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unhealthy times;”>Prime Minister Christie meets with MSC principal

hospital times;”>Principal and founder of the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Gianluigi Aponte and his senior management team met with Prime Minister Perry Christie and the Hawksbill Creek Agreement Cabinet Negotiating Committee, February 11, at MSCs headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland for two days of deliberations on matters relating to the expiring concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and growth of MSC’s investments in The Bahamas. 

MSC is a global giant in shipping, with 80,000 employees worldwide and market capture of 70 percent of cargo transhipment in global trade. Their assets in The Bahamas already include shareholdings in the Container Port in Grand Bahama, development of a cruise port destination at Ocean Cay and in the Northern Bahamas.  

MSC is currently developing a partnership with educational and training institutions in The Bahamas for the production of maritime programmes and will undertake a national training and recruitment drive for mariners and ship crews as well as the expansion of cruise calls and other interests in The Bahamas.  

Deputy Prime Minister in Tokyo

Hon. Philip E. Davis, Q.C., M.P, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works & Urban Development, arrived in Japan on Wednesday, 10th February 2016 to discuss matters of mutual interest at the invitation of the Government of Japan. He was received by H.E. Mr. Ken Shimanouchi, Special Envoy for Japan-CARICOM Relations. 

While in Japan, Mr. Davis is scheduled to meet with Hon. Manabu Sakai, State Minister of Finance; Hon. Junzo Yamamoto, State Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism; and Hon. Yoji Muto, State Minister for Foreign Affairs. (State Minister is the title borne by all members of the Japanese Cabinet.)  He willalso meet with H.E. Mr. Akira Miwa, Ambassador for the Kansai Region; Mr. Hidetoshi Irigaki, Vice-President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Mr. Ryoji Kan Mayor of Imabari City. 

Mr. Davis is expected visit key infrastructural development sites, the Panasonic Centre, Kashiw-no-ha Smart City, various sites for renewable energy, the Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, Ltd, several areas of Kyoto, and the Imabari Shipbuilding Company.

The Deputy Prime Minister is accompanied by his wife Ann Marie, H.E. Dr. Elwood Donaldson, The Bahamas’ Non-Resident Ambassador to Japan, and his Personal Assistant, Dr. Anya Symonette. 

The delegation is expected to return to The Bahamas on Thursday, 18th February 2016. 

Review committee updates port incenses

The Hawksbill Creek Agreement Review Committee (HCARC) members held a press conference at the Ministry for Grand Bahama on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 to inform and educate licensees and the public on the work of the HCARC. 

Specifically, the HCARC engaged in open dialogue with the licensees on the work of the HCARC and on the recommendations of the HCARC made to the Government of Bahamas (GOB) on the governance structure of Freeport and the economic revitalization of Freeport and Grand Bahama Island. 

The frames of reference were articulated by Prime Minister Christie in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, 3rd February and included a 20 year extension to tax concessions on earnings, real property taxes and capital of port licensees. 

The extension of these tax concessions were recommended in exchange for a number of structural and functional changes to the way business is conducted in Freeport. Recommendations include a new majority owner for the GBPA; a seat on the board of directors by a government representative; the transfer of the regulatory regime from the GBPA to government agencies and an appeals process for licensees and an equity interest offer to the government in exchange for the value of the tax concessions.    

The press conference was led by HCARC Chairman Dr. Marcus Bethel, accompanied by Committee Members Maurice Moore, Kevin Seymour, Cassietta McIntosh, Dr. Doswell Coakley, Chevonia McBride, and Terrance Roberts. Committee Members not present were Sir Baltron Bethel, James Smith, and W. Albert Gray. 

Dr. Nottage touts “progressive” government agenda

In a rather rare but candid interview with the media after the adjournment of the House on Wednesday, Minister of National Security the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage talked policy and politics. 

He characterized the current Christie administration as arguably “the most progressive government The Bahamas has ever seen.” 

He was referring to a progressive and aggressive legislative agenda and policies that resulted in fiscal reform, gaming reform, welfare reform with the introduction of the Conditional Cash Transfer System or R.I.S.E.; Urban Renewal 2.0; the National Development Plan; energy reform with restructuring of BEC and a regulatory regime governing the exploration of petroleum products; healthcare reform with the introduction of National Health Insurance (NHI); the establishment of the University of The Bahamas; agriculture reform with the establishment of BAMSI and even recreational (public parks and beaches) reform with the establishment of an Authority to govern the manner in which public spaces are managed and administered. 

Inclusive in this progressive government agenda is the approach to the future development of the island of Grand Bahama. Policy initiatives include the establishment of a Ministry for Grand Bahama affairs; the extension of duty free concession to both western and eastern Grand Bahama beyond the port area; and a review of the tax concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement as regards corporate governance and ownership and economic development. 

Even in the challenging area of crime, the Citizen Security and Justice programme with its social engineering, job training and placement and parole/probation components are also viewed as progressive initiatives in addressing the social challenges confronting the country. 

Legislation and policies to bring about gender equality and equality for the disabled in addition to focused attention to the special needs of children and adults living with autism and other developmental challenges are seen as progressive initiatives.       

But this is not the first time Dr. Nottage has said this about the policies of the PLP government. At a PLP convention several years ago, Dr. Nottage credited the PLP government with the introduction of many of the most significant and transformative pieces of legislation and policies that the country has ever seen collectively creating the modern Bahamas. Those transformational changes took place under the leadership of Sir Lynden Pindling. This characterization of the PLP government as an agent of change drew a swift and sharp rebuke from the editorial board of the Tribune in the form of not one but three editorials. 

All in all, Dr. Nottage told the media that the current government “has a package of policies which are best for the (Bahamian) people” and that if people want what is best for them, they would support the PLP.   

New regulations for poultry import take effect

“Effective the 1st of March, all persons wishing to import poultry meats and products will be required to first obtain a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources to do so,” said the Hon. V. Alfred Gray, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources during a press conference at the Ministry, Wednesday, February 10. 

“In this regard, the public is advised that no poultry meats and products will be accepted at any port of entry in The Bahamas without evidence that a permit was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources,” the Minister said.

“For many years persons have been allowed to import poultry meats and products into The Bahamas without first obtaining the requisite permit to do so. I wish to advise that this practice will soon come to an end.” 

Customs Officers in New Providence and the Family Islands, along with the relevant inspectors of the Department of Agriculture, stationed at the various ports of entry have been asked to pay close attention to the strict enforcement of this policy. 

This policy will remain in place for a six months period after which time an assessment will be made to determine its effectiveness. 

Wholesalers of chicken are therefore strongly encouraged to support the local producers in Abaco and Grand Bahama by purchasing at least 30 per cent of their required stock from them and 70 per cent from abroad. 

Minister Gray characterized that concession is a good and fair deal for both the poultry importers and the producers. 

Passport Office issues notice on hand written Bahamas passports

“The public is advised that as of 19 February 2016 all handwritten Bahamas passports will be canceled and become null and void. All those in possession of those passports should immediately surrender them and obtain an electronic passport.  

“This public advisory is another reminder as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued public notices to this effect last year. Please be so advised.

“Notices to all foreign missions and border points will be sent to that effect.” 

URCA releases 2016 fee schedule

On Thursday, 11th February, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) published its Fee Schedule relating to the period from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016 (ECS 02/2016), revising the previous schedule which was published on January 29, 2015. 

The new schedule introduces the changes to Standard Spectrum Fees established in URCA’s Final Decision and Statement of Results in its “Review of Radio Frequency Spectrum Pricing” document (ECS01/2016), which was published on January 28, 2016.  Recommendations for changes to proposed Premium Spectrum Fees have been made to the government and are pending final decision. 

Further, URCA has deferred the implementation of the Spectrum Management Fee for 2016 and plans to revisit this at the end of 2016 for possible implementation in 2017. 

Finally, URCA increased the annual fee for large operating license holders (that is, greater than or equal to $0.5m annual relevant turnover), including individual and class operating licensees requiring registration, from 1.331% to 1.367% of annual relevant turnover in 2016 based on URCA’s draft Budget and Annual Plan 2016. 

CG Paulette Zonicle named new dean of consular corps college

Mrs. Paulette Zonicle, Bahamas Consul General to Washington, D.C., has been appointed the new Dean of the Consular Corps College in Washington, D.C., becoming the first Bahamian to hold that position.

Consul General Zonicle was informed of her appointment in a letter from Katherine H. Moss, Director General of the Consular Corps College, on Wednesday, February 10, 2016.

Mrs. Zonicle said she was extremely pleased and honoured to have been appointed to such a prestigious position, noting that as Dean of the Consular Corps College she will have the opportunity to promote The Bahamas while helping to shape the quality of the training provided to both career Consuls and Consuls General and the Honorary Consuls and Honorary Consuls General. 

The Dean also presides over the Board of Chancellors, which is comprised of the Dean, the Vice Dean, Director General, and 13 Chancellors from all across the United States, one of whom is Bahamas Honorary Consul to Chicago Michael Fountain.

Consul General Zonicle’s achievement enhances endeavor to improve and strengthen ties with the international community. 

In Passing…

The Canadian Correctional Consultants paid a courtesy call on the Minister for National Security the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage this week. The group was in Nassau for several weeks to assist in the launch the parole and probation component of the Citizen Security and Justice program at the Hilton Hotel. The group will work closely with the Department of Corrections in the design and execution of this program geared to reduce overcrowding at the Department of Corrections and to reduce the rate of recidivism.     

Vice-President of Student Affairs, College of The Bahamas (COB) Dr. Eslyn Jones made a presentation of an assortment of items for Hurricane Joaquin Relief to First Assistant Secretary of NEMA Chrystal R. Glinton on Thursday of this week. Some 149 members of the college family were adversely impacted by the powerful category four hurricanes that caused extensive damage in the central and south east Bahamas late last year. Also in attendance for the presentation were Director of Campus Life Darvin Toussaint and students. The presentation took place at COB’s Harry C. Moore Library. 

The Nassau Airport Development (NAD) Company recently launched their latest product called “PARK ‘N GO” where frequent flyer customers can purchase any of four packages valued at $250, $500, $750, and $1,000 depending on the frequency of travel. Customers have the convenience of a proxy card issued to them, allowing for access to and exit from the LPIA parking lot of their choice without the hassle of having to pay every time.