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WEEK IN REVIEW BY ELCOTT COLEBY

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buy cialis health times;”>elcottTHIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (4 – 8 MAY 2015)
sick times;”> COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT COLEBY

Attorney General decides on the Mayaguana court case

The statement on the Mayaguana court case is published in its entirety:

“On Monday, 20 April, 2015 the Office of the Attorney-General received from the Commissioner of Police the case file containing the results of the comprehensive full, fair and impartial investigation and report into the allegations made against the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Honourable V. Alfred Gray. The allegations, which have been widely reported in the media, concern the administration of justice and arise from the Minister’s interaction with Mayaguana Administrator Zephaniah Newbold in respect of a matter heard by Mr. Newbold in his role as a magistrate for the Mayaguana District.

“The allegations against Mr. Gray were referred to the Royal Bahamas Police Force, at the request of the Office of the Attorney-General, to ensure the said comprehensive full, fair and impartial investigation of the matter. The Royal Bahamas Police Force has reported that they have conducted the requested investigation.

“Upon a careful and complete review of the file, and after consultation with senior prosecutors and other senior legal officials within the Office of the Attorney-General, it was determined that in the circumstances of the conflicting nature of the evidence it is not desirable to institute criminal proceedings against any person before any court in respect of any offence against the law of The Bahamas. While it may be tempting to draw conclusions from allegations reported (second hand) in the media, it is important at all times that evidence guides the decision making process. This is especially important to preserve fairness and the integrity of all trial proceedings.

“Finally, so as to reduce the opportunity for such allegations in the future and protect the integrity of the system, the Attorney-General has recommended to the Chief Justice that stipendiary and circuit magistrates increase their circuit work.”  

Christie: government must “diversify” revenue sources

Pointing to the changing role of the Department of Customs in advanced economies from revenue collection to increased border protection and control, Prime Minister of The Bahamas and Minister of Finance, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie said governments must diversify its revenue sources. He was delivering the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the World Customs Organization IT Conference and Exhibition at Our Lucaya in Freeport, Grand Bahama on Wednesday, May 6.

“In the case of economically advanced countries however, the role of Customs has shifted from being primarily responsible for revenue collection to one focused on border protection and control.”

The Prime Minister referenced international trade agreements such as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the ongoing CARICOM-Canada negotiations and the accession to the World Trade Organization as global trends driving this shift and with it, obligations to reduce our reliance on Customs duties and taxes.

The introduction of Value Added Tax on January 1, 2015 was a significant step in this direction. With this more complicated and sophisticated tax regime comes the need for more advanced information systems, therefore the government’s efforts in collecting revenue is very consistent with the theme of the conference, “Inclusiveness through Information Technology.”

“It is in our interest here in The Bahamas to pursue an inclusive approach to the introduction of the new IT systems. These new systems must bring benefits, not only to government, but also to commercial operators and to the general public who will use these services” said Prime Minister Christie.

“This, aggressive drive for automation of course includes the Bahamas Customs and Excise Department, which, even with the decline in direct Customs duties, will continue to be a very significant revenue collection agency” added the Prime Minister. Investment by the Government of The Bahamas in the Trade Sector Support Programme, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank clearly indicates “the level of importance we place on having a modernized and efficient Customs administration” said Mr. Christie.

Representatives from over 75 countries attended this conference and with 179 member administrations, the World Customs Organization is recognized internationally as a driving force of international trade facilitation.

The inaugural 2015 Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival is here

This Bahamian cultural festival kicked off at Fort Charlotte’s carnival’s site with the first ever Junkamania music contest. Junkamania is a fusion of Junkanoo with other forms of popular music such as jazz, classical, rhythm and blue. The winners were as follow:

1. Ambassa – $15,000 cash prize
2. Fiesta Fun Group – $10,000 cash prize
3. Jane Doh and the Royals – $7,500 cash prize

The festivities began at around noon on Friday with Rake-and-Scrape at the Carnival Village. Tonight at 8pm the Music Masters top ten finalists will compete for the $20,000 cash prize at a super concert on Clifford Park. The headliners will be Bahamian grammy award winner Baha Men and Carnival regular Machel Montano along with one of the top music acts from Haiti. This concert will end with a midnight rush on Clifford Park starting at midnight.

All Bahamians are encouraged to “Jump in Line” on Saturday around 11am as the participatory “Road Fever” street festival will be held. It is the people’s Junkanoo Carnival rush out. Road Fever will start at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.

Security will be strictly enforced as the police will be prevalent. Parking will be available in the parking lot of the Bank of The Bahamas. Parking is also available on Chippingham Road and Perpall Tract.

Festival Commission officials confirm that some 500 musicians will be performing during this carnival festival. Additionally, there are several hundred Junkanoo practitioners involved in this event. International media from Europe, Canada and the United States are on the ground to cover this event, literally placing The Bahamas on the international stage.

Finally, those who are not participating in Carnival are advised to remain out of the area as roads will be closed to vehicular traffic at certain hours during the festival.  

Consultations on Grand Bahama’s economic future begin

Public consultations on the future of specific provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and the economic future of Grand Bahama began in Freeport on Monday. The venue was the Foster B. Pestaina Center at Pro Cathedral of Christ the King.

Exemptions in business license fees and real property taxes to port licensees in addition to a strategic plan to promote and facilitate the sustained economic growth of Grand Bahama will dominate these discussions.

In announcing his committee last year, Prime Minister Christie noted that notwithstanding broad incentives and tax concessions under the Hawksbill Creek legislation, the Grand Bahama economy “has remained stagnant and with limited exceptions, thus adversely impacting economic growth in the private sector and government revenues.” It was therefore necessary to implement “aggressive policy interventions to jumpstart a new round of development, and enhance returns on existing investments” said Mr. Christie.

The main objectives of the committee are:

Develop a long term economic development plan for the shipping, industrial, logistics, tourism, real estate and other commercial sectors.

Create a long-term investment promotion plan to attract world class investors.

Align the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s quasi-regulatory authority with the policies of the government.

Establish a real property tax and business license fee regime that would not impede economic growth.

The six member committee is headed by Dr. Marcus Bethel. Other members include Sir Baltron Bethel, James Smith, Kevin Seymour, Maurice Moore, and Cassietta McIntosh. W. Albert Gray, Dr. Doswell Coakley, Chevonia McBride and Terrance Roberts all make up the Secretariat.

Prime Minister Christie discusses Baha Mar delay from Las Vegas

During his recent trip to Las Vegas at the invitation of Resorts World Chairman, Tan Sri Lim for the groundbreaking of a $4 billion hotel and casino property, Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie spoke candidly to Clint Watson of ZNS Network on Tuesday afternoon about his concerns surrounding the delayed opening of the $3.5 billion Baha Mar Resort located in Nassau.

“Well we are very concerned that it hasn’t opened yet” said Mr. Christie. “I had meetings yesterday with Mr. Izmirlian, Sarkis Izmerlian (Chairman and CEO) and with China Construction and the question was, ‘when are you going to open?’ Mr. Izmirlian has certain concerns that took him to China to meet with the Import Export Bank and to meet with the leadership of China Construction. The government of The Bahamas is deeply concerned about the continuing delays and we are working I think assiduously to try to bring some resolution to the challenges that exist out there.”

Turning his attention to the issue of job security for the more than 2,000 Bahamians currently employed at Baha Mar, the Prime Minister had this to say:

“…because we know that 2,000 young Bahamians were on the payroll and we know the first casualty will be them with further delays and so we told China Construction that we will resume our meetings on Wednesday (6th May 2015) when we get back (to Nassau) and I indicated to Mr. Izmirlian that I will keep him informed as to the progress I’m making with China construction and that is with respect to getting some kind of final date as to when it will be completed, but there are major concerns with respect to the continued problems out there.”

Mitchell: “New approaches are required for development financing”

“New approaches are required for development financing” for SIDS said Bahamas Foreign Minister Hon. Mitchell as he addressed a high level thematic debate on cooperation between the United Nations, region and sub-regional organizations on which CARICOM serves. He made this clarion call on behalf of CARICOM as he represented its Chair, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry G. Christie at the UN on Monday, 4th May 2015.

“As it now stands, CARICOM States are particularly affected by graduation into Middle Income Status, primarily on the basis of GDP-per-capita. This designation denies access to grant and concessionary financing, at a time when the effects of global financial and economic crisis still resonates in the region and members are strapped with particularly high debt burdens” said Mitchell.

Pointing out that adequate financing is critical to the region’s sustainable development, Mitchell expressed optimism that the July 2015 third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa will deliver “actionable commitments and a robust framework on development financing and means of implementation.

“While we are prepared to do our part” said Mitchell, “the United Nations system itself must lend its weight to securing reliable, accessible and adequate financing for development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as those of CARICOM.”

From New York Mitchell flew to Trinidad and Tobago where he again represented Prime Minister Christie in a forum at the University of the West Indies in Saint Augustine. The forum discussion themes included the implementation deficit, the development of agriculture, the cooperation in tourism, climate change, the knowledge economy, the development of sports and culture and more generally human development.

Prime Minister Christie to meet with President Hollande

Bahamas Prime Minister in his capacity as CARICOM Chair leaves for Martinique on Saturday for high level discussions with French President Francois Hollande ahead of the Conference of Parties scheduled for Paris during November and December of this year.

Accompanying the Prime Minister will be Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell.

During his Martinique meeting with President Hollande, Prime Minister Christie is expected to advance the policy position of CARICOM on climate change as the Community seeks a consensus, actionable commitments and an implementation plan on this critical global issue.

Known as “Paris 2015,” France will play host to the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11) to be held from November 30th to December 11th. COP21 will seek a new international agreement on the climate with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. France and the European Union will play a key role in securing a consensus by the United Nations in these critical climate negotiations.

Prime Minister Christie told the media that he is hopeful of returning to Nassau on Saturday to participate in the conclusion of the inaugural 2015 Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival.

Mitchell meanwhile joins local reparation committee chair Philip Smith in Guadeloupe on Sunday for the unveiling of a memorial to the transatlantic slave trade and to participate in further discussions on reparations and other matters in connection with this historic event.

The Foreign Minister is due back in Nassau on Monday.

Renewable Self Generation Program announced

The government announced the commencement of the Renewable Self Generation (RESG) Program this week. Registration for the program will begin on Monday, 11th Monday 2015.

The project is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of the Environment and Housing, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and The Ministry of Works and Urban Development.

“The RESG program will permit applicants operating wind and/or solar systems to tie into the grid thereby assisting in the reduction of their electricity costs and lessening the demand for electricity” said Minister Dorsett.

Pursuant to the Electricity Act, registration is mandatory even for those persons or commercial entities currently generating energy through alternative energy sources who do not wish to connect to the grid as registration will assist the Government in creating an inventory of alternative energy generating systems throughout the country.

Registration forms will be available online for downloading at www.bahamaselectricity.com. All Family Island residents can also collect forms at the local BEC offices as well at the various Island Administrators’ offices. In New Providence forms can be collected at BEC headquarters on Tucker Road or at the Technical Planning Building also on Tucker Road. For more information, please contact 302-1415 or 302-1414.

The tie in program is scheduled to begin this September 2015.

Government releases environmental protection legislation

Draft legislation for the establishment of the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection was released this week for public commentary. This bill proposes to implement measures that will increase environmental protection and oversight throughout our country.

The draft proposes that the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection would have supervision over a number of environmental issues inclusive of the following:

  •     Environmental Protection Standards
  •     Regulations for the Discharge of Waste at Sea
  •     Environmental Emergency Programme
  •     Environmental Information, Research, Education and Training

The new Department of Environmental Planning and Protection will also consolidate all environmental protection and planning measures in one place to ensure timely response to environment and natural resource issues and emergencies.

NEMA assesses flood damage in Eleuthera and Abaco

On Tuesday of this week torrential rain pounded New Providence, the Exuma Cays, Eleuthera, Berry Islands and Abaco resulting in flooding in Harbour Island, Eleuthera and Abaco. There were reports of structural damages to homes; farms were impacted and some thoroughfares were not passable.

An assessment team comprising a number of government agencies was dispatched to the affected areas on Wednesday. The agencies included the National Emergency Management Agency; the Department of Social Services; the Ministry of Works and Urban Development; the Ministry of the Environment and Housing; the Department of Local Government and other agencies. The assessment team was assisted by the United States Coast Guard that provided the aerial assessment via helicopter.

The North Eleuthera airport was closed until further notice.

State Minister Gomez in Ecuador

State Minister for Legal Affairs Hon. Damian Gomez was in Ecuador this week to attend a preparatory meeting for the 2020 plan of action of the Economic Community of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The action plan is essentially a proposal setting out the goals of the hemisphere such as poverty eradication and social inequality. Member states are required to have their domestic planning units submit data to ECLAC together with comments on the 2020 agenda. Also on the agenda was a discussion on ECLAC’s relationship with China and the Europe Union (EU).

A meeting is also scheduled for Brussels, Belgium in June where CARICOM Chair Prime Minister Christie will lead this discussion on ECLAC’s relationship with the EU. Leading CARICOM at this Brussels meeting is expected to be Prime Minister Christie’s final official duty as Chairman of CARICOM.

The incoming Chair of CARICOM is Hon. Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados.

Health investigations underway in Marathon

Advising that health investigations began in Marathon as early as Monday (4th May 2015) and was only interrupted by inclement weather on Tuesday, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Glen Beneby told the public that the government will “leave no stone unturned” in assisting residents of Marathon impacted by the fuel spill at a Rubis service station on Robinson Road.

“The Ministry of Health and the Department of Health take this as a very serious responsibility…we maintain the confidentiality, the compassion and the sensitivity necessary for the residents in Marathon” said the CMO as he addressed the media at the Ministry of Health headquarters on Thursday morning pointing out that officers from the Ministry of Health, the Department of Environmental Health Services and the Water and Sewerage Corporation canvassed the community of Marathon as a first step in the health screening protocol. Outlining the additional steps to be taken in this screening protocol was Charlene Bain, community clinics administrator within the Ministry of Health.

“We will begin examination and laboratory testing of persons impacted whether through findings from the epidemiological data or for persons who have present and past medical histories which might be related to the issues.

“Thirdly, plans are underway to open our clinics on the weekend to facilitate the needs of the residents impacted and the department will announce the clinics or clinic.”

The CMO reiterated a previous call for all residents in the affected areas who use private wells as their water source, to deactivate them and transfer their water supply to the public water supply system.

Speaking specifically about the testing of the public water supply in the area was Hydrologist Michael Swann from the Water and Sewerage Corporation who confirmed that his department has tested the public water in the Marathon community and confirmed the potability of the public water supply.

Thirteen homes have been canvassed thus far and Dr. Beneby indicated that the compilation and analysis of health related data from residents will be available by the end of June.

In Passing…

Ministry of Health signed a contract valued at more than $300,000 with a Texas-based health planner for the Princess Margaret Hospital this week in preparation for the introduction of National Health Insurance scheduled for roll out in January 2016.

In the wake of an early morning fire on Thursday that gutted the former Chico Restaurant on Blue Hill Road and damaged the second floor of the adjacent Grants Town Post Office, the Acting Postmaster General advised the public that the post office will be closed until further notice. Patrons with Post Office Boxes at this site may continue to clear their boxes as of Monday, May 11, 2015.The Postmaster General apologized for the inconvenience caused by the disruption in service, and will keep the public informed.

Water spouts that strengthened into tornadoes were observed off the island of Grand Bahama on Friday Morning. Residents were cautioned to remain indoors and out of harm’s way and when traversing the streets, to take extreme caution and care.

With an investment of some $3 million, the Saint Bede’s Catholic Primary school was transformed into the country’s most modern pre-school facility and was officially renamed the Sister Annie Thompson Pre School on Thursday of this week. The honouree, a nun and educator, served as St. Bede’s Principal from 1970 to 1974.

– End

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