This day in The Bahamas Parliament (31st August 2016)


Prime Minister Christie in Parliament.
Prime Minister Christie in Parliament.

The Bahamas Parliament met on Wednesday, 31st August 2016 to mainly debate an amendment to the Securities Industries Act (SIA) 2015. The amended bill seeks to bring greater clarity to the role of the Commission, specifically at it relates to hearing and ruling on commercial disputes. Leading off the debate was State Minister for Finance the Hon. Michael Halkitis

Currently, the SIA’s enforcement regime allows the Commission to pursue one of three courses of action in resolving matters of discipline. The avenues are the judicial process or the courts, an independent hearing panel established by the Securities Commission or through a direct settlement between a licensee or registrant and the Securities Commission. Issues of criminality are referred to the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution.

Under this amendment, the commission is empowered to select a wholly independent panel with the specific mandate of hearing and ruling on specific commercial matters. These amendments close gaps in the Commission’s supervisory and disciplinary regime. By amending section 33(2) of the Bill, the new Bill repeals the requirement that any panel established by the Commission must include a member of the Securities Commission. The Hearing Panel is “empowered by the Commission to adjudicate matters of discipline arising in relations to breaches of the Securities Industries Act” said Halkitis.

The Bill was seconded by Financial Services Minister the Hope Strachan who delivered the second reading and commended the Bill to the House.

Matters arising under the agenda item STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS are as follow:

Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie updated Parliament on the deal his government negotiated with the China EXIM Bank and China Construction of America to complete the Baha Mar project and make whole all outstanding financial claims against the project by public corporations, former employees and unsecured Bahamian creditors. According to Mr. Christie, displaced employees will receive all of their severance pay, pension contributions, vacation pay, pay in lieu of notice of termination and NIB contributions will be paid. Payments to employees are expected to be completed by 30th September and payments of claims submitted by unsecured Bahamian creditors are expected to be completed by the end of 2016. Additionally, monies owed to Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) will be paid as part of the agreement.

Responding to critics, Mr. Christie reiterated that the China EXIM Bank requested the documents sealed until the transactions are fully executed and argued that this is a normal practice in business with agreements of this level of market sensitivity, difficulty and financial value especially given the financial losses suffered by the EXIM Bank in this project to date. Further, the Prime Minister pointed out that business deals of this magnitude are not negotiated in the media.

On the issue of wild speculations on concessions offered to CCA, Mr. Christie repeated that the CCA was given concessions similar to those approved to them by the former Free National Movement government. He also cited the limitations of the Bahamas government in negotiating concessions to investors because no concession could surpass those approved for the Atlantis Resort.

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon Daniel Johnson informed the House that The Bahamas secured the rights for the IAAF World Relays for 2019 and 2021 in addition to hosting this event in 2017. In offering congratulations Minister Johnson recognized the country’s entire Olympic team, TEAM BAHAMAS, former 400m world, Olympic and Senior CAC champion Tonique Williams Darling, and singled out Olympic champion at 400m Shaunae Miller and our men’s 4x400m relay team who secured the bronze medal in Rio. The honourable member for Bamboo Town, Renward Wells brought congratulatory remarks from the official opposition.

Minister of Social Services and Community Development the Hon. Melanie Griffin tabled a copy of the full Household Expenditure Survey 2013. The Minister pointed out that a Living Conditions Survey for The Bahamas was conducted in 2001, but more current data was needed to inform public policy on living conditions in The Bahamas. She mentioned the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) Plan, the Conditional Cash Transfer program, R.I.S.E. amalgamated with the uniform and food assistance program through a single debit card and a shared vision for and comprehensive approach to education as some of the policy initiatives advanced by the government to improve the lives of all Bahamians.