This week in the Bahamas Commentary by Elcott Coleby: August 17 – 21
Air Traffic Controllers assigned to the Grand Bahama International Airport walked off the job on Tuesday, 18th August, forcing the scheduled summer flight from Canada’s Sunwings Travel Group via Vacation Express with 186 passengers to be diverted to the Linden Pindling International Airport in Nassau.
The dispute was reportedly over unpaid overtime to control tower workers.
Passengers were put up in a Nassau hotel overnight and flown to Freeport on Wednesday where the Grand Bahama Office of the Ministry of Tourism “pulled out all the stops and tourism officials met and greeted the visitors, and provided them with treats Grand Bahama style.”
The flight originated from the Philadelphia tri-state area and represents an important partnership between Sunwings and the Ministry of Tourism to increase airlift to the island of Grand Bahama as the government works assiduously to cause an economic turnaround on that island.
Baha Mar provisional liquidator hearings continue in Supreme Court
Legal representatives from the government, Baha Mar, China Construction of America and the China EXIM Bank continued their legal arguments before Justice Ian Winder for the court appointment of a provisional liquidator for the Baha Mar Resort. Up to Wednesday, 19th August, the partners were unable to agree on an out of court settlement to finish the resort that is some 97% completed.
Lead attorney for the crown, Simon Peter Knox outlined five reasons why seven Baha Mar companies should be liquidated.
Baha Mar’s legal team argued on Thursday that Justice Winder should dismiss the government’s winding up petition for the appointment of provisional liquidators in order to speed up completion of the stalled Cable Beach development, characterizing the government’s case as a “slap-dash liquidation petition.”
The consequence of a dismissal of the liquidation petition being advanced by the Bahamas government and an adoption of the Delaware court’s bankruptcy decisions is that the developer gets to walk away from the debts he incurred while maintaining control of the Baha Mar assets. The developer owes Bahamian contractors and creditors over $100 million in goods and services delivered in addition to $2.4 billion in loans from the China EXIM Bank.
Rosewood Hotels wants out of Baha Mar
Rosewood Hotels and Resorts International, a luxury hotel brand at the stalled Baha Mar resort, on Wednesday filed a motion in a Delaware bankruptcy court to terminate its license and sever all contractual ties with the $3.5 billion property on Nassau’s Cable Beach strip.
In its filed motion Rosewood luxury Hotels claimed that Baha Mar “induced” it to enter into an agreement on the premise that it held the title to the Cable Beach property when it in fact did not.
In a Travel Weekly report, Baha Mar charged on Thursday that the government of The Bahamas is to blame for a decision by one of its luxury brands (Rosewood) to seek to terminate its agreement with the mega resort.
In its response to the Travel Weekly report, the Bahamas government corrected the record, indicating via press release that Travel Weekly was reporting on “what is clearly a commercial dispute between Baha Mar and Rosewood. As such, it is a matter exclusively for Baha Mar, Rosewood, and the courts to resolve.”
Further, the Bahamas government restated its policy position on the resumption of development at Baha Mar, pointing out that “it is both in the best interest of our country and all parties in the project to resolve the matter out of court. If that is not possible, the matter will best be resolved under Bahamian Law, which allows for the appointment of a third-party liquidator who will work to ensure timely completion and opening of the resort under private ownership and operation.”
The properties on which the Baha Mar golf courses are to be located remain crown land.
Prominent businessman Sir Albert Miller dies
Former Deputy Commissioner of Police and Chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority Sir Albert Miller died on Tuesday of this week after a long illness. The outpouring of condolences and tributes flowed from the highest levels of government.
Grand Bahama Minister, the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville, chronicled Sir Albert’s long and distinguished professional career of business success and nation building.
“Sir Albert, formerly of Long Island, hailed from humble beginnings and eventually became one of The Bahamas’ most prominent and successful businessmen. His career journey started in the Royal Bahamas Police Force where he climbed through the ranks from detective corporal to deputy commissioner from 1943 to 1968. His impressive resume, although extensive, encompassed Director of the Solomon Brothers Ltd., Pepsi-Cola (Bahamas) Bottling Company Ltd., Grand Bahama Utilities Limited and the Freeport Oil Company. Additionally, he held the position of Chairman at The Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board, The Bahamas Electricity Corporation and The Bahamas Telecommunication Corporation.”
The Foreign Minister hailed Mr. Miller as a “personal friend” and the last man standing of a troika that was Saint George, Hayward and Miller and with his death, “comes the end of an era in the development of this country, especially Freeport.”
Prime Minister Christie reflected on the mentorship, wise counsel and advice Sir Albert offered to successive governmental administrations over many decades.
“Sir Albert was also a mentor and trusted advisor to successive governments, going all the way back to the government of the late Sir Roland Symonette, continuing under the Pindling and Ingraham regimes successively, and during my own non-consecutive terms as Prime Minister. He was a man of incredible wisdom and profound insight whose patriotism was never in any doubt.
The Prime Minister said he owed Mr. Miller a debt of gratitude for “all his many years of friendship and wise counsel to me as Prime Minister.”
BAIC and Public Service Union sign new labour agreement
On Wednesday of this week, the Bahamas Agricultural & Industrial Corporation (BAIC) signed a new five-year labour agreement with the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU).
Chairman Hon. Dion Smith said that BAIC was pleased to have negotiated “in good faith with the BPSU,” and is now pleased that we have an Industrial Agreement that pleases BAIC’s staff.
Highlights of the new agreement include stronger employee benefits; greater opportunities for career development and advancement; greater opportunities for training and skills building; and overall enhanced working conditions at the Corporation.
In a statement the corporation indicated its willingness “to working closely with the BPSU, to further develop and strengthen our already strong and cordial ties for the betterment of the Corporation.”
Mitchell: “There is no extension to any deadline”
Responding to an August 20 story on page two in the Nassau Guardian, Immigration Minister Mitchell branded the story “inaccurate” and called for a correction.
He was referring to the headline: “DEADLINE EXTENDED FOR STUDENT PERMITS.”
Apparently the Guardian story attributed the deadline extension for student permits to the Department of Immigration; not so said Mitchell as the department of Immigration has nothing to do with education, but the deadline for resident permits for persons, including students, to legally reside and school in The Bahamas remains unchanged.
“There is no change in the deadline for resident permits” said Mitchell in a statement. “All people in The Bahamas including students must have a resident permit to be in The Bahamas. Entry into the schools is a matter for the Minister for Education. My understanding is that provisional registration will be possible for students and this will be available to allow those who are unable to produce their documentation to do so within 90 days of registering in school.”
Mitchell repeated that “there is no extension of any deadline from the Department of Immigration.”
Chamber of Commerce wants SME Help Desk
Doing its part to facilitate the growth and development of Bahamian Small and Medium sized business enterprises, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) is advancing the establishment of a Small Business Help Desk to “facilitate the growth and development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) throughout the Bahamas. The Help Desk is intended to provide high level, professional business development services to SMEs to assist them in building and managing their businesses” said the Chamber in a press statement.
The Chamber made the call on Tuesday of this week.
At a joint workshop in partnership with the International Labour Organization, the chosen participants will be formally certified.
“The International Labour Organization (ILO), in conjunction with the BCCEC, will host the “Entrepreneur and Enterprise Skills Workshop” to certify the chosen participants as Small Business Advisors” said the Chamber in statement on Tuesday of this week.
The ILO Workshop is scheduled for on September 8-10, 2015 and attendance by all chosen candidates is mandatory.
The Help Desk will be officially launch on the first day of the September Workshop.
All participants will be vetted and must demonstrate a track record of business expertise, a dedication to serving small businesses and knowledge across multiple sectors. The deadline for proposal submissions is Monday August 31, 2015.
Over 400 scholars receive National Bursary Scholarship Awards
Four hundred and thirty-three high school graduates and current College of The Bahamas students were recipients of the coveted National Bursary Scholarship Awards at a ceremony held on Wednesday of this week at the COB’s Performing Arts Center.
Addressing the awardees was Education Minister the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald who encouraged students to take advantage of their educational opportunity and become change agents as they are a part of an institution undergoing change in itself, the transition from a college to a university.
“Students, make the most of your opportunity here and contribute to the college’s legacy of excellence. You are entering this institution at a time when great changes are taking place, changes in which you will be involved. Note that when you complete your time here, you will graduate from the University of The Bahamas,” said the Minister.
The $5,000 annual scholarship represents a 15% increase in the amount awarded to recipients in 2014. According to Minister Fitzgerald, a total of $2.1 million was paid to the College of The Bahamas to benefit deserving students.
Maynard-Gibson leads Bahamian delegation to CATF meeting in Florida
Bahamas Attorney General Senator the Honourable Allyson Maynard Gibson led a Bahamian Delegation to the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) meeting in Miami, Florida on Friday, 21st August.
The meeting was held in the context of the Fourth Round of Mutual Evaluations of task force members’ implementation and enforcement of global Anti Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) systems. The Bahamas will undergo its Fourth Round Mutual Evaluation in the Fourth Quarter of this year.
Through participation in the CFATF, The Bahamas, as well as working for the strength of the Regional Financial systems, actively participates in evaluating the international financial system’s capacity to prevent of global corruption and international terrorism.
Hurricane Danny formed early Thursday morning becoming the first hurricane this year in the Atlantic Ocean – this according to the United States’ Hurricane Centre. Danny was upgraded to a Category 3 Hurricane on Friday and is expected to make landfall in Puerto Rico early next week.
Bahamian Valdere Murphy was part of a University of the West Indies pair who made it to the finals of the prestigious 20th Washington College of Law Inter-American Court of Human Rights Moot Court competition in Washington, DC, earlier this year. Congratulations Valdere.
A high-ranking Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) official yesterday acknowledged that The Bahamas has made “tremendous progress” towards financial services transparency and claimed that it was “unfair” that the country has still been included on the European Union (EU) blacklist.
As the vexing problem of fires at New Providence’s public dump site continues, Renew Bahamas, the company which manages the New Providence landfill, said it successfully extinguished a “small surface fire” made up of pallets and tyres on an old part of the dump on Thursday of this week.
Global accounting firm Ernst and Young, the putative Baha Mar liquidator in the ongoing Supreme Court winding up case has denied it is in a conflict of interest in relation to Baha Mar. Ernst and Young was selected by the Bahamas government when the government’s first choice for liquidator, Price Waterhouse Coopers, confirmed a business relationship with the negotiating partners that presented a potential conflict.
In the ongoing volley of words between the governing and opposition parties over “conflicted” conduct in office, the local media reported on Friday, 21st August that Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis declared in run up to the 2007 general elections that he had no contracts with the government, despite the fact that the Public Hospital Authority (PHA) was renting his company’s building for $7,500 a month. A two year contract was executed in 2005 between the Public Hospital Authority (PHA) and Leechez Investment Limited, a company of which Dr. Minnis was president. The contract was for the lease of the former Stat Care building located on Nassau and Delancy Streets. Apparently payments were made to Leechez Investment for the five year period that Dr. Minnis sat as Minister of Health. The legal counsel for Leechez was the law firm of former Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham.
H.E. Ambassador Rhoda Jackson of the Permanent Mission of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva is home in The Bahamas on leave. On Thursday, 20th August she paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Financial Services the Hon. Hope Strachan where she received the customary standard briefing on the policy objectives and general workings of the ministry by permanent secretary David Davis.
The Urban Renewal Commission held its ‘Sporting League and Street Legends Summer Basketball Grand Championship Awards Ceremony’ and ‘Back-to-School Outreach’ at the Evangelistic Temple Youth Center on Thursday, 20th August. In addressing the youthful participants, Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Perry G. Christie expressed his pride in the country’s youth and thanked the leadership of the Urban Renewal Commission, senior government officials and the Royal Bahamas Police Force for their role in sustaining the programme.
“It is important that all of you realize that Urban Renewal is an important body of work in this country,” he said. “And for that reason, we must do our best to ensure that this programme is a success.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration advised the public this week of the Official Visit to The Bahamas of the Honourable Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, USA, August 25-27, 2015. Mayor Reed will engage Members of the government, law enforcement, the private sector, as well as address faculty and students at The College of The Bahamas, on the topics of crime reduction and youth development. Mayor Reed, the 59th Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, succeeded to the post on 4 January 2010 and is currently serving his second consecutive term. The mayor has made incredible strides in his tenure, which include the reduction of crime in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area and enhanced youth development in the city.
The governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has given notice that it will host a press conference on Monday, 24th August 2015 at 10.00 a.m. at Lynden Pindling Centre on Farrington Road, Nassau to announce the dates and theme for the upcoming National General Convention of the party. The 2015 convention’s chairman is the Labour and National Insurance Minister the Hon. D. Shane Gibson.
About the author: Elcott Coleby is a Deputy Director at the Bahamas Information Services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry (B.Sc) and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). He provides frequent commentary on public policy and communicates the works of the government. Address all comments to the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org