “a great day, representing a huge step forward.”

The delegation to the Executive Committee meeting included Marco Rolle, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Legal Affairs; Antoinette Bonamy, Director of Legal Affairs; Justice Ruby Nottage (retired), University of The Bahamas LL.B. lecturer; and Dr. Pandora Johnson, University of The Bahamas Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Online registration of birth launched in North Andros

Our country’s e-government initiative made a giant step forward when on Wednesday, February 1, 2017, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senator the Hon. Allyson Maynard Gibson officially launched the online registration of births in North Andros at the Government Complex there. Family Islanders no longer have to travel to Nassau.

Jason Wilson Evans became the first baby in 2017 to be registered in Andros and receive a printed certified online birth certificate, made possible by the specialized online registration services of the government’s public-private partnership with BTC.

Mrs. Gibson touted this public private sector partnership, using the example of the mobile passport unit as another example of the cooperation necessary to move the Bahamas forward.

Accompanying the Attorney General were: Minister of Health, the Hon. Dr. Perry Gomez, Acting Registrar Deirdre Clarke Maycock, Deputy Registrar Darian Creary, Permanent Secretary Marco Rolle, IT Manager Wellington Smith, Family Island Administrator Ivan Ferguson, Assistant Administrator Leonard Dames Jr., North Andros Chief Councilor Brian Cleare, Office of the Attorney General Consultant Joey Gaskins, and Acting Assistant Registrar General Simon Crispin Rolle.

In Passing…

Prime Minister Christie denounced a claim made by a reported American expert in security and terrorism that The Bahamas has terrorism links, suggesting that this country’s “tremendous collaboration” with US law enforcement would have provided ample forewarning of such a threat had the claims been true.

Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell has hit out at a “rubbish” statement made on a US television news show by a reported expect in security and terrorism who portrayed the Bahamas as having terrorist links. After facing backlash from angry Bahamians on his Twitter page, MSNBC correspondent Malcolm Nash, who said he has more than 35 years in US intelligence, apologized for his error.

Speaking at the 25th anniversary of the West Grand Bahama Youth Development Association on Sunday 29th January, Prime Minister Christie noted that the country is “coming to grips with the reality that in an island community like Grand Bahama and the city of Freeport, and the sophistication of the industrial makeup of the island, we have to find a formula to continue with training.” Our young people.

Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie was the special guest at the Monday assembly at the D.W. Davis Junior High School. The Prime Minister encouraged and challenged the students to be their best. He also cut the ribbon on a brand new school bus.

Plans appear to be in motion for the establishment of a new political faction, with Official Opposition Leader Butler-Turner revealing that she is laying the foundation for an “organic grassroots movement” inclusive of the other six dissident FNM members of Parliament. In a confidential email obtained by The Tribune, Butler-Turner sent out a call for support to her political base, urging them to “take action to rid ourselves of the status-quo that governs our Bahamas”. This revelation angered members of the dissident seven who were unaware of this political move.

The FNM turncoats, including two former Cabinet Ministers, who publicly pledged support for Prime Minister Christie must quickly prove the reasoning behind their move to avoid being branded “political parasites and opportunists”, said former Cabinet Minister George Smith. Former Prime Minister Ingraham branded their support for the PLP as “nothing.”

The delayed Constituencies Commission report could be completed sometime this week giving every indication that all eligible Bahamians should register to vote now, Prime Minister Christie has said.

The FNM announced the ratification of six more candidates for the upcoming general elections last night with leader Dr. Minnis revealing that the full slate of 39 candidates will be announced at the end of the week. At the Mackey Street headquarters, FNM Chairman Sidney Collie announced:

Navarro Bowe

Howard ‘Ricky’ Mackey

Hank Johnson

Darren Henfield

Former FNM Chairman Michael Pintard

FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest

Prime Minister Christie on Monday castigated FNM Leader Dr. Minnis for likening the PLP to a group of “drowning men,” calling the Killarney MP a “minor player” in the House of Assembly who should “try his best to keep quiet” after having his job as leader of the Official Opposition “taken” from him by Long Island MP Butler-Turner.

Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis yesterday denied that he was being “disingenuous” when he stated, during a speech at the PLP national convention last week, that millions of dollars generated from VAT was being spent on projects for which the Government already borrowed money. The record clearly shows that for the 24 months following the implementation of VAT (January 2015 to December 2016), the government collected some $1 billion, but government expenditure during the same period exceeded $4 billion. Since VAT receipts represent just twenty-five percent of government expenditure, for every dollar the government spends to pay its bills, twenty-five cents are sourced from VAT receipts. The Central Bank financial reports confirm this.

Police are on the hunt for two men they suspect threw an explosive device in the South Street Magistrate’s Court complex early yesterday morning “in an attempt to burn it down”. The incidence took place shortly after 6am off Nassau Street.

Grand Bahama Minister Dr. Michael Darville applauded a new initiative that recently produced 25 trained clinical nurses, graduates of a program that is the collaboration of the Public Hospitals Authority, the University of The Bahamas and the Ministry for Grand Bahama.

Prime Minister Christie, the keynote speaker at the 2017 International Business & Finance Summit (IBFS), said the government was committed to speeding financial services legislation through the system faster than any other laws, in a bid to respond effectively to the ever-evolving environment.

As voter registration in the country remains sluggish – falling below numbers compared to this same period during the last election cycle – former Prime Minister Ingraham encouraged Bahamians to register notwithstanding the inconveniences they are facing.

Government officials yesterday announced the launch of NHI’s primary care physician registration, which NHI senior officials said is a “critical milestone” that signals the “initiation” of a second phase of the government proposed program.

Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald on Tuesday said the onus for recent violent incidents on school campuses must fall on the wider society, further lamenting that officials have done everything they can to stop school violence.

A seventh grade male student of A. F. Adderley Junior High School brought a gun on the school’s campus Monday and was arrested by police, officials confirmed on Tuesday.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, the Hon. Fred Mitchell announced this week that The Bahamas will host the United Nations Small Island Development States (SIDS) Symposium from 21 -23 February 2017 at the Melia Resort. Mitchell called the high level discussion “a platform for decision makers from SIDS, to reflect on how they can further integrate the 2030 Agenda and the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway in national plans, policies, strategies and public institutions.”

Mrs. Donna Newton was sworn in as Acting Justice of the Supreme Court by Governor General Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling during a brief ceremony at Government House on Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Prime Minister Christie this week said the Government would soon make a full disclosure on the current affairs of the Bank of the Bahamas and Resolve Bahamas. Firing back at suggestions that such a disclosure would not come before the upcoming general election, Mr. Christie said: “The elections are not in the near future”.

Amid calls for government transparency over VAT collections, a war of words erupted in the House of Assembly yesterday between government MPs and opposition forces that have rejected the Christie administration’s attempts to justify how the tax revenue has been expended.

The House of Assembly began debate on Wednesday on the long awaited revamped Freedom of Information Bill, despite continued push back from civil society and opposition factions over the bill’s contents and potency.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has officially launched its new polycarbonate e-passport system. The launch of the system took place last Thursday at the Passport Office on Thompson Boulevard.

Hundreds of hotel workers will be made redundant at the Memories Resort in Grand Bahama after the hotel operator, Sunwing Travel Group, and its landlord, Hutchinson Whampoa, failed to reach an agreement over hurricane restoration at the beachfront resort in Lucaya. The Government was locked in meetings Thursday seeking to bring a successful conclusion to negotiations with Hutchinson Whampoa over the embattled Memories resort, with Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe telling The Tribune that based on those talks he believes there is room for a “successful outcome”.

Baha Mar’s scheduled opening for April 21 was yesterday branded “a political ploy” after it was confirmed that the acquisition by CTFE will not close until all construction work is completed. Robert Sands told Tribune Business that CTFE had agreed “to take possession and operate portions of the resort” until its deal with the China EXIM Bank could close.

It was reported that the Christie administration has agreed to approve between 400 and 500 work permits, in addition to the transfer of existing work permit holders from Baha Mar to Strategic Property Holding Ltd and Neworld One Bay Street Ltd, developers of The Pointe, to facilitate the phased completion of the $200m Bay Street project. Meanwhile, developers of the $200m Bay Street project, The Pointe, are now in the midst of a regulatory process seeking the needed approvals from the Government for the next phase of construction, according to an official. However, Kendeno Knowles, CCA Communications Director, did not reveal which approvals Strategic Property Holding Ltd and Neworld One Bay Street Ltd were seeking.

Former Prime Minister and Leader of the FNM Hubert Ingraham called on Dr. Minnis, Loretta Butler-Turner and others who are fighting in the party to find a way to put their differences aside or face the possibility of the PLP winning the next election with a minority of votes.

On Thursday of this week, Grand Bahama Affairs Minister the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville addressed at the 17th Annual Public Service and Recognition of Retirees Service and Luncheon to thank public service officers, including the 32 retiring officers for their commendable service over the years.

Prime Minister Christie said he is surprised that his predecessor, former Prime Minister Ingraham, criticized him about the length of time it is taking the Constituencies Commission to release its boundaries report, saying he thought Mr. Ingraham was above such “political commentary” at this stage in his life.

Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald has revealed that the Save The Bays emails he read and tabled in Parliament were printed out and delivered to him in a “sealed envelope”, adding that he did not know how the documents were accessed.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) delivered a presentation on the findings and recommendations of a local aviation audit to the Minister of Transport and Aviation the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin and senior Ministry officials on Friday, 3rd February at the JL Center on Black Road. The government continues to move aggressively to reform the aviation sector and to bring every aspect into international compliance and consistent with international best practices.

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