Sunday, July 31, 2016
This Week in The Bahamas 25 – 29 July 2016
Commentary by Ecott Coleby
Government: provisional liquidation “only sensible option” for Baha Mar
“The Government's decision to move for provisional liquidation of the Baha Mar companies in The Bahamas was the only sensible option available and was manifestly in the interest of reducing harm to the Bahamian economy and Baha Mar's Bahamian employees and other creditors. Any suggestion to the contrary demonstrates a lack of awareness of the facts surrounding Baha Mar’s insolvency.”
This was the response of the government of The Bahamas to media reports attributed to former Prime Minster Ingraham that the Christie administration was “dead wrong” in pursuing the provisional liquidation route on the stalled Baha Mar project and should have allowed the chapter 11 proceedings to play out in a Delaware court.
The suggestion that the Bahamas government should have put up $100 million of taxpayers’ money to supplement the funding of Baha Mar ignores one fundamental fact said the government: “The developer himself, in the US bankruptcy proceedings, made clear he had no money to complete the project and that he had every intention of downsizing.”
“Continuation of the Baha Mar companies’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases in Delaware would have prolonged the developer’s control of the Baha Mar project (at the cost of tens of millions of dollars of professional fees); but it could not possibly have changed the outcome for Baha Mar, except for the worse” argued the government. “By commencing winding-up proceedings and moving for appointment of provisional liquidators, the Government preserved the possibility of a negotiated resolution, while assuring that the fate of the Baha Mar resort and the claims of its creditors would be determined in The Bahamas - not in a bankruptcy court in Delaware. This measure, among other things, saved Bahamian unsecured creditors the cost of pursuing their claims in the US” said the government in a statement issued Wednesday evening.
Reaction to latest labour report
On Friday, 22nd July officials from the Department of Statistics released the bi-annual Labour Force and Household Survey. The news of a 2.1% decline in the unemployment rate drew mixed reactions across the public and private sectors.
Supporting tables revealed that over 27,000 jobs were added to the economy over the last four years.
Minister of Labour, National Insurance and the Public Service was cautiously optimistic, saying that now “is not time to start celebrating the 2.1 percentage drop in The Bahamas’ unemployment rate to 12.7 percent.” Mr. Gibson did predict a further decline when the next survey is conducted in November of this year.
Finance State Minister the Hon. Michael Halkitis said the government was “encouraged” by the decline in the unemployment rate from 14.8 percent to 12.7 percent nationally, but recognized that much more needs to be done to create jobs in the country.
The Bahamas “must do everything it can” to encourage new entrepreneurs and get existing businesses to expand, the Chamber’s chief executive Edison Sumner argued, as this was “the only way” to slash unemployment.
Hanna-Martin: “full modernization” of aviation sector underway
The Ministry of Transport and Aviation delivered a detailed response to a media story last week about an Inter-American Development (IDB) report on the state of airports throughout The Bahamas. The report talked about “a sense of chaos” at several Family Island airports, which lack the necessary management policies and structures to deal with environmental and social concerns. Additionally, the report found that several airports suffered from “general disorder and lack of cleanliness”, with hazardous and flammable materials not properly stored or disposed of. The report was delivered to the government on Thursday 21st July 2016.
The Ministry of Transport and Aviation responded on Monday, providing an update on the work underway for the full modernization of the aviation sector in The Bahamas.
The update included the acquisition of “new radar (system) which is expected to go live over the next few weeks and the construction of an airport approach Building with state of the art simulators which will radically reduce training times for air traffic controllers. The Ministry has recruited 10 new air traffic control trainees and is now recruiting an additional 10 trainees.”
Works for the redevelopment of the Exuma International airport are underway where design works are being completed for a new and expanded terminal and runway works and a new fire station. It is anticipated that infrastructural works will commence by the end of the year.
Design plans for North Eleuthera airport are also being completed. Additionally technical works are underway for the selection of new airport sites for South Eleuthera and Long Island.
The Ministry of Works is finalizing design plans for terminals and runway works for Moores Island , Great Harbour Cay and Mayaguana.
Legislation has now been enacted for the modernization of aviation agencies including the creation of a Family Island Division of the Airport Authority which is to be shortly created and will bring for the first time a singular and undiluted focus of the redevelopment and operational needs of all family island airports said the statement.
The management of the Leonard M Thompson airport in Marsh Harbour, Abaco will be fortified and supported through a technical support arrangement with VAG which currently manages LPIA and the terms of that arrangement are now being finalized.
Finally the Government of The Bahamas recently entered into an agreement with the IDB for the preparation of certain select airports namely North Eleuthera, Exuma and Treasure Cay airports for public private partnerships which will assist in capitalizing the infrastructural redevelopment of these airports.
The statement concluded by assuring the public that the “government is committed to the full modernization of the aviation sector and significant steps are being made to that end.”
Emancipation Day celebrations in Fox Hill announced
Fox Hill representative the Hon. Fred Mitchell released a list of activities to commemorate Emancipation Day, including the Fox Hill Festival beginning 1 August.
· Junkanoo kicks off in Fox Hill at 1:00 am on Monday 1st August.
· The annual ecumenical service takes place at 11:00 am followed by lunch for Senior Citizens. Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling will be the special guest at this service.
· The annual Glenda’s Road Race, of which Mr. Mitchell is a participant, will take place in Bimini on the 4th August.
· On Tuesday 9th August, Fox Hill Day, the Baptist Churches will hold their annual party day’s services. The Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie will be the special guest at St Paul’s Church, Macedonia, St Mark's and Mt. Carey Church.
All Bahamians are invited to attend these celebrations.
Education Minister Fitzgerald defends government’s record on education
Speaking at the FNM’s convention on Thursday evening, former education
Minister Mr. Bannister boasted about the accomplishments of the FNM and suggested that the PLP government had done nothing to improve and advance for education while in government which amounted to “a betrayal of our children.”
Bannister said that the FNM government built 17 schools, but Fitzgerald shot back pointing out that since there are 172 government schools throughout the Bahamas, the PLP government built 155 or 91% of those schools. Fitzgerald also chastised the FNM on the 50% drop out rate they left behind after 15 years of governance.
The Education Minister then went on to list at least eight accomplishments of his ministry in the last four years as he again defended the government’s promise to “double the investment in education and training”:
1. More than doubling scholarship dollars from $7.75 million in 2011 to $16.2 million dollars in 2016;
2. Investing more than 6 million dollars in technology in all junior and senior high schools in the Bahamas;
3. Investing more than 3 million on the Marjorie Davis Institute for Special Education;
4. Creating the Mable Walker Professional Development Institute for teachers;
5. Increased the enrolment at BTVI by 35% in 4 years through increasing scholarship opportunities;
6. Through partnerships with colleges and universities in the US and Canada, secured $5.5 Million in scholarships for hundreds of public school students;
7. Invested over $5 million dollars in a comprehensive Education Management Information System to facilitate the tracking of the academic performance of each public school student from pre-school to graduation;
8. Committing over $25 Million to the transition of the College of The Bahamas to the University of The Bahamas.
Dr. Minnis emerges from FNM convention as leader
The FNM’s convention ended on Friday with incumbent Dr. Hubert Minnis emerging as the leader. It is clear now – Dr. Minnis will go up against Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie in the upcoming general elections.
The major story and controversy coming out of the convention was leadership challenger and Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner withdrawing her nomination late Thursday night, citing concerns about the process that she will not “validate.” Deputy leader candidate Senator Dr. Duane Sands and Chairman candidate Alvin Smith also withdrew their nominations.
Another controversy brewed when Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn proposed that the country adopt legislation mandating unwed mothers with more than two children have their “tubes tied” in an effort to curtail the country’s social ills. His comments drew the attention of international news agencies.
Lightbourne's violation of women's reproductive rights shocking and despicable
The responses to the controversial remarks delivered by the Hon. Richard Lightbourn were swift and damning. The FNM chairman responded, distancing the party from the comments. This was followed by a press release from three women parliamentarians who called for an apology and Mr. Lightbourn’s resignation.
“We were shocked and disgusted to hear the offensive suggestion of Mr. Richard Lightbourn, M.P. for Montagu, that the State should cause for Bahamian women to be sterilized after giving birth to two (2) children to prohibit them from having any more children thereafter.
“These despicable comments were made last night at the FNM Convention. While these kinds of outrageous comments have come to typify the positionings of Mr. Lightbourne, his comments last night show that he is unfit for public office and he should immediately apologize to all Bahamian women. In fact, he should tender his resignation from Parliament.
“We condemn Mr. Lightbourn outright on behalf of every Bahamian woman.”
The parliamentarians were the Hon. Melanie Griffin, the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin and the Hon. Hope Strachan, all from the governing caucus of the Progressive Liberal Party.
Mr. Lightbourn did issue an apology on Friday but did not resign.
Regulators have ordered a ‘middle ground’ compromise on how long NewCo2015 can use BTC’s network to deliver its own mobile services, stipulating a 24-month time period.
Amid intense speculation about his return to frontline politics, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham put those speculations to rest by putting pen to paper. Mr. Ingraham wrote a letter to FNM party chairman Sidney notifying him that if nominated, he will not accept a nomination for any position at the FNM convention.
Welcoming delegates at the 41st Conference of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was Speaker of the House of Assembly and Conference Host, Dr. Kendal Major. The Speaker noted that the Theme of this year’s Regional Conference is “Modernization: An Essential Element for the Independence of Parliament and the Deepening of Democracy" and added that modernization has become a prominent word of the last century, as nations seek to become more relevant to the latest technological advancements and revolutionized methods of achieving growth and development. The conference ended with a dinner for the delegates hosted by Prime Minister Christie.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson released a statement on Monday denying a media report that he wants the nation’s leader, the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie to step down. His statement was in response to a Monday Nassau Guardian headline story entitled “Johnson wants Christie gone”.
Minister of Agriculture V. Alfred Gray on Monday told the media he supports Prime Minister Christie staying on as leader of the PLP as Christie is holding the PLP together “because everyone respects his leadership.”
The International Labour Organization, ILO, opined this week that the 6.2 percent contribution rate for pension benefits is insufficient to sustain pension benefits beyond 2029, and unless the rate is immediately raised, the NIB pension fund could become insolvent by then. The ILO recommends that the government raises the pension contribution rate to 10 percent. Some industry experts with ties to NIB agreed with the ILO.
Fifty-seven students from 16 high schools throughout The Bahamas were honored as winners of the Government’s Public School Scholarship Award. Education, Science and Technology Minister the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald called the event a “very proud moment” for public education in the country. During his address at the Harry C. Moore Library, Minister Jerome Fitzgerald stressed the importance of the programme and stated: “We believe in spending the resources to develop each and every one of you and we hope that you go on to develop yourselves, and then come back and create a stronger and more modern nation right here in our small, but mighty country”.
The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with LJM Maritime Academy, in a bid to boost training and skill development for students and faculty.
The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has issued a preliminary determination designed to elicit representations from licensees, members of the public and interested parties prior to making a final determination on fees in the electricity sector. Those who want to respond have until August 19th to do so.
The Junkanoo Corporation of New Providence (JCNP) in partnership with an independent taskforce launched a five-year strategic plan for Junkanoo that they claim would have a transformative influence on social, cultural and economic development in The Bahamas.
Responding to comments by former Chamber head Robert Pinder, the current Bahamas Chamber of Commerce’s chairman Gowon Bowe said on Wednesday that there had been “too much sentiment and not enough fact” over devaluation fears, stressing that the rating agencies were assessing this nation’s creditworthiness and not its currency. Mr. Bowe was addressing the monthly luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club of east Nassau.
The “Sustainable Nassau Initiative”, hailed by Prime Minister Christie as a saving grace for several over-the-hill communities, was officially unveiled on Thursday by officials at a ceremony at the Nassau Art Gallery on West Street. The city of Nassau and the historic Grants and Charles Town communities could undergo major overhauls in the coming years if the Government decides to move forward with plans presented by the Economic Development Planning Unit on Thursday.
Prime Minister Christie addressed the 20th annual summit of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, NABHOOD, on Friday at the Marriott at Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida. NABHOOD brings together African American hotel owners, operators, developers and suppliers in a summit and trade show to share ideas and expand opportunities for participation in the hospitality industry. Prime Minister Christie has addressed this summit over the last four years
Seventy-nine year old Maryann Wilchcombe nee Arthur, affectionately known as “Ms. Mary” will be laid to rest on Saturday in Grand Bahama. She is the mother of Tourism Minister and MP for West End and Bimini, the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe. Prime Minister Christie will lead a delegation to Grand Bahama to pay their last respects. May her soul rest in peace.