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elcott5th September 2014


The school year begins

Schools opened this week with a number of new initiatives for the public school system foreshadowed by the Education Minister, viagra canada sovaldi but the much anticipated Gaming Bill was clearly the biggest story of the week. Baha Mar called it a “sweeping revitalization of the country’s gaming regulations.”


In a nationally televised address on the eve of the opening of the public school year, Minister of Education, Science and Technology the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald highlighted some of the successes to date and announced some policy initiatives for his ministry going forward.


The minister boasted of a significant increase in the BJC math results this year where the category of A-D increased by 20% or 1,500 students over last year which represented the best reported exam performance in over 10 years. He went further: “we know that this is the first time that we have broken the BJC 70% pass rate barrier for A-D passes. In real terms this means that we had 2, case 200 more passes in the A-D grade than we did last year.”


With “accountability” as the watch word for the ministry and the Department of Education, Fitzgerald outlined four main areas of focus to improve student performance.

  1. Leadership: The introduction of a career path for educators aspiring to become school administrators such as Senior Mistresses and Masters; Vice Principals and Principals.
  2. Teacher training: Stressing that training must be ongoing and continuous, the Minister said that “the opening of the Mable Walker (professional development) Institute will address this need and is expected to undergo a multi-million dollar renovation this academic year.”
  3. Parent involvement: The Minister called for greater engagement by the ministry and the schools with parents with a view to encouraging them “to understand the importance of being involved in their children’s education.”
  4. Achievement Unit: This unit will use empirical data to assist the Ministry and administrators in crafting intervention strategies for schools and students. The former T.G. Glover Primary School will become the research and development school where close collaboration with the College of The Bahamas will drive and influence the intervention strategies.


Turning his attention to the fruits of the “innovations” and “interventions” made by the Ministry over the past two years, the Minister announced the opening of the former Our Lady’s Catholic School – an institution that will specialize in the education and development of children with special needs. “The school will be a centre for intervention, training, teaching and research for mild to more serious learning challenges. We expect it to be the envy of the region” said the Minister.


Further, the introduction of the National High School Diploma (NHSD) is expected to significantly improve the current graduation rate which stands at around 50% in addition to developing well rounded graduates who are more prepared for the workforce and life after the classroom. “This (diploma),” asserted the Minister, “will establish a benchmark for what is considered a minimum basic education that every child should obtain before leaving the school system and will include standards for civics, punctuality, job readiness and community service.”

The Gaming Bill is tabled

The Gaming Bill and a compendium of connected regulations that industry insiders called a “sweeping revitalization of the country’s gaming regulations” were tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, 3rd September 2014

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Leading off the debate at its first reading was Minister of Tourism the Hon. Obie who has responsibilities for gaming. He said that he was pleased to bring to Parliament “a new cutting edge comprehensive Gaming Bill, Gaming Regulations and Gaming House Regulations, which are designed to more effectively control and revolutionize Gaming in The Bahamas for the greater benefit of the economy and people of our country.”


Making the case for new bill, Wilchcombe told House members that the 1969 Lotteries and Gaming Act was amended “sporadically” over the last forty-five years with the last amendment taking place in 2004. He pointed out that the amendments over that time were piecemeal and ad hoc in nature and failed to keep pace with the technological evolution, operational demands and dynamism of the gaming industry. “The Regulations themselves have not kept pace with changing operational requirements or technological advances. Collectively, this results in a somewhat piecemeal dispensation which has been broadened on an ad hoc basis and is now in need of a comprehensive overhaul, based on a clear policy direction” said the Minister.



Continuing, Wilchcombe said an efficient regulatory regime, increased tourism, increased revenue and job growth are just some of the objectives of this new Gaming Bill. “The primary objectives are to create a streamlined, user-friendly, efficient licensing and regulatory regime, overseen by a financially sustainable regulatory authority, which is responsive to the following critical objectives:


·         Driving revenue, so as to increase the tax base and stimulate job growth;

·         Creating a sustainable competitive advantage for the gaming sector in The Bahamas, and

·         Increasing Tourism, using the gaming industry as a springboard.”



The complete compendium of bills and regulations tabled in Parliament are as follow: the Gaming Bill 2014; the Gaming Regulations, 2014; Gaming House Operators Regulations, 2014; Financial Transactions Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2014; Financial Transactions (Gaming Exemptions) Regulations 2014; and Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill, 2014.



Endorsing the bill was Sarkis Ismirlian, Baha Mar’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer who said that “these regulatory updates would provide The Bahamas and Baha Mar with a sustainable competitive advantage, which is vital for an economy driven by international tourism.”



Echoing this sentiment was Baha Mar’s Vice President Robert “Sandy” Sands with a ringing endorsement when he opined that the bill “levels the playing field of The Bahamas as a destination with three of the most profitable destinations in the world: Macau, Singapore and Nevada…The modernization of a bill that has not really been changed since 1969 is extremely significant.” Casino revenue topped $3 billion in Singapore in 2013.


I wish to close by extending my congratulations to two special and accomplished Bahamians. They are businessman Tom Basden and Dr. Raveenia Roberts-Hanna Ph.D. Mr. Basden’s $10 million boutique hotel on Rose Island called Camp Grantanna Special Projects Resort is scheduled for a November 2014 opening. He led the Prime Minister and a ministerial delegation on a tour of his resort property on Thursday of this week. Mr. Basden is also the owner of Basden Elevator Services Limited.


Dr. Roberts-Hanna is the new Executive Director of the Bahamas Agriculture Marine and Science Institute (BAMSI). Her announcement was made by Agriculture Minister, Hon. V. Alfred Gray at a press conference in the Majority Room of the House of Assembly on Wednesday of this week. Dr. Roberts-Hanna, a native of Andros, holds a doctorate degree in Biological Sciences and served as Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Life Sciences at the College of The Bahamas prior to her BAMSI appointment. Congratulations to these two great Bahamians.