September 18, 2020

Elcott Coleby reviews: This week in The Bahamas (January 26-30)

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b53ed39ef42dbe96dfc09c226fe7d69eec52bcc3_200x200_Q75From Bahama islands info

The Caribbean Energy Security Summit, the CELAC Summit, Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, and the Bahamas Business Outlook 2015 capped off a busy week for Prime Minister Christie.

Christie at Washington energy summit

Prime Minister Christie led a ministerial delegation to Washington DC on Sunday to attend the inaugural Caribbean Energy Security Summit. Foreign Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell and the Environment Minister Hon. Kenred Dorsett accompanied him.

The summit’s host was US vice president Joseph Biden.

According to the US State Department, this Caribbean Energy Security Summit (CESS) is a key component of the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative (CESI) that the US Vice President announced in June 2014. It brings together government, finance, and private sector leaders from the United States, the Caribbean, and representatives of the international community to promote a cleaner and more sustainable energy future in the Caribbean through improved energy governance, energy diversification, greater access to finance, and donor coordination.

The Prime Minister represented the positions and views of CARICOM which included the following:

That the conditions associated with the funding do not preclude any member country from being able to access it, especially the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a qualifier. Member states like The Bahamas want that condition removed.
That the actual mechanism by which funding is granting is centered in the CARICOM region to ensure a greater level of accountability.
The availability of and access to natural gas from the United States and a clearer explanation from the relevant US authorities on the licensing and approval processes for the export of this vitally important energy source into CARICOM countries.

In the end, US Vice President Joseph Biden agreed that the GDP qualifier should be removed and expressed confidence with this new regional partnership around energy security and the fight against global warning. As for Prime Minister Christie and The Bahamas, well Natural Gas as a viable alternative source of energy is back on the table in a big way.

Leslie Miller was happy with the decision and says that he stands vindicated on this issue.

Christie at 3rd Summit of CELAC

On Tuesday of this week, Prime Minister Christie and his delegation minus the Environment Minister, traveled to San Jose Costa Rica to participate in the 3rd summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Again Prime Minister Christie represented both CARICOM and The Bahamas where he delivered the region’s statement. The themes and objectives were consistent and familiar – those surrounding human development, regional integration, illegal migration, fighting poverty and corruption – all within the context of the United Nations sanctioned post 2015 Development Agenda.

“I wish to identify with the themes and aims and objectives of this conference and to address those objectives in the context of the important policy issues of the Caricom region.

“In particular I wish to speak to the issue of human development, migration and the reduction of poverty. I speak to those issues in the further context of the Post-2015 Development Agenda; Financing for Development; transparency and the need to combat corruption; and the need to deepen regional integration” said the Prime Minister.

Further, he updated delegates on the Washington, DC meetings, where he discussed energy security matters and the potential transformative impact on the Caribbean sub-region with the United States.

Turning his attention to the upcoming CARICOM intersessional meetings of government heads scheduled for The Bahamas in February, Prime Minister Christie advised that the themes and objectives at the Nassau meetings will be similar to the ones discussed by his predecessors at the CELAC Summit.

“Promoting opportunities for investment in energy, including renewable energy, oil and gas exploration and production, forestry, mining in areas such as gold, diamonds and bauxite, infrastructure development, tourism, airline services, financial services, agriculture and fisheries” were just some of the initiatives pronounced by Mr. Christie.

The Prime Minister returned to Nassau on Wednesday, 28th January.

The public debate on Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival

There has been commentary on the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival ever since its announcement in 2013, but in the past week the debate was renewed when Christian Council President Rev. Ranford Patterson said that Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival could contribute to sexual immorality including “promiscuity, rape and incest.”

The Minister of Tourism Hon. Obie Wilchcombe responded by saying that he heard the church’s concern, will take the same under advisement and assured the religious community that the government will ensure that Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival will be “decent” in its presentation.

The Hon. Leslie Miller, the member for Tall Pines told Guardian Radio that Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival was imported garbage. He later withdrew those remarks after listening to a presentation on the festival that he said provided him with a better understanding of the event. He apologized for his comments, conceding that he did not have a full enough understanding of the concept of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival and may have spoken out of turn.

Prime Minister Christie weighed in on the public debate during his address at the 2015 Bahamas Business Outlook Forum at the Melia Resort on Thursday, 29th January 2015. He told delegates that he welcomed Mr. Millers “grave reservations” and “intrusiveness.” “I don’t frown on that” said the Prime Minister and pointed out that on Bay Street (during the junkanoo parades), the participants are in fact wearing carnival costumes.

Outlining the policy intent of the festival, Mr. Christie said that the Easter festival will boost the economy, create employment and provide a platform that will turn Bahamians into “superstars.”

Chairman of the Commission Paul Major confirmed that $1.5 million of the $9.0 million have been expended to date with about 214 small and medium sized business enterprises with an estimated positive GDP impact of some $7 million.

Prime Minister Christie at 2015 Bahamas Outlook

Prime Minister Christie covered a number of issues during his address at the 2015 Bahamas Business Outlook Forum at the Melia Resort on Thursday morning.

On his government’s P3 policy, Mr. Christie said that “the world is not waiting on The Bahamas” and it is vitally important that The Bahamas take advantage of the opportunities presented by public private sector partnerships (PPPs) in national development. The BEC strategic partnership and the infrastructural development in Bimini by World Resorts Bimini are just two examples of this P3 policy.

Using Value Added Tax (VAT) as a successful example the government’s P3 policy, the Prime Minister credited the relatively smooth implementation of VAT to the cooperation between the public and private sectors during this process. He used this cooperation on VAT as an example of the strengthened roles of such partnerships in building the Bahamian economy. The Prime Minister believed that the implementation of VAT proceeded “as smoothly as could be expected” as a result of this partnership and cooperation.

Mr. Christie said that through VAT, “many public-private sector partnership initiatives in energy, infrastructure and tourism development will be able to make important strides without over-depletion of the public purse” said the Prime Minister.

Announcing that the Bahamas government has entered a new era of planning and operational efficiency, the Prime Minister touted the National Development Plan (NDP) as the right institutional tool to achieve this.

“The government has entered a new age as it relates to planning. While we have been extremely successful as a nation, I’m aware that there have been instances where a better result would have been attained had there been wiser strategic planning for development and investment” said Mr. Christie.

Energy and food security remains top priorities of the government said Christie. This is in addition to developing access to “first world education,” and universal access to affordable and quality health care.

The increase in airlift to family islands such Grand Bahama, Exuma, Long Island and San Salvador are welcomed, but New Providence remained sluggish at just a 2% increase as at October 2014 lamented Mr. Christie. The opening of Baha Mar in March of this year, the Nassau Resort, Quality Inn, Mahogeny and a new hotel adjacent to the Hilton with a spa, marina village and a boardwalk will together contribute to an increase in airlift into Nassau.

Regarding aviation, the upgrade of the nation’s 28 airports will now cost around $200 million, up from the original estimate of $150 million revealed the Prime Minster. It is hoped that this huge investment in family island aviation infrastructure, new airlift growth opportunities from Latin America, Europe and Asia will be realized. The MOU between the civil aviation authorities of The Bahamas and China will facilitate and drive this new growth in the family islands noted the Prime Minister.

Mitchell foreshows more immigration measures…AGAIN

As an adjunct to the immigration administrative measures that were implemented on the 1st November 2014, Immigration Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell announced some more measures to strengthen our immigration laws and hopefully solve some of the national challenges that are exacerbated by illegal immigration.

Since the existing immigration laws empower the Minister (meaning the cabinet) to attach whatever conditions to the work permit in the public interest, the government intends for employers applying for work permits to provide both health insurance and adequate housing as conditions for permit approval. Ostensibly these administrative measures will lighten the financial burden on the public health system and address the vexing and unsanitary problem of shanty towns.

“In a few months” the Minister told delegates at the 2015 Bahamas Business Outlook Forum, “we hope to attach the conditions to the work permits which will say that if you get a work permit you also have to have health insurance for the worker and adequate housing.

“Applicants who cannot demonstrate the ability to meet this condition will be denied. These proposals are currently in the public domain for consultation and the government hopes to implement these new measures by April of this year” said Mr. Mitchell.

As for foreign nationals attending schools in The Bahamas, they will be required to have a student permit, similar to a student visa that many countries require as approval for students to live and study in their country. The government expects to have this new measure in place by the fall term.

“All schools will be asked to be sure that any foreign national in a Bahamian school has a student permit to be in The Bahamas as of the opening of the fall term” he said.

AG critical of judiciary as new legal year begins

The unavailability of a jury panel prevented six criminal courts from sitting for the past two weeks “wasted judicial time” and “adversely impacted the administration of justice” charged Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Senator the Hon. Allyson Maynard Gibson as the new legal year began and marked by a special sitting of the court of appeal.

She pointed out that the executive and legislative branches of government have done their part in this regard.

“We would just urge that all responsible recognize that the executive has already passed amendments to the Juries Act, which will enable the effective use of technology to choose the panel, the list and to notify persons who are on the list that they are potential jurors” said the Attorney General.

In addition to six courts having to adjourn sittings over the last two week, only two courts heard cases this week. This is against the back drop of eight additional courts being readied for full operation by March 2015.

Regarding the special of the Appeal Court, the Attorney General reported on the 2014 legal year and outlined the initiatives for 2015; the President of the Appeal Court, Justice Anita Allen harshly criticized lawyers for shoddy case preparation and presentation and Bar Association president, Elsworth Johnson called for the suspension of the latest appointments of Queen’s Counsel (QC’s).

In passing…

The Grand Bahama Agribusiness Expo 2015 was officially launched during a press conference, Wednesday, by Ms. Brenda Colebrooke, administrator for West Grand Bahama, at the Ministry for Local Government. The Expo is scheduled for March 27th and 28th at the Goombay Park site, behind the International Bazaar.

A total of three persons were charged before the courts in connection with a sex tape that made the rounds on social media last week. They were Constable Edmund Lewis Jr. for producing child pornography, Christopher Moss for possession and Deondra Demeritte for possession and dissemination of child pornography. Both Lewis and Demeritte were granted bail in the amount of $5,000 on Friday, 30th January.

World Customs Day was celebrated this week with the Bahamas Customs Department hosting a number of activities including a service of thanksgiving and a Long Service Awards Ceremony. The latter took place on Tuesday evening, January 27, at Government House, hosted by the Governor General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling.

The Ministry of Finance announced the establishment of the VAT Appeals Tribunal this week. This announcement comes one week before the first reports are due from VAT registrants. The commission is chaired by a retired Supreme Court judge and a career customs officer also sits on the tribunal. From initial observations and from the more than 5,000 businesses that have registered to date, Financial Secretary John Rolle told the media that he was confident that the government will collect its targeted $300 million in additional revenue from VAT.

The duty free concessions offered to businesses in East and West Grand Bahama seven months ago are beginning to pay dividends to local entrepreneurs and the Grand Bahama economy. The first business to receive this concession was Boardwalk Seafood in West End. Congratulations to the proprietor, Kirk Neely.

After delivering his immigration message to the delegates at the 2015 Bahamas Business Outlook Forum Thursday, Hon. Fred Mitchell was off to the State University of New York to attend the graduation ceremonies of the Bahamas’ latest Mariners at the school of Maritime studies. From New York the Minister travels to Barbados to speak to Bahamian students there on Tuesday as part of their annual BAHAMAS WEEK celebrations. Mitchell returns to Nassau on Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis addressed the 75th anniversary of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) at their mid-winter meetings held in Nassau this week. The Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Philip Brave Davis reiterated the common cultural bonds and historical struggles of African Americans and Bahamians in the fight for social justice. Tourism Minister Hon. Obie Wilchombe committed to expanding tourism marketing efforts in many of the markets of the more than 200 media outlets represented by the NNPA and spread all across the United States.

Prime Minister Perry G. Christie participated in the launch of Atlantis Blue Foundation at the Royal Towers of Atlantis on Friday (30th Jan). The Nature Conservancy was also a partner in this venture. Also, the Prime Minister brought brief remarks at the JCN Person of the Year ceremony; Leon Wiliams the CEO of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) was last year’s recipient. This event was held at the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort. Additionally at this event, Jones Communications International launched a commemorative booklet celebrating 50 years of Bahamas tourism. The Tourism Minister was on hand to celebrate this achievement. This book launch comes on the heel of the Tourism Week celebrations by the Ministry of Tourism.

The Ministry of Health launched its Pepfar campaign on Friday, 30th January. The campaign includes public lectures, information pamphlets, newsletters and Public Service Announcements (PSA).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs published the country’s visa regulations in the extraordinary gazette S.I. #5 of 2015 on Wednesday, the 28th January 2015 and the revised scheduled of fees as outlined in the fifth schedule of the regulations. The fee schedule covered single and multi entry visas in addition to the visas with biometric data features and those without.

It is now final. Justice Hartman Longley will be our next Chief Justice. This according to the Cabinet of The Bahamas in a statement released Friday afternoon. He will be sworn in at Government House on Monday, 2nd February 2015.

For more on this story go to: http://www.bahamaislandsinfo.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=20208:elcott-coleby-reviews-this-week-in-the-bahamas-january-26-30&catid=35:Press%20releases%20of%20interest&Itemid=148

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