THE WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS BY ELCOTT COLEBY

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THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (24 – 28 APRIL 2017)

COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT G. COLEBY

NHI ENROLMENT PHASE LAUNCHED
The enrolment phase of NHI was launched on Monday, April 24, 2017, with NHI Bahamas Project Manager, Dr. Delon Brennen reporting some 350 persons already enrolled within hours of the launch.

Dr. Brennen said that Bahamians will soon be able to access primary care services at no cost at point of care – no matter age, gender, island of residency or if healthy or sick.

“Enrolment is easy and convenient. You can enrol at http://www.nhibahamas.gov.bs/ at home or on your smartphone.

It is easy. You can also download and print the enrolment form from our website and enrol in person at one of our NHI Bahamas enrolment locations.”

In order to enrol, persons will need the following:
1. NIB Smart Card
2. Be a Bahamian citizen or legal resident
3. Proof of residency in The Bahamas for the last six months (e.g. utility bill in your name, lease agreement, job letter, etc.

Dr. Brennen explained that some persons who enrol online may need to bring documentation in person to prove their residency information and if they plan to enrol at one of the enrolment locations.

“Remember that those with existing health insurance can keep their private coverage as a ‘top up’ to NHI Bahamas, but you must provide the name of your insurance company as well as your group ID and member number on the enrolment for our benefits coordination purposes.”

NHI Bahamas Project will establish an enrolment center at the Mall of Marathon on Monday to improve customer convenience. The project is also planning visits to various government agencies.

POLICE TO GET FIRST OVERTIME TRANCHE ON 29 MAY
The legal battle between the Police Staff Association (PSA) and the government has come to an end. Prime Minister Christie announced from a rally stage at the R. M. Bailey Park on Thursday that since police will receive their overtime; the first payment to be made on 29th May and the second to be made in the next budget cycle.

A little background on this policy decision. In the face of surging crime in 2013 and 2014, the government introduced twelve hour shifts for Police to fight this surge in crime and these officers were seeking overtime pay for hours worked.

Without going into detailed legal jargons and arguments, the PSA used the FORCE ORDERS of the RBPF as the foundation of their legal argument for overtime pay. While it is true that the Constitution exempts the military, or the uniformed branch as it is called, from overtime eligibility, the FORCE ORDERS obviously prevailed in court, so history was made and a new era has begun on the police force. For the first time in the 150 plus years of the police force, junior officers are now eligible for overtime pay.

CLICO POLICYHOLDERS RECEIVE MORE PAYMENTS
Gradually evaporating are the challenges and the air of uncertainty faced by thousands of CLICO policyholders in the face of its bankruptcy almost ten years ago. The government of the Bahamas continues to bring relief to thousands of policyholders starting with the payment of $12 million in claims in the first round of payments.

This second round of interim payments of outstanding claims to policyholders and other secured creditors of record as at 31st December 2016 will benefit over 1,500 policyholders with payment of up to $5,000 each. This represents some seventy percent of surrendered accounts.

Payments in New Providence commenced on Monday, April 24, 2017 and continued until Wednesday, April 26, 2017 at St. Joseph Parish Hall, Boyd Road, starting at 9am and ending at 5pm each day.

Policyholders and other secured creditors residing in Grand Bahama will received their payments on Friday, April 28, 2017 from the Clico office located at West Atlantic Drive, Adventurer’s Way, Freeport, Grand Bahama.

The subsequent rounds of payments are scheduled for July, and November 2017.

ITU celebrates third anniversary of Girls in ICT Day
At its third anniversary celebrations of the ITU’s Girls in ICT Day, Bahamas Attorney General Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson extolled the virtues of empowering young women to pursue opportunities in communications technology.

“Since its launch 3 years ago, this day, International Girls in ICT Day, has been marked as a “must do” on my calendar. International Telecommunication union (ITU) is celebrated in member states around the world to empower and encourage girls and young women to consider studies and careers in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).”

She said that the Bahamas Government celebrates the fact that the ITU has named The Bahamas the ITU’s first “smart Island city” and that “the ITU recognizes and celebrates, as we do, the crucial advances that have been made in the ICT sector.”

Outlining the positive impact communications technology has had on the improvement of government services, Mrs. Maynard Gibson had this to say.

“The Registrar General’s department has made significant advances. Companies can be incorporated online and certified copies of documents obtained at Administrators’ Offices on the Family Islands.

“As you will have seen births can now be registered in the Family Islands also. Many Family Islands are represented here today. It is important for all Bahamians to obtain government services in the Family Islands.

“So, now when you know that the mobile passport unit is coming to your Island, you can obtain necessary documents and your passport without leaving home – there is no need to come to Nassau.”

The observance of the ITU’s Gils in ICT Day took place on Thursday at the Melia Resort.

Bahamas Chair 61st Regular Session of the CICAD
The Bahamas ascended to the Chair of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) at its 61st Regular Session held in Washington DC this week.

The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Internal Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Mr. Luis E. Arreaga, said the Government of the United States of America looks forward to a “continued successful bilateral partnership” with the Government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, particularly in the war on the world drug problem.
The meetings were held in the General Services Building of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States in Washington DC.

Mr. Arreaga also congratulated The Bahamas on ascending to the Chair of CICAD and for chairing what he termed a successful 61st CICAD Regular Session.

He said the United States/Bahamas partnership has served both countries well over the years and that his country looks forward to continuing that partnership.

Eight new standards on imports announced
As the Bahamas government continues to bring the country into compliance with international standards and best practices, Financial Services Minister the Hon. Hope Strachan held a press conference on Monday at her Ministry to announce that eight new Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality criteria have been added to local products and services to safeguard consumers.

The standards include: the labeling of pre-packaged foods, and tobacco products; grading requirements for table eggs; specification for poultry and poultry products; poultry feed and feed ingredients; specification for cement; general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories and requirements for quality and competence in medical laboratories.

The first six standards are adopted from CARICOM Regional Standards (CRS) and the latter two are adopted from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

This brings the total number of national standards to eleven.

Minister Strachan said that given the importance of imports to the Bahamian economy, these voluntary regional and international standards would ensure that imported goods meet minimum quality requirements to protect Bahamian consumers.

Minister Strachan also stated that the standards could serve to boost the country’s economy as they promote quality standards in the production of goods thereby facilitating greater access of Bahamian products on global markets.

The historic Black Tuesday marks 52 years
Iconic Black Tuesday marked fifty-two years on Thursday of this week. It was on that historic day that the mace, the House Speaker’s Symbol of power and authority over House proceedings, was thrown out of the window of the House of Assembly by then Opposition Leader the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling in defiance of and opposition to what the PLP Parliamentary Caucus felt was rank gerrymandering by the governing United Bahamian Party.

Black Tuesday was a defining moment and remains a significant milestone in the march to Majority Rule and the modern political development of The Bahamas.

FITZGERALD RESPONDS TO THE TRIBUNE
“My mother has owned an insurance company for more than 30 years. As far back as 1992, 25 years ago, that company has had insurance contracts with the government and quasi-governmental agencies. Her company has had government contracts, therefore, for at least 15 years prior to my entry into public life as an appointed Senator in 2007.”

These were the words of Education Minister the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald in response to a 27th April Tribune headline story about his mother being awarded a government contract.

The Tribune did however report the following in the body of the story: “There is nothing to suggest that Mr. Fitzgerald or his family members have done anything wrong in relation to the NIB insurance contracts.”

“I wonder then about the relevance of the story,” questioned Fitzgerald rhetorically. “Why bring my mother, an established and astute businesswoman into the last-minute nastiness of a political campaign?”

The Minister vowed not to be deterred, to be strong, focused and to talk about the issues that matter to Bahamians.

“It has been my experience, as I talk to Bahamians every day that they are focused on what counts — they like the progress that has been made with BAMSI, and new scholarships, the increase in the minimum wage, the launching of NHI.”

In Passing…
Rev. Laish Boyd, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, has denounced the “gutter politics and venom” associated with the upcoming general election, charging that the practice could hinder upstanding persons seeking to offer themselves for public office in the future.

Days after joking that “God can’t stop him now” during a PLP mass rally in Exuma, Prime Minister Christie sought to explain the context in which the comment was made and questioned how anyone could dare to doubt his faith or suggest that he believed he was more mighty than God.

Prime Minister Christie Monday denied allegations printed in the local tabloid that his son was allegedly paid millions of dollars in realtor commission fees over the sale of the British Colonial Hilton Hotel to CCA.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette Monday shrugged off public disclosure over his immense wealth, instead speculating over the accuracy of disclosures filed by other veteran candidates last week.

The Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas on Monday commissioned a new 300ft transmission tower which will enable everyone to watch ZNS TV 13, the Parliamentary Channel and a third community announcements channel free of charge via “Free 2 Air”.

Prime Minister Christie Monday heralded the “historic” launch of the enrolment phase of NHI, expressing his delight in serving as the nation’s leader while “ushering in” one of the “most significant interventions in the history of this country”.

With enrolment for NHI launched Monday, participants are expected to be able to receive primary care services under the program by May 1, according to Permanent Secretary for the NHI Secretariat Peter Deveaux-Isaacs. He also said there was no public insurer in place.

The Bahama Journal reports that during an FNM rally in Exuma on April 22, Dr. Minnis said that an FNM government will focus on upgrading the health care system on that island.

A marble bust of Sir Lynden Pindling, the first Prime Minister of The Bahamas, has been unveiled in Washington, fulfilling a dream for one Bahamian sculptor.

Members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force have been celebrating another milestone within the multimillion dollar Sandy Bottom Project Agreement.

The Bahamas is under growing pressure to bow to international demands that it automatically exchange tax information on a ‘multilateral’ basis, with the European Union and its members refusing to accept this nation’s preferred approach.

The Bahamas’ chair of the price control commission, E. J. Bowe, on Monday said it had “made some inroads” into retail merchant non-compliance, acknowledging private sector improvement in Nassau and the Family Islands.

Senior Chamber of Commerce executives have urged the credit rating agencies to “stroke us with the same stick you beat us with”, and factor Baha Mar’s opening into their next assessments of The Bahamas’ sovereign creditworthiness.

The $200 million Children’s Bay project was named ‘Atabey’ by its developer. Built on private islands in the Exumas, Atabey is named after the Taino goddess, known as the “mother of the water”.

Around 30 current and potential Bahamian exporters are currently listed on the Bahamas’ Trade Information Service Portal that launched earlier this month, a private sector executive yesterday saying there was “definitely interest” from businesses.

The Bahamas Weekly reports that the gold medal earned by The Bahamas in the first IAAF world relays mixed team race has set a “high bar.”

According to The Bahamas Weekly, BAMSI is establishing greenhouse networks in the Southeastern Bahamas in response to climate change.

The Bahama Journal provided coverage on Prime Minister Perry Christie’s remarks during Tuesday’s NHI Enrolment Phase at the Enoch Beckford Memorial Auditorium. According to the article, Prime Minister Christie said NHI will be strengthened with a fund of about $30 million to cover catastrophic illnesses.

Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Bain, who reached retirement age last week, had her tenure extended for another year, The Tribune understands.

The Ministry of Finance has made the move towards greener transportation by leasing eight zero-emission, 100 percent electric Nissan LEAFS, the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, from Easy Car Sales, the only local provider of 100 percent electric cars.

Cargo inspections by the Customs Department are being done on a “risk analysis” basis, its Comptroller confirmed Tuesday, agreeing that inspection nearly 100 percent of imports – as suggested in a consultants’ report – is “not practical”.

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s chief executive said Tuesday it was seeking private sector feedback on the “most pressing issues” concerning the ‘ease of doing business’ in the Bahamas.

The Ministry of Tourism has spent the last three to four years courting new airlift to the Bahamas in preparation for Baha Mar’s opening.

The Bahamas Weekly reports that the opening of Baha Mar will bring in a new era of tourism in The Bahamas and expand airlift to the island nation. According to the article, Ministry of Tourism Senior Director of Airlift Development Tyrone Sawyer said his team has spent the last three to four years courting new airlift to The Bahamas in anticipation for the opening of the resort.

According to The Bahama Journal, Marathon and Golden Gates constituents have mixed views on their PLP candidates Jerome Fitzgerald and Shane Gibson after claims of conflict of interest involved Baha Mar.

The Bahama Journal is also reporting that Free National Movement Chairman Sidney Collie is calling on Prime Minister Perry Christie to fire Minister Fitzgerald and Attorney General Maynard-Gibson.

Bahamian music icon from the big band era Low Adams of the Lou Adams orchestra fame died this week. He was born on Fowler Street in Nassau in 1922, was educated by C.I. Gibson and trained by renowned trumpeter Bill Moore. May his soul rest in peace.

Incumbent Bain and Grants Town MP Dr. Bernard Nottage had to be seen by a doctor Thursday night for “dehydration” after falling ill at a PLP rally at R. M. Bailey Park on Thursday night.

Attorney General Maynard-Gibson remained tightlipped over a specific date for the unsealing of the Baha Mar sales agreement documents ordered sealed by the Supreme Court. The AG said “April is not over yet”.

The number of registered voters for the upcoming election is just over 181,000, according to Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall, who said his team was still hard at work weeding out the names of deceased people from the register before it is certified next week.

The first day of mobile number portability was described as “promising” by The Bahamas’ two providers, with each reporting strong customer interest. Aliv said that it can now target 100,000 more customers. The CEO of BTC, Leon Wiliams, highlighted the importance of establishing a credit bureau in The Bahamas amid the concern that post-paid customers with outstanding debt obligations will be not be required to pay off their balances in order to keep their numbers when migrating between mobile operators.

It was a special day for students and faculty at the University of the Bahamas Northern Bahamas Campus, which held a charter celebration and plaque unveiling ceremony Thursday at the institution in East Grand Bahama.

The Medical Association of the Bahamas (MAB) was Thursday seeking to clarify which doctors have signed on for the NHI program, its president saying “some type of misrepresentation is going on.”

At a press conference at the South Beach clinic on Thursday, 26th April 2017, Progressive Liberal Party St. Anne’s candidate Dr. Charles Clarke and PLP South Beach candidate Cleola Hamilton agree that Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis did nothing to advance NHI when he served as minister of health.

Some 600 Grand Bahama residents enrolled in NHI on April 26, according to Permanent Secretary Peter Deveaux-Isaacs. This brings the total nationally to 5,000.

At the Commissioning Ceremony for the Community Counselling & Assessment Centre (CCAC) on April 26, Herbert Brown, Managing Director of the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) said that investments dedicated to upgrading and expanding the CCAC emphasizes the Authority’s commitment to enhancing the quality of care and delivery of services to the Bahamian people.

Incumbent Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner Thursday confirmed that former Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian financially backed her second bid to become leader of the FNM. She made the revelation on More 95 FM’s ‘Real Talk Live’ with host Rudolph Tinker.

An Air Canada plane carrying 138 people from Kingston, Jamaica to Canada had to make an emergency landing at the Lynden Pindling International Airport Thursday after smoke was observed in the cockpit of the plane. No one was injured.

The first organic farm has joined the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute’s Associated Farmers Program, it was announced Thursday.

The opening of bids for the New Providence Landfill’s management and remediation contract took place on Friday, 28th April 2017 according a Tribune Business can reveal.

Representatives of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) this week met with Bahamian financial services executives to discuss automatic tax information exchange implementation.

An American businessman Thursday admitted to fraudulently obtaining $5,956 from Baha Mar resort on April 22.

The 2017 Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival kicked off on Friday in Grand Bahama. The New Providence leg will be held from 4 – 6 May 2017.

All roads lead to Exuma this weekend for the biggest national regatta in The Bahamas. Have fun Bahamians and guests but please be safe.