THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (20 – 24 FEBRUARY 2017)
COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT COLEBY
Christie: “Education tied to every aspect of national development”
Celebrating its 70th anniversary, the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) held its first Educational Conference on Thursday of this week at the Hilton Hotel under the theme, “Inspiring Today to Impact Tomorrow.” Delivering the keynote address at the opening ceremony was Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie who highlighted the contributions of this organization in the development of the modern Bahamas.
“Our history records the impact of the Bahamas Union of Teachers in the achievement of many milestones in the development of the Modern Bahamas. Among these prominent achievements are Majority Rule and Women’s Suffrage. Many teachers were among the freedom fighters who sought to educate and liberate our citizens.”
In addition to pointing out the similarities between the “Duties of Teachers” in Article 32 of BUT’s latest Industrial Agreement and the issues raised by OAS Member States during the recent Education Ministers Conference, Mr. Christie explained the connection between education and national development.
“Education is tied to every aspect of national development. This includes our social order; economic stability and growth; technological advancement; intellectual capital and culture to name a few.
“In a Shared Vision for Education 2030, which the leaders of the BUT assisted in framing, Minister Fitzgerald, stated, ‘As the world over focuses on the direction of education for the next 15 years, The Bahamas will do the same to ensure that those who avail themselves of the public education system graduate with the skills and knowledge to become productive citizens who are able to contribute to the growth and development of The Bahamas.’”
Christie: Development Agenda cannot succeed without ‘good governance’
The Bahamas government hosted a Symposium this week on the United Nations’ mandated 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the SAMOA Pathway in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The symposium’s aim was to equip public institutions and mobilize partnerships in the implementation of that Agenda. As expected, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) supported this symposium.
The 17 sustainable development goals focus on inclusive development, the elimination of poverty, and hunger, the provision of quality education, clean water and sanitation and the creation of a healthy, safer world.
“These are ambitious goals but with focused determination and commitment they are realistically achievable” said Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie to delegates on Tuesday evening.
Mr. Christie took the opportunity to share his unique perspective on governance, “one of the key ingredients for a successful implementation” of this Sustainable Development Agenda.
“Good governance is critical. A properly functioning government is essential if we are to have any hope of success” said the Prime Minister. “The success of our efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is heavily dependent on having the right policies in place and ensuring effective coordination of the implementation of the Change Agenda. Now when I talk about good governance I am not only talking about governments’ systems. I am talking about the governance arrangements in the private sector, in civil society and in the governmental system as well. Good governance is not the responsibility of any one institution or group of institutions; it is the responsibility of all of us working collaboratively.”
Bahamas government launches VIOLENCE INTERRUPTERS
On Thursday evening at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Minister of National Security the Hon. Dr. Bernard J. Nottage launched another program designed to target at-risk youth. He compared it to Shock Treatment and said it was patterned after such programs in Chicago and Jamaica and promises to provide strong mentorship, rescue thousands of our youth from paths of destruction and restore social harmony and security within our communities.
“Today we are here to launch another such programme, The Violence Interrupters Bahamas programme. This programme is patterned after similar organizations in Chicago and Jamaica and is designed to provide strong locally based mentorship throughout the communities in New Providence:
“The main objectives are to rescue thousands of young people from the destructive paths which so many pursue and to prevent others from embarking on such paths, while restoring a sense of security and harmony within our communities.
“I now present to you 40 good men and women, who have decided to answer the call; persons who are brave enough to take on this task, and believe me, they are enthusiastic about the possibilities that this united force can bring.
“They are not policemen or women. They are ordinary citizens coming together as a team to do extraordinary things. They are persons who are already involved in their communities in some form or fashion but this arrangement would give them some structure and organization.
Not only will they give their full attention, they will also work hard to gain the trust of their communities and work together toward the common goal of reducing crime and violence and the fear that they bring.”
Water and Sewerage launches $41 million water improvement program
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot say it too often. Water is a big deal! This Government remains committed to bringing about world class piped potable water to each and every Bahamian at the earliest possible opportunity” said DPM and Works Minister the Hon. Philip Davis.
”This ceremony marks this Government’s fulfilled promise to ensure access for all Bahamian communities to piped potable water.
Mr. Davis, substituting for Prime Minister Christie, was speaking at the launch of the government’s latest Water Improvement Program through the Water and Sewerage Corporation at a cost of $41 million; the Caribbean Development Bank is providing $28 million of that amount.
The launch took place on Monday at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel on Bay Street.
The scope of the improvement project covers Pinewood Gardens; Coral Lakes; Boatswain Hill; Miller Heights; Mars Bay, South Andros, Arthurs Town; Cat Island, Colonel Hill, Crooked Island and Long Island.
The status of the project is summarized below:
The 300 homes Pinewood Gardens, Phase “B” Area is substantially complete.
Coral Lakes is substantially complete with much of the one hundred twenty-five (125) applications connected.
The Boatswain Hill project is nearing completion with one hundred (100) applications processed.
The costing for Miller Heights is under review. “These three (3) areas, represented the largest areas of New Providence with no piped water previously” said Mr. Davis.
For South Andros, the contract to provide over 20 miles of new water mains and 600 service connections, was awarded during November of last year.
Works in San Salvador are ongoing for the installation of nine (9) miles of new water mains and one hundred (160) service connections.
Tendering for works in Cat Island will commence in March.
Works will be tendered in the coming months for Central Long Island, northward to Salt Pond and southward to Clarence Town and Locobar. This Long Island Project also includes the supply of two (2) new Water Tanker trucks.
Tendering works are proceeding for Colonel Hill and Cabbage Hill in Crooked Island and for various systems improvement on Eleuthera in the coming months.
DPM Davis pointed out that while works last, connections are free of charge.
Attorney General responds to civil society statement
On Thursday, 23rd February 2017, the Attorney General responded to the call of the Chamber of Commerce and fourteen other civil society organizations for consultation on the Interception of Communications Bill 2017.
“I am happy to see that the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Federation (BCCEF), the Organization for Responsible Government (ORG) and another 14 civil society organizations have recognized our commitment to ensuring that the Bahamian people have an opportunity to learn about and review the Interception of Communications Bill. Initial consultations with BCCEF, ORG and others led to the decision that further consultation, led by the Office of the Attorney-General (“OAG”), was necessary to inform the public about this important piece of legislation. I publicly thank them for their agreement to collaborate with OAG” said Senator Alyson Maynard-Gibson, Bahamas Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.
Gibson again pointed out the objectives of the bill, contrary to public commentary.
“The Interception of Communications Bill is a very important crime-fighting tool in the arsenal of the Royal Bahamas Police Force” said the Attorney General. “It recognizes that the means of communication have changed significantly since 1972. And it protects citizens by placing the decision as to whether the police may intercept a communication solely in the hands of the independent judiciary. Further protections are that a time limit is set for the interception and any extension must be agreed by the Court and the Court dictates how records of those communications should be destroyed. These protections do not exist under the Listening Devices Act (“LDA”).”
Consumer Protection Commission conducts banking survey
Seeking to ascertain if local banking fees had “run amok,” the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) through its Research Unit conducted a Consumer Banking Survey to gauge public opinion and perception on the services provided by local clearing banks, and the level of fees associated with the provision of those services.
Chairman of the Consumer Protection Commission Senator the Hon. Jerome Gomez said at a press conference at his office, Monday, February 20, 2017 that a total of 598 persons responded to the survey, 402 short of the original goal of 1000, with 177 persons (30 per cent of respondents) completing the survey online.
“We are going to make this survey results available to the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Labour who has responsibility for the CPC, the Central Bank of The Bahamas and each of the commercial banks in The Bahamas,” the Chairman said.
“We would like to get a public discussion going to clarify if the banking service determining process is broken and needs to be repaired,” he added.
According to the survey, on the question whether respondents think there is consumer protection in The Bahamas for retail bank customers, only 92 persons responded yes while 498 or 83 per cent said no.
On the fundamental question of whether respondents thought that the service fees/charges associated with their account(s) were appropriate for the services received 434.81 (72 per cent) persons no; 148.19 (24.8 per cent) said yes.
With respect to the number of fees, 494 (82.6 per cent) felt there were too many fees, 4.7 per cent said there was a fair number of fees, while 2.2 per cent or 13 persons said there were too few fees.
Consumers and other interested persons can find all of the results of the survey on the Commission’s Website at http://www.cpcbahamas.org/
Lords Mance, Kerr, Sumption, Reed and Hughes, members of the Judicial Committee of the Her Majesty’s Privy Council participated in the fourth sitting of this court in The Bahamas. The opening session was addressed by Attorney General Alyson Maynard-Gibson who praised the competence of the Bahamas bench. The Privy Council is the final appellate jurisdiction for The Bahamas.
A Town Hall Meeting of Blue Hills residents was held at the Chapel on the Hill, February 20, 2017 to discuss plans for the new Post Office, and also access to Blue Hill Road.
In officially opening the regional drug enforcement conference at the Paul Farquharson Conference Center on Monday, National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage lamented the impact that murder and crime rates are having on global perceptions of countries in the region.
Regulators Monday announced a further month’s delay in launching mobile number portability, pushing the start date back to April 25, 2017, as they slammed both BTC and Aliv.
The NHI Secretariat launched the “NHI Benefits” campaign this week, which educates Bahamians on which services and treatments will be made available under the Primary Care phase of NHI Bahamas. The new campaign aims to increase public awareness of what specific benefits are covered in the Primary Care benefits package, at no cost at point of service to all legal residents of The Bahamas.
The Ministry of Financial Services and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) signed a memorandum of understanding for the rollout of a trade information services desk and electronic portal that both groups insist will assist the domestic and international trade of locally produced goods.
The government is leaning towards a Bahamian consortium as its choice to assume management of the New Providence landfill. This comes after Renew Bahamas pulled out of their management contract with the government after a fire at the landfill.
The Attorney General issued a statement on Tuesday evening announcing more public consultation on the Interception of Communications Bill. Mrs. Maynard-Gibson reasoned that “irresponsible” acts such as misinformation in the public domain about the bill poisoned the proverbial well and it was necessary to proceed with public education on the objectives of the bill; the Office of the Attorney General will lead the public education campaign. Debate on the bill, scheduled for Wednesday in the House, was discontinued.
On Tuesday Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder refused an application by Official Opposition members seeking to start judicial review proceedings over the Constituencies Commission’s report on constituency boundaries, ruling that the applicants had poor prospects for success and failed to provide sufficient evidence to show they had an arguable case.
Khaalis Rolle, Minister of State for Investments, said he was waiting for the Attorney General’s Office to complete its review of Liberty Global’s acquisition of BTC before “re-submitting” it for approval. Liberty Global acquired BTC nine months ago.
The University of the Bahamas (UB) has started four “key initiatives” expected to realign the concept of tertiary level education in The Bahamas over several years, according to some of the institution’s top academic, financial and management officials.
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the University of the Bahamas Ryan Antonio admitted that the institution does not have audited financials later than 2012, marking a clear violation of the institution’s legislation. Education Minister Fitzgerald expressed his discontent with the delay and said that he has been “somewhat impatient” with university officials on presenting the reports.
Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage said in the House of Assembly Wednesday that the Parliamentary Registration Department has discontinued using several revising officers in the voter registration effort due to consistent complaints from the public.
Far too many of our young men and boys are dying and far too many families are crying, declared Minister of Social Services and Community Development Melanie Griffin as she launched the Reclaiming Our Boys Project – an initiative which was called for under the National Strategic Plan to Address Gender-Based Violence.
Glenys Hanna-Martin yesterday said the manufacturing of vehicle license plates by inmates at the Bahamas Department of Corrections is likely to begin within the next two months.
The Securities Commission Wednesday said it had released the daily penalties that registrants and licensees will incur if they fail to meet their filing and financial reporting obligations.
Baha Mar and the Ministry of Tourism’s airlift development team used the 2017 Routes Americans conference to inform airlines about the multi-billion dollar resort’s opening plans.
World Casino News reported that in preparation for Baha Mar’s planned April 21st soft opening, CTFE has invested $20 million in new slot machines and plans for 200-800 hotel rooms to be available upon opening.
The second and final draft of the NDP is expected to be completed next month, Khaalis Rolle said Wednesday, adding that its objectives were “perfectly aligned” with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The governing Progressive Liberal Party ratified five more candidates on Friday at a special called National General Council meeting. Ratified were Glendon Rolle for Long Island, Dr. Charles Arthur Clarke for Saint Annes, Julian Russell for Central Grand Bahama, Clifford “Butch” Scavella for Central and South Eleuthera and Cheryl Bazard for the newly created constituency of Saint Barnabas. This brings the number of ratified candidates to 38. Prime Minister Christie told supporters that the party was deferring the ratification of a candidate for the Freetown constituency because the party wanted to “do it properly.” The front runners vying for Freetown are Senator Frank Smith and Attorney Wayne Munroe QC.
During his remarks at the ratification ceremony, Prime Minister Christie took a shot at his critics over Baha Mar, pointing out that despite the naysaying, Baha Mar is being completed; it is still on schedule to open in April; Bahamians are being hired and displaced Bahamian workers and unsecured contractors were paid. He also announced an April rollout of the benefits phase of National Health Insurance.
Moody’s forecast that the Government will incur another $300 million-plus fiscal deficit this year emphasizes why The Bahamas needs to create a “contingency” fund to cope with natural disasters, the Chamber of Commerce’s chairman said yesterday. This Moody’s recommendation is exactly what Prime Minister proposed in the wake of Matthew – a Hurricane Tax. If there is no hurricane, the fund builds until such time as there is a hurricane. The Prime Minister was roundly criticized for this proposal.
Some Potter’s Cay Dock vendors are still feeling the pinch while waiting for the Government to finally carry through with its plan to revitalize their stalls and improve the area directly under the bridge. Minister of Agriculture V. Alfred Gray said Thursday, that the new plan and budget for Potter’s Cay could go to Cabinet by Tuesday, 28th February and said work could begin in one month, if all goes well.
Damian Blackburn, CEO of Aliv reported that in just three months after investing $125 million, NewCo has grasped 25 percent of the available cellular market with its Aliv brand. Aliv also launched its business to business offering with a senior executive describing it as a “core piece of the puzzle” in the company’s development.