Sunday, October 31, 2010

Terry Bain - spokesman for Save The Exuma Park (STEP) committee has criticised the Bahamas National Trust for not opposing dredging and excavation at Bell Island in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park...

Call for ban on development in national parks
By MEGAN REYNOLDS
Tribune Staff Reporter
mreynolds@tribunemedia.net



AN EXUMA activist has criticised the Bahamas National Trust for not opposing dredging and excavation at Bell Island in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park as he calls for development in all national parks to be banned.

Terry Bain, spokesman for Save The Exuma Park (STEP) committee, is outraged at the granting of permission to dredge and excavate more than 13 acres of land and seabed around Bell Island in the Exuma park and the apparent compliance of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT).

Mr Bain spoke out on behalf of STEP's 180 members at a public meeting called by the BNT in Great Exuma last Thursday to discuss the Bell Island development with members of the community.

He said it was not made clear at the meeting that the Department of Physical Planning had already granted permission to excavate 4.32 acres of upland area for a yacht basin, 2.56 acres of seabed for an outer channel, 4.28 acres of marine area for a barge landing and a further 1.9 acres of seabed for the outer area of the barge landing on September 21.

Local tour boat operators spoke out at the meeting claiming dredging is already being done at Bell Island; claims flatly denied at the meeting by BNT executive director Eric Carey.

Conditions of the permit state an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be approved by the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission before work can begin, and the EMP is expected by Mr Carey this week.

Plans were submitted by Islands of Discovery Ltd after Islamic spiritual leader and billionaire Prince Karim Aga Khan IV bought the island last year.

Details of the development emerged as Environment Minister Earl Deveaux confirmed he had accepted the offer of free transportation in the Aga Khan's helicopter to travel to Abaco with his wife and two friends to attend a public event before going on to Bell Island to conduct a land assessment the next day. In answer to his critics, Minister Deveaux said that in no way did this courtesy by the Aga Khan to make it possible for him to attend the two meetings -- one in Abaco, the other in Bell Island -- influence his decision on the Bell Island application.

It was also alleged by Tribune sources that the Aga Khan donated $1 million to the BNT after he purchased the island.

Mr Carey has issued no comment on the donation claim, however a BNT statement on the development maintains: "Every landowner in the park has contributed generously to the funding of the BNT."

Mr Bain said: "The Trust has gone along with every development in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, and I have been trying to save the Trust from themselves by trying to keep development out of the parks."

STEP has been lobbying for an amendment in the BNT Act to prevent development in the Exuma park and all national parks across the Bahamas since the group was founded 17 years ago.

But recent amendments passed in Parliament do not include such changes, and STEP now continues to fight a battle Mr Bain says the BNT should fight for itself.

The activist of Farmer's Cay, Exuma, further stated how locals and fishermen find development in the 176 square mile park hard to accept as they are prohibited from taking anything within its boundaries.

In an editorial column published in The Exuma Breeze this month, Mr Bain called on all Bahamians to speak out against development in the Exuma park and all national parks.

October 29, 2010

tribune242

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Whitney Bastian confirmed that he intends to run as an Independent in the next general election and regain his South Andros seat in the House of Assembly

WHITNEY BASTIAN SET TO RUN AS INDEPENDENT
By PAUL G TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
pturnquest@tribunemedia.net



FORMER MP for South Andros, Whitney Bastian, confirmed with The Tribune last night that he intends to run as an Independent in the next general election and regain his seat in the House of Assembly.

Lambasting the area's current MP Picewell Forbes, Mr Bastian claimed that Mr Forbes is "not representing" the people in the area.

Mr Bastian says Mr Forbes is losing significant support in the Mangrove Cay area, and if the South Andros seat is cut the way he thinks it will be, he will win the seat "hands down."

"When you look at it, everytime a PLP MP gets up to speak, Picewell is sitting behind them. He is the only floating MP in the House," said Mr Bastian.

Claiming to have more support in the area now than he even had when he was elected to Parliament in 2002, Mr Bastian added that Mr Forbes cannot continue to cry "poor mouth" when it comes to being able to at least visit his people.

"I would have thought that since he doesn't have a headquarters that if the government is paying him $18,000 a year (to manage it), he should have some money somewhere because he never created an office. So if you look at his MP's salary of $28,000 and then he gets a travel allowance to visit his constituency - they even give him a per diem. So he can't find no excuse."

And when it comes to campaigning for the next general election, Mr Bastian said he will in no way be spending the amounts of money that he has spent in the past on the last two general elections.

"I don't have intentions of spending the money I spent before. If the people want me they will vote for me. If they vote for me, I will serve to the best of my ability. In terms of spending what I spent in the last two elections you don't have to worry about that ever again.

"We have to break that habit in South Andros. Because people who do things like that feel like they don't owe the people anything. But people on the Family Islands only need assistance. They only want you to point them in the right direction to get things done. They don't need you to put ya hand in your pocket. But the only way to understand the needs of the people is to sit down an' talk with them."

October 29, 2010

tribune242

Friday, October 29, 2010

Picewell Forbes is reportedly beginning to lose considerable ground in his South Andros constituency

PICEWELL FORBES 'LOSING GROUND IN CONSTITUENCY'
tribune242



ALTHOUGH winning his seat by the largest margin out of any candidate in the 2007 general election, Picewell Forbes, the PLP's Member of Parliament for South Andros, is reportedly beginning to lose considerable ground in his constituency.

As a first time MP for the area, Mr Forbes's financial woes have been known for some time - and with a general election less than two years away it appears as if this factor is not being overlooked by his competitors.

Reports suggest that the former MP for the area, Whitney Bastian, still wants to represent the constituency, and with his financial prowess, he could prove to be a considerable obstacle for Mr Forbes.

Political sources claim that Andros - more so than any other seat in the Bahamas - is one area where a candidate without substantial amounts of money cannot be expected to win.

The Tribune source said: "Let me tell you, in Andros you have to dig in your pocket from the time you land until you fly out of there.

"It's like that mindset was established years ago when Sir Lynden (Pindling) was representing them, so it's hard to break that - no matter who you are.

"And it doesn't matter if your MP is doing a good job or not.

"He or she could be in there every other week, walking up and down, shaking hands, kissing babies, attending every funeral, wedding, and pastoral anointing, and yet be voted out because they are unable to provide a contract for their generals."

Attempts to reach Mr Forbes for comment were unsuccessful.

October 27, 2010

tribune242

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about gangs and gangsters in The Bahamas

“...scary stuff...”
By Felix F. Bethel
Rough Cut
jonesbahamas


"Most of the youth gangs will mess with you just because they see you walking by yourself and you might have something on you that they want: watch, chain, shoes…" Pastor Carlos Reid.

Next year this time, I might be dead; long gone – and thereafter on sweet way to oblivion; and so today I must now pray: Lord God Almighty – maker of heaven and earth - deliver me now from the snares of the Evil One; and in Your mercy show me the way to paradise.

As I pray for you, - my brothers and sisters – so I implore that, you also pray for me; and since I have within me an ever rising fountain of tears for my beloved Bahamas, my prayers today are also for Pastor Carlos Reid, a beautiful brother who brings us so much scary news from the bleeding heart of the whirlwind.

I am told that, “Pastor Reid is certified in gang prevention and intervention skills by the National Gang and Crime Research Centre of the United States of America.”

While I am told this stuff about Reid, I know it for a fact that, Halloween is on its scary way to the Bahamas.

I am really scared.

Pastor Reid tells us all that, “Bahamian gangs are not constituted in the same way as American gangs, or Jamaican gangs. Pastor Reid said American gangs are "more organized crime gangs", and Jamaican gangs are "political gangs".

“Organized crime gangs are often underground organizations that run the entire community, including housing projects, businesses and politicians.

"It doesn't mean we don't have gangs. We basically have youth gangs. The problem is, America started off just as we did and we don't want to get where America is," said Pastor Reid.

"We are seeing the formation of these groups really to protect themselves. To be honest, in the Bahamas, just being by yourself is a risk.

This is a scary thought.

But seriously now, to hear this brother speak about peace in the streets, the curative power of basketball and about the gang phenomenon, you know that you are in the presence of a certified and surely expert, Gangologist.

The man tells me that, “The Blue Hills’ playing fields is known as the "killing fields", according to Pastor Reid, who said, "every day there is a fight going on out there".

"Let us look at Government High School. When you have to walk through Yellow Elder, where the Hornets are, if you are a Rebellion they know and you are getting it," said Pastor Reid.

“Once a student lives in a certain area, they are automatically assumed to be in a "particular clique". A GHS student said there was a fight in school yesterday because of gangs. The fight was sparked because a student from the Grove "trespassed" in Rebellion territory.

As Reid notes, "Now think about this. If you know someone wants to chap you up and kill you, do you really think you can focus on your school work? The only thing you are thinking about is: how am I going to get out of here after school?"

{Well, gadjammit! If I had such certified intelligence driven information, I would demand that my idiot parents go to school in my stead.

{But yet, that is how a fool like me would react to the specter of gun and gang-violence at school. What a calamity for us all when information like the scary stuff being peddled by this pastor and others becomes the commonsense of people who should know better.}

But not to worry, Reid is all over this story concerning gangs; since he is –after all- an expert. As the newspaper reports, “Having had intimate knowledge of the how the groups operate, Reid said the war is far from over.”Soon we're going to see violence all over the place, because no one wants to take 'the last'. If you attack someone belonging to my gang, then I'm going to take my vengeance out on someone in your gang. That's just the way it is," Reid said.

“Asked why there were so many school boys joining gangs, Reid explained that the students crave to feel like they are a part of something. He added that it is hard not to get involved in a gang because one of the alternatives is to become a target of the gangs.

"They have to protect themselves," he said.

According to him, there are about 50 youth gangs in the Bahamas with the "Rebellions" who have about 14 different sections representing the largest group...”

Mommy, Mommy, I am now scared, scared-scared; this stuff is really scary. Indeed, some of this stuff is so scary that, I now feel obliged – in a very public kind of way – to send out kudos to Pastor Carlos Reid for the yeoman’s work he has been doing in this beloved land of conch slop, pomp, pageantry and on occasion, some of the purest bull the law would allow.

My congratulations go out to this brother for the fine work he has been doing in “alerting” the nation to the rot that is within; with particular reference to what he cites as revealed fact; this being the extent to which Bahamian society is riddled with gangs and gangsters.

My thanks come in floods and torrents to the good pastor for his wisdom and insight when he tells me, the Commissioner of Police, Ellison Greenslade, Marvin Dames, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Missouri Sherman-Peter, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, her minister, the Hon. Orville Alton “Tommy” Turnquest, the Rt. Hon. Hubert Alexander Ingraham, the Rt. Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie – their party members, the Bahamian people and billions of other people around the world, what gang violence is all about in the Bahamas.

As the good pastor learnedly affirms, “…"A lot of the killings we have seen this year are retaliation killings. When someone gets killed, you are not just getting rid of that person, because that person is attached to an immediate family and an extended family, the gang. The mentality is, when you kill one of us, in most cases we have to take one of your own," said Pastor Reid.

Pastor Reid also said that, "Almost every community has a feud going on with a different community. We have not properly addressed the issue of gangs. We have allowed situations to breed, and a lot of the people in the position to make a difference don't have a clue about what is going on," he said.

Pastor Reid also said that, Poinciana Drive is still known as "the Gaza Strip", according to Pastor Reid. It is the meeting ground of four different gang territories (Gun Dogs, Pond Boys, Rebellions and Nike Boys), and four different schools (CC Sweeting, HO Nash, TA Thompson and CR Walker).

Now hear this, “Pastor Carlos Reid is set to release an updated gang list this week, a document produced by the community-based non-profit Youth against Violence, which he leads. The list details the schools and communities that are "contaminated" with gangs.

Evidently, Cynthia “Mother” Pratt agrees with Pastor Carlos Reid. Mother reports that, “Ridgeland Park and the Grove are two communities featured on the list. They are said to have gangs that are involved in "wars" and "cross rivalry."

Allegedly and therefore allegedly - according to the word printed in the newspaper, Mother claims that, both communities are engaged in an endless spree of retaliations that are affecting the community.

And so, pretty please, are you not scared now that you KNOW the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; the gangsters are here.

But clearly, while you might be scared stiff; I am pretty certain that Pastor Reid is today smiling his very scary-way straight to the bank.

jonesbahamas

Bahamas Upcoming General Election: It’s [Still] the Economy Stupid!

“It’s [Still] the Economy...”
By Felix Bethel
jonesbahamas



Well might it be as true today as it was some years ago in the United States, “...It’s The Economy, Stupid...”

As we now recall – and quite vividly so - "It's the economy, stupid" was a phrase in American politics widely used during Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign against George W. Bush.

[As we recall] For a time, Bush was considered unbeatable because of foreign policy developments such as the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War. The phrase, made popular by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, refers to the notion that Clinton was a better choice. And so it seemed to be, Clinton was victorious.

While the times might have changed, the principle inherent in slogan remains.

Indeed, as we look at what passes for political debate in our country; particularly as that ‘debate’ is played out in media and in the House of Assembly, the fact remains, that“...It’s The Economy, Stupid...”

Whether the reference made has to do with Baha Mar and its fate; the public debt – or the level of unemployment and its attendant Misery Index, the fact remains that this conversation is all about the economy.

Evidently, therefore, we can and will extrapolate that –as night follows day – the next general elections will be hard fought; that the outcome of the contest in question will necessarily hinge on what is happening in and on the national economy.

Our current surmise is that this contest will take place –as it were – in the very heart of the nation’s political ring – as each and every candidate fights for a space in the heart of the nation’s electorate.
Here we are suggesting that, precisely because the Great Recession will still be a fact of life, the working poor will have one superlative moment to bend reality in their favor.

Evidently, those who come looking for votes need understand –even now – that they had better come looking better and talking better than they have done heretofore.

We would also suggest that, no matter the name or fame of the party that ultimately prevails; those who come to office in the aftermath of the next general elections should understand that, they will face an unprecedented set of challenges.

As such, therefore, they should know and respect as fact that the road ahead will be especially hard for any and all Bahamians who are not prepared to do more for themselves.

In addition, no matter the name or fame of the party that ultimately prevails in the aftermath of the next general elections; the public is today thoroughly disenchanted with a politics where tribalism and cronyism are seen to pervade things.

And so, while we take it for granted that, the most important sources of economic growth over the medium to long term are likely to be the tourism industry, financial services sector, transshipment services, and other services; we are also persuaded that Bahamians should be actively encouraged and supported when they seek to play large roles in these industries.

Yet again, this principle is grounded in the notion that, "It's the economy, stupid."

Take note that when we recite this pithy piece of political wisdom; we note that reference to the economy and its myriad of implications for the well-being of the Bahamian people, the notion ‘economy’ must be so re-configured that the term “economy” is used to cover the relationships the Bahamas has with its neighbors, the United States of America – and the world far away as in the case of Brazil, Russia, India and China; among other such rising powers.

But, indeed, as America goes, so goes the Bahamas.

So today, it is a fact that, as one order of things ends; and as another is set to be birthed; the Bahamian people and their Caribbean counterparts are set to be called upon to revise some of their accustomed ways of making money.

They may well have no choice but to venture further and further from home, sweet home.

Evidently, these prospects reflect some of the realities of their current relations with a United States where the world-spanning capitalist system is itself currently mired in one of its periodic crises; thus much of the distress now being experienced at all levels in our Bahamas and throughout the region.

By necessary extrapolation and on the basis of sheer logic [and no matter how the proverbial cookie crumbles; it turns out to be quite true that, "It's [still] the economy, stupid."

While we seem to be citing the obvious, there is every reason to believe that, there are still some Bahamians who need to be disabused of the notion that, money can somehow or the other conjure itself up.

When all is said and done; it is only purposeful work that can make any real difference in the life of a people concerned with nation-building.

jonesbahamas

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PLP insiders fear an FNM operative may have been planted inside their party to disrupt the party's public relations machinery - and possibility re-ignite a leadership battle before the next general election

PLPs fear 'FNM operative' may be within party
tribune242


PLP insiders fear an FNM operative may have been planted inside their organisation with intent to disrupt the party's public relations machinery and possibility re-ignite a leadership battle before the next general election.

As a political organisation that prides itself on having a "large tent" and being open to new talent, a number of PLP insiders have expressed their deep seated concerns over the motives of a number of persons who have skyrocketed to "influential" positions within the party overnight.

Seeking access to the party's decision-making process on key political matters, and even trying to gain management of the PLP's website by some of these persons has rubbed some PLPs "the wrong way".

One party insider told The Tribune yesterday they fear with the multitude of persons "offering" assistance - especially in the upkeep of their online campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace - it is becoming harder and harder for the organisation to ensure its security.

"In this day and age, every politician, every party must maintain an online presence. It is required. Before it was a luxury, but no more. These websites and pages require maintenance, and depending on who has access to them, the damage to the party could be significant.

"So if you have an MP's Facebook page, for instance, being managed by someone whose sole job it is to keep it updated suddenly decide to go off on a tangent, that could affect the party's image or standing on a particular issue. He or she could have 5,000 followers online and if an update goes out saying that they despise the leader and he should be removed from office, you see what kind of drama could unfold," the source explained.

This kind of online "guerilla warfare" as it was described, is said to be happening every day on social websites.

"Today you might have five or six profiles on Facebook being used by the same FNM operative leaving messages on someone's page. There was the practice where someone would make up a fake profile of politicians and leave ignorant or embarrassing comments, but now it appears a more sinister practice has emerged. And if history has taught us anything, there isn't a better weapon against a well defended force than a Trojan horse," she said.

October 26, 2010

tribune242

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bishop Simeon Hall has chastised politicians for their recent lawless behaviour in the House of Assembly

Bishop Simeon Hall hits out at politicians over House behaviour
tribune242


FORMER Christian Council president and community activist Bishop Simeon Hall has chastised politicians for their recent behaviour in the House of Assembly, accusing them of contributing to the growing wave of lawlessness afflicting the country.

He noted that MPs represent the country both locally and internationally, and therefore have the capacity to influence the opinion of others.

Debate

Bishop Hall said: "Their behaviour is emulated by young people who desire to rise to the annals of Parliament one day. The current level of parliamentary debate in our House of Assembly is becoming less and less inspiring and may have now become a major contributor to the spirit of crime which pervades our country."

The bishop pointed out that people from all walks of life have seen or listened to a parliamenatary debate at least once. "Most recently, they would have seen uncontrollable behaviour; lack of order and respect; and a disregard for those who care to pay attention. It is reflective of today's culture of widespread anger, despair and violence," he said.

"Young and old listening to the parliamentary debate might misinterpret the way MPs speak to each other and cause the public to lower their anger management skills."

Bishop Hall said politicians have an obligation to "work in the best interest of all Bahamians", and that "well-paid officials should do a better job of setting the standard of inter-personal communications.

"If the present tone of debate in Parliament is expected to set the level of dialogue throughout the nation, then we are in far greater trouble than we had first imagined," he said.

Anger

Bishop Hall warned that the nation's "anger index" is at an all time high.

"The criminals are committing more horrific crimes; fights in our schools have become commonplace and more violent; domestic violence and child abuse persists; and respect amongst fellow men is dying," he said.

"It is almost impossible for the unemployed, marginalised and despairing Bahamians to listen to Parliament and conclude that his or her position will soon change."

Bishop Hall said it is little wonder that many people believe the Bahamas "lags woefully" behind other nations in the region in "intellectual exchange" and progressive and innovative ideas.

He added: "It is useless pointing to the bad behaviour and disrespect manifested in other parliaments of the world as an excuse for ours.

"One bad behaviour ought not to be used to justify another bad behaviour.

"If we cannot speak strongly to each other - even vehemently disagreeing with each other - without denigrating the person, we fail the rudimentary examination for participation in the ongoing struggle of nation building," he said.

October 26, 2010

tribune242

Monday, October 25, 2010

Opposition Leader Perry Christie called on Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham to treat Baha Mar developer Sarkis Ismirlian as well as he treats Atlantis Boss Sol Kerzner

Christie: Baha Mar developer should get same treatment as Atlantis boss
tribune242


OPPOSITION LEADER Perry Christie called on Hubert Ingraham to treat Baha Mar developer Sarkis Ismirlian as well as he treats Atlantis Boss Sol Kerzner.

Speaking at the presentation of the PLP's position-paper on Baha Mar, Mr Christie said the two men are deserving of the same level of respect.

He said: "I do not know what Sarkis Ismirlian ever did to the prime minister to deserve the kind of humiliating treatment that has been meted out to him in public, time and time again, by Prime Minister Ingraham. It is wrong.

"Mr Ismirlian is deserving of respect, even when we have to disagree with him. It is high time, then, that the prime minister starts talking to Sarkis Ismirlian the same way he always talks to Sol Kerzner."

Mr Christie went on to say that the Bahamas doesn't have "a hope in hell" of being taken seriously by investors, especially in very difficult times, if Mr Ingraham continues to change the "rules of engagement" with investors and continues to believes in "negotiation-by-press-conference".

He said: "You cannot be calling press conferences to tell investors what they must do in order to win your favour. You cannot be telling them one thing in private and then call a press conference to lay down a whole new set of conditions they have to meet, and then when they meet those conditions, you then call yet another press conference to lay down a whole new set of pre-conditions yet again. That is harmful our country's reputation. It is not a wise way to conduct diplomacy. Besides it is a fundamentally unfair way to treat those who are attempting in good faith to make a major investment in our country."

Mr Christie added that there is no use in Prime Minister Ingraham, who left for China on Friday, trying to negotiate a new deal with the Chinese government, which through the China Export-Import Bank is funding the Baha Mar deal, unless Mr Ismirlian and his group are at the same negotiating table.

"There needs to be a tripartite approach to this. Simple logic and plain, good sense demand it. Suppose the PM negotiates a new deal that the Ismirlians cannot or will not live with. What then? What would he have accomplished then? In that case, one foot forward would have been taken followed by two steps backward. That makes no kind of sense.

"I therefore call upon the PM to invite representatives of the Baha Mar Group to join his meeting with the Chinese in China. It is, after all, Baha Mar's project. It seems only sensible and logical and appropriate to have the project owners at the table too so that everything can be settled all at the same time.

Mr Christie went on to say that the Baha Mar project cannot be evaluated in isolation from the "extremely difficult economic circumstances" in which the country finds itself at the moment.

"This is the worst it has been in decades. The level of human suffering is intolerable and threatens the social stability of our country. Unemployment, in particular, is at a painfully high level. Capital inflows have been extremely sparse and spare in recent times, especially in the tourism sector.

"As a result, new employment opportunities for displaced workers, recent secondary school-leavers and college graduates are few and far between. These conditions of acute distress in our country oblige us to embrace the Baha Mar Project. It is, in a very real sense, the only new substantial ray of sunshine that has presented itself."

October 23, 2010

tribune242

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) supports the $2.6 billion Baha Mar project

PLP SUPPORTS BAHA MAR
By KEVA LIGHTBOURNE
Guardian Senior Reporter
kdl@nasguard.com

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP)Leader Perry Christie last night threw his party's support behind the $2.6 billion Baha Mar project, while accusing Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham of seeking to negotiate a new Cable Beach deal on his upcoming trip to China.

At an hour-and-a-half news conference held at the PLP's Farrington Road headquarters, Christie stressed that the current economic conditions in the country call for the project to be embraced.

"It is in a very real sense, the only new substantial ray of sunshine that has presented itself. Nothing else holds out the kind of promise that Baha Mar does,"said Christie.

"It is not so much that it is the best big project that is available right now, the reality is that it is the only big project that is available to us right now. We do not have a choice. We do not have the luxury of choosing between the Baha Mar project and some other big project. Baha Mar is the only one that has the capacity right now to inject some desperately needed adrenaline into this anemic economy that is ailing us now."

Christie said it would be useless for Ingraham to negotiate a new deal with the Chinese without project developer Sarkis Izmirlian and his group at the same negotiating table.

"There needs to be a tripartite approach to this. Simple logic and plain, good sense demand it,"said the PLP leader.

"Suppose the prime minister negotiates a new deal that the Izmirlians cannot or will not live with? What then? What would he have accomplished then?" Christie asked." In that case, one foot forward would have been taken followed by two steps backward. That makes no kind of sense."

Ingraham is scheduled to leave for China today. He said earlier this week he would be meeting with China State Construction Engineering Corporation and the China Export-Import Bank to discuss the project the proposed contractor and financier of the project.

"I therefore call upon the prime minister to invite representatives of the Baha Mar group to join his meeting with the Chinese in China. It is, after all, Baha Mar's project. It seems only sensible and logical and appropriate to have the project owners at the table too so that everything can be settled all at the same time,"Christie said.

The opposition leader also criticized Ingraham for, what he described as, changing the requirements the developers must satisfy before the deal reaches Parliament.

"We don't have a hope in hell of being taken seriously by investors, especially in these very difficult times, if we continue to have a prime minister who keeps on changing the rules of engagement with investors, and who on top of that, believes in negotiation by press conferences,"Christie said.

"You cannot be calling press conferences to tell investors what they must do in order to win your favor. You cannot be telling them one thing in private and then call a press conference to lay down a whole new set of conditions."

Baha Mar's vision is to create a world-class resort destination, which represents the largest single-phase resort in the Caribbean.

Baha Mar has requested 8,150 work permits for the project. It is expected that the majority of the foreign workers helping to construct the project will be Chinese. The current deal requires that the core of the project be exclusively built by foreign labor.

The PLP's official 38-page position on Baha Mar was delivered by Bain and Grants Town MP Dr. Bernard Nottage.

While stating that the PLP supports the project, Dr. Nottage said they expect any deal would:

- Maximize the participation of Bahamian construction and related labor content, including both skilled and unskilled workers.

- Minimize the foreign construction labor content to that which is required for the successful completion and implementation of the project.

- Ensure training and skills transfer for Bahamian construction workers during the course of the entire project.

- Ensure that Bahamians are trained and available for permanent jobs in the operation of the resort.

- Ensure that there will be a myriad of opportunities for Bahamian entrepreneurs to benefit from in the resort when completed.

"The size and scope of this project represent the magnitude of what is needed to provide jobs for the vast number of Bahamian citizens who emerge onto the job market on an annual basis,"said Dr. Nottage.

10/22/2010

thenassauguardian

Bahamas: ...the men and the women with the stone-cold hearts now run things in this stone-cold hard place

“…stone-cold…”
By Felix F. Bethel.
Rough Cut
jonesbahamas


That these are hard times is no longer a question that needs to be put; it is self-evident that the times are hard; that men and women are getting harder and harder by the day.

And for sure, there is no getting around the fact that there are men and women in our land who have succumbed to the mystery of evil and who –as a consequence- have hearts that have become petrified.

As a consequence, some of these brothers and sisters of mine have become stone-cold hard in their hearts and in their minds and in their spirits – and thus that litany of bloody crimes they commit against their neighbors, family and friends.

The core fact today is that where we have sown corruption, we now reap perversions in the guise of rape, robbery, pillage and artful pilferage by the rich from the poor; and by the poor from the rich… and the bloody beat goes on.

Where parents once ate of sour grapes, today, their children’s teeth are on edge… and the bloody beat goes on.

Evidently, as I age and rage at how fast time seems to be moving, I sometimes find myself wondering about whether I will ever have time enough to do this or to do that; to witness this or to achieve that…

And for sure, whenever this mood creeps in and threatens to infest my mind with a plethora of regrets, I remember the fact that I am promised no day but this one; and that in this one, I should do all that I can; this because I can be gone in a moment and in a twinkling of an eye.

And on occasions when things seem especially rough, I remind myself that the real struggle – the really real struggle; indeed the struggle that matters most is that struggle spoken of in the scriptures, where we are admonished to be still and know that, “…For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]…”

And when I remember my own wrestling struggles with some of the darker forces within this carcass that is mine; I tremble with the knowledge that I too have sinned and that I too have fallen far from the mark; but yet even as I struggle and fall; I pick myself and my tired shadow up and get back into the fray where I work and toil to help pay my way in this wicked world; this because it is so very true that, “…we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]…”

Here you might well be interested in this apparently unrelated announcement: Police are appealing for information to assist investigations into all matters criminal.

Anyone with any information should call police on 919 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously on 328-TIPS (8477).

And now, some news from that road that led to Golgotha. “…But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children…”

Notwithstanding the Rabbi’s request, women continue to wail and lament as Jesus is crucified in these barbaric times.

Here you might wish to note that just this Tuesday past, I thought to myself that I should pass by the place where Joseph Tynes sat and where –as he sat there with a friend, perhaps in that moment, talking about this or that- some thug; some imp; some twisted brother or sister – some armed and dangerous person; some cold-hearted beast evidently decided that Joseph Tynes and his good friend should be killed.

As one newspaper report puts a particularly morbid story: “…A CONVENIENCE store owner was shot in the head by an armed robber outside his shop in Fire Trail Road…”

The man who was shot in the head is dead.

Anyone with any information should call police on 919 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously on 328-TIPS (8477).

But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

Note also that, this yesterday-evening killing marked the 73rd murder this year in this place that is home to us all. What a stink-hole of a place! What a bloody mess!

But back to the man who was shot, the word today is to the effect that, “…the man, unofficially identified as shop-owner Joseph Tynes, was sitting outside his establishment with another man when the gunman approached…” And as it is in most of these nasty matters, I am told that, “…The robber stole cash and jewellery from the pair before he shot Mr Tynes in the head and got away…”

This is precisely how police press liaison officer Sgt Chrislyn Skippings put the matter when the question was put to her; that question having to do with what might have transpired in the seconds before Joseph Tynes was blasted into eternity by way of a gun-shot wound to the head.

I told you before and I tell you again; this is a nasty, messed up place. It is also that kind of place where men and women with stone-cold hearts have been put in high positions; perches from which they swoop down and prey upon Innocence.

Police are appealing for information to assist investigations into all matters criminal.

Anyone with any information should call police on 919 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously on 328-TIPS (8477).

But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

But back to Skippings and her report about the man who was shot dead; the word from this woman-police officer says that, this woman would not confirm the age or identity of the man as police investigations into the murder were in their initial stages.

But clearly, a whole lot of people – some of them family, neighbors and friends knew that the man who was killed was their own Joseph Tynes. That is why they could identify him as the owner of the Morning Star Convenience Store in Fire Trail Road, off the Tonique Williams-Darling Highway in southwest New Providence.

This is the place I passed the other night while – out of morbid curiosity- I wanted to see the place where this good man bled to death; that same place where women wailed and where men cried for the life that had been lost in the whirlwind of these troubled times.

And I am told that, Jospeph Tynes distraught and heart-stricken mother pleaded with the police; begging to see her son's body; and as I learned the police held her back and the murdered man's body was taken away in a hearse.

And so it was that, Sgt. Skippings could say that the police were called shortly after 5pm and responded immediately to find that a gunshot to the head had instantly claimed the life of the man dressed in grey trousers and a striped shirt.

And as the police report notes, “"It was reported that Joseph Tynes, the deceased, was sitting outside the establishment along with another man when they were approached by a man armed with a handgun… The gunman then robbed the men before shooting Mr. Tynes in the head… The suspect fled the area on foot heading west on Fire Trail Road…”

And thereafter, it was noted that, EMS personnel pronounced Mr. Tynes dead at the scene.

The other man – the man chatting with Tynes – was left unharmed.

And the bloody beat goes on; and in same mean-time, the men and the women with the stone-cold hearts now run things in this stone-cold hard place.

jonesbahamas

Baha Mar, Yea or Nay!

By Felix Bethel
Rough Cut
jonesbahamas



While we recognize that some of our fellow-Bahamians might cower in the face of opposition, we will not be deterred by some of the noise in the market that emanates from some of our brothers and sisters who are apparently opposed to the Baha Mar project.

So, today, with our eyes are focused on the price of the fish; we reiterate our support for the self-same Bahama Mar project.

And for sure, we hope and pray that the current administration will – yet- throw their support behind the venture; thus bringing to an amicable conclusion negotiations that have gone on for far too long.

In addition, we are fairly sure that there are other investors who are watching closely as one administration continues with a project initiated by its predecessor – watching to see the extent to which “politics” must be factored into their calculus of costs versus benefits of doing business in the Bahamas.

Here let there be no mistake about the importance of this matter; one that brings with it some very high stakes for the entire nation.

As we have previously suggested and explained, “…Let there be no mistake about the matter at hand – the Baha Mar project is a very big deal; it is not only a big deal to the investors who are putting their money on the line; but for sure, it is a huge deal for both the government and the people of The Bahamas.

“And here, let there be no mistake about another aspect of the matter involving this project – this project brings with it a large chance that – once completed – tens of thousands of Bahamians will benefit, either directly or indirectly…”

This remains our view; thus today, we find ourselves [for better or worse and thus like a host of other right-thinking Bahamians] in a most unlikely position; this being that while we are all fulsome in our support of the Baha Mar investment project, we are apparently at loggerheads with the nation’s chief.

We are now left to wonder why Mr. Ingraham apparently sees things so very differently; and in our wonderment, we note that while it was Mr. Ingrham himself who personally tabled the resolution in Parliament, with 100% support from the FNM MPs, approving the labor permits for the required skilled expatriate labor force necessary to help build Baha Mar; today it is the prime minister himself who now decries the Chinese labor requirements.
And for sure, there is more.

Here we note another reversal; this one concerning the time when the Ingraham administration itself somehow or the other, forced the Baha Mar project to enter into a Supplemental Heads of Agreement; this one requiring the entire project to be built in one phase, and imposing penalties if it is not.

Now that things have apparently changed or gone sour; we note that the prime minister has completely reversed himself and that he now demands that the project should be constructed in multiple phases.

Here the implication is clear; such a move would incur more costs to the investor and commensurately, reduced economic and job benefits to the Bahamas.

In this latter instance of losses projected, we can recite some who stand to lose most: Bahamian contractors and their employees; the Bahamian labor unions; community leaders; and countless Bahamian businesses, including the Chamber of Commerce.

In light of the foregoing, we reiterate a point previously made to the effect that this Baha Mar project is good for the Bahamas and that as such, its approval should be put on the fast track.

In addition, we would very much like both the governing party and its Opposition to know that each would do itself a world of good by working together so as to bring about an optimal resolution as regards the same Chinese funded initiative.

Incidentally, all of these groups and interests support the Baha Mar project and recognize the immediate and real benefits they will gain from its going forward.

As we have previously framed the issue at hand; so today we reiterate our view to the effect that, “…Those law-makers who mean this country and its people well should – as a matter of the most urgent priority – cease and desist from any tricks or shenanigans which might either detract from or otherwise distract them from supporting the Baha Mar venture.

Yet again, we make this plea to these men and women because of some of what we perceive as little more than pious nit-picking on the part of some politicians who are making – as far as we are concerned – a mountain of what is surely a very real mole-hill; that being with the Chinese request for thousands of expatriate workers who would assist in constructing the resort complex.

Evidently, now is the time for a yea or a nay on that matter involving Baha Mar and its myriad of opportunities for the Bahamian people.

jonesbahamas

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bahamas 2010 Census: Many Family Islands in danger of being abandoned

Many Family Islands in danger of being abandoned
thenassauguardian editorial


The results of the 2010 Census has finally been released and to no one's surprise, there has been an 18 percent hike in the number of people in New Providence.

The report has also revealed that there has been significant population decreases in a number of the Family Islands, namely Andros, Berry islands, Inagua, Cat Island and one or two others.

We really didn't need a census to point that out, because anyone traveling to the Family Islands over the past five years would have noticed a steady decline in the number of people on those islands.

To make matters worse, those numbers involved mostly young people leaving the islands. Those middle-aged people who opted to leave their places of birth more than likely did so out of financial necessity, moving to Nassau to seek employment opportunities.

For the most part it is our young people who are abandoning the islands and looking to"live it up"in Nassau.

Of course, on the surface, one cannot blame them.

When you consider the lack of any major developments within the Family Islands, it leaves very little choices of job opportunities for our youngsters.

The government may not feel any weight about these numbers and may disregard these significant declines, however, it cannot be ignored.

If we want to see these islands be preserved for Bahamians, something must be done to not only keep the little amounts of young people in those islands there, but to try and encourage others who may have left to return and contribute to the development of those islands.

More has to be done to boost the economies and the opportunities for people within our Family Islands. We have said this over and over, but apparently, this is falling on deaf ears.

These latest figures confirm that no one is listening.

If we continue to ignore our Family Islands and the development of those islands, one day we will look up and they will be overrun by foreigners or deserted.

Outsiders, who see the value of our islands will begin to move to those places, take over and even offer to buy those islands. The past has already proven that in some cases governments are eager to sell cays and certain parts of our islands.

When the older people who now inhabit our islands have passed on, with no young people there to move in and take over and positively contribute, what will become of our islands?

This is an issue we must take seriously.

But as long as the government and others continue to thrive on the notion that Nassau is The Bahamas, one day that may just be the only island we have left.

And with an already overcrowded population in Nassau, how much more can the island of 21 x 7 take?

The government must move quickly to preserve our Family Islands. We must divert more investors to the islands to provide more opportunities for those people on those islands to find employment.

Then, to make it livable, the proper infrastructure must also be put in place to sustain those developments and any proposed growth.

10/20/2010

thenassauguardian editorial

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The victims of crime in The Bahamas

The victims of crime
thenassauguardian editorial


The Bahamas should not become comfortable with, or used to, chronic delays in its criminal justice system. Impediments to justice are a further indignity to those who suffer at the hands of the violent. The vicious and debased things done to mothers, daughters, fathers and sons, sometimes during their last moments on earth, occupy media headlines for a day. Then, they are forgotten in the maze of confusion and disorganization called the Bahamian criminal justice system.

On Monday night armed men robbed and threatened to kill Bishop Elkin Symonette of Ebenezer Mission Baptist Church and his wife following a prayer meeting. The robbers later attempted to burn down the church.

During a series of armed home invasions in the Chippingham/Fort Charlotte area earlier in the year a woman was raped.

That woman will never be the same. Rape is a violation of the body, soul and mind. And sadly, based on the backlog of cases before the Supreme Court, there is no guarantee that the Office of the Attorney General will prosecute that case anytime soon.

Three men were charged in a magistrates'court early in July with burglary, robbery and rape. The courts will decide if they are guilty or not.

The sharp rise in the level of crime in this country is tragic. It's heartbreaking.

It is even more heartbreaking when you hear what actually happened to the victims; the level of fear that remains with those who survive; the depth of the loss felt by family members.

Bishop Symonette's wife, Inez, said the fear experienced during the robbery was inexplicable.

"I can't explain how I felt,"she said during a Nassau Guardian interview.

It is remarkable that the heirs of men and women who argued against the inadequacy of colonial rule would so poorly manage the criminal justice system.

Cases have been badly investigated and many not prosecuted.

Meanwhile, the victims and families of victims sit enraged and frustrated.

There are two logical consequences to the continued rise of violent crime in The Bahamas. One is vigilantism. Those who come to conclude that the criminal justice system is not concerned about their pain may soon, in greater numbers, seek their own justice.

The other consequence should concern our ruling class.

The poor, the working and middle classes of this country have no private security or police guards to protect them at night.

They have been preyed upon.

If solutions are not found soon to our crime problem, more and more of the privileged will also fall prey to the violators.

It would be a sad development in our country's history if this is required for change to take place.

10/19/2010

thenassauguardian editorial

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Bahamas' crime wave must stop

The crime wave must stop
thenassauguardian editorial


It seems as though everywhere you go, crime like an ugly monster, raises its head negatively affecting society and taking away the comforts of safety enjoyed by so many Bahamians over the years.

Even though careful steps have been taken by the leaders of the country to ensure that offenders are brought to justice, there is still a lack of respect by certain criminals in the country, who feel they are above the law and continue to engage in illicit behavior, a number of them inflicting undue pain on innocent people through violent acts.

Some acts are so brutal that there seems to be no regard or concern for human life.

Apart from the number of cases in New Providence where people have been tragically gunned down or stabbed to death after violent altercations with others, Grand Bahama has seen its own share of unexplained and brutal murders that have left many residents in shock.

Just yesterday, a man was brutally stabbed in a crowded bank in front of numerous witnesses.

According to police reports and eyewitness accounts, a man who appeared to be in his mid 30's was preparing to be served by a teller when he was approached by a younger man who began arguing with him.

The argument which was reportedly over money, intensified when the two men began choking and punching each other. The younger man reportedly pulled out a weapon and began stabbing the older man about the body.

Then on Thursday, a woman was attacked outside the Rand Memorial Hospital and her jewelry snatched from her neck. According to Officer-in-charge of the Central Division Superintendent Macktavaus Daniels,"People are becoming violent. We had an incident just this morning where a lady had dropped somebody at the Rand Memorial Hospital and a guy ran up to her, punched her and yanked her chain off her neck,"he said."And so that's where this thing(crime)is going now."

While these incidents represent a small fraction of the number of cases that take place in Grand Bahama and the northern region, one cannot argue the severity of the crimes and the awful disregard for the lives that were lost.

The sad thing about this whole situation is that whether we want to admit it or not, there will be more incidents to report this year as we head into the Christmas holiday.

There will be some that will escape our hearing and others, so brutal, we will wonder if such acts will ever end. The bone-shivering truth is, they will not stop.

So what should the government and concerned citizens do to help stop it?

Some say enforce the laws and resume hanging. Others say always impose the maximum punishment as dictated by law. The reality is, something must be done. During these harsh financial times, and with the tourism industry of the country suffering much loss, The Bahamas cannot afford to be known as a destination where crime is out of hand.

As we move toward a new year, it is time for those in authority to consider and implement new strategies. The criminals are not backing down, they are getting more aggressive everyday, therefore so must the system that brings them to justice.

10/16/2010

thenassauguardian editorial

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham not satisfied with the hotel brand arrangements that Baha Mar has made to date

PM CONCERNED ABOUT BAHA MAR BRANDING FOCUS
By KRYSTEL ROLLE
Guardian Staff Reporter
krystel@nasguard.com


Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said yesterday that he is not satisfied with the hotel brand arrangements that Baha Mar has made to date.

Last month Ingraham expressed concerns about how Baha Mar would be branded and how it will fill so many new rooms, when for a second year it has had to temporarily close one of its hotels because of low demand.

Since then Baha Mar announced partnerships with three hotel brands.

Asked if those announcements appeased his concerns, Ingraham said,"It does not at all."

"If you recall when the Baha Mar deal was announced there was supposed to be a partnership with Harrah's, a major casino hotel company,"Ingraham told reporters yesterday during a tour of the Albany project."Harrah's was going to put in over $200 million in cash as its equity... All that I've read in the newspaper so far talks about who is going to manage the hotels[for Baha Mar]. It is critical for there to be equity partners-owners who are in the hotel business and who are major players, not managers.

"Managers come dime a dozen. You see them all the time. They are the easiest thing to pick up in the world-managers-because they have nothing in it other than collecting their money at the top,"Ingraham continued.

Baha Mar announced yesterday that it signed a letter of intent with Hyatt Hotels Corporation to operate and manage the planned 700-room Grand Hyatt. Baha Mar Ltd. also selected Hyatt as its timeshare partner in the project, which will initially include 50 units as part of the first phase, with plans for expansion in subsequent phases, the company said in a statement.

Earlier it announced that Rosewood Hotels and Resorts will operate and manage the 200-room luxury hotel that Baha Mar will construct and Morgans Hotel Group will operate and manage the planned 300-room luxury lifestyle hotel.

In addition to concerns surrounding the hotels'branding, Ingraham said the government remains concerned about the project's controversial labor component.

Baha Mar has requested 8,150 work permits for the project. The current deal requires that the core of the project be built exclusively by foreign labor.

The government intends to the take the labor issue directly to the source when Ingraham travels to China later this moth.

Ingraham said he is meeting with China State Construction Engineering Corporation and the China Export-Import Bank to discuss the project.

"We told the China State Construction Engineering Corporation from the first time we saw them more than a year ago that it was not possible to have that number of foreign workers on a job site with the Bahamian content being so low. Nothing has changed. We've been telling them that for more than a year.

"It appears that some people either don't take us seriously or they apparently think that we are so desperate that we will do whatever we are asked to do. But our strength is not weakened,"Ingraham said.

Asked what the government would do if the company refuses to amend the deal, Ingraham said the government will"figure that out"if it comes to that.

Notwithstanding the government's concerns, Ingraham said the project would be good for The Bahamas.

"We are obviously very pleased that the bank is willing to invest more than$2 billion in The Bahamas. That will be a tremendous boost for our economy. We are concerned about making sure the maximum benefit could be derived for Bahamians and for the economy of The Bahamas,"he said.

But Ingraham said the project has to be done in"such a way that it can be sustainable in the long run and have occupancy levels that are not going to threaten what we have."

"We wouldn't want(to be)a dog with the bone in his mouth and see a shadow in the water and let[the bone]go in order to pick that shadow up. We want to make sure that the next bone is capable of being developed and operated in a way whereby they can both be successful in th context of The Bahamas. That's our interest in these projects."

In a statement yesterday Baha Mar said It is anticipated that the development will make "The Bahamas one of the premier tourist locations in the world, drawing millions of vacationers and business travelers each year to the resort's six hotels."

"With almost 3,500 rooms and condos, the largest casino in the Caribbean, the largest convention center in The Bahamas, a world-class golf course, retail village and much more, Baha Mar Resort represents the Caribbean's largest single-phase destination resort. Baha Mar will employ approximately 4,000 Bahamians over the life of the construction period, which is expected to last nearly four years. Once the resort is complete, approximately 98 percent of the staff will be Bahamian nationals, representing some 7,000 jobs for Bahamians."

10/19/2010

thenassauguardian

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Philip “Brave” Davis - The Opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader - Questions The Governing Free National Movement (FNM) Road to Nowhere

Hon. Philip “Brave” Davis M.P.
Deputy Leader of The Progressive Liberal Party


HOW MUCH FOR SEVEN MILES OF AIRPORT HIGHWAY?


The Tribune of 4th October 2010 reported “The prime minister formally signed agreements for the $70.8 million highway project with two China State Companies; the China Export Import Bank and the China Construction Company on Thursday at the British Colonial Hilton” referring to the signings on the previous Thursday, 30th September 2010.

Since the government decided to give a contract to a foreign state owned construction company to build some seven miles of highway from the airport to the roundabout at Farrington Road, Thompson Blvd, and JFK Drive at some $71Million after passing a resolution in the House of Assembly the day before to borrow $58Million from the foreign state owned China Export-Import Bank I have tried to understand what Citizens of The Bahamas were getting for our investment of @ $10,000,000 (TEN MILLION DOLLARS) PER MILE OF ROAD!!!!

Minister Zhivargo Laing said during the debate on the government’s resolution for the loan from the Chinese Export-Import Bank, in the House of Assembly that the government HAD to use the Chinese state owned China Construction company to build the road BECAUSE we are borrowing $58,000,000 from the Chinese government owned bank at a very low interest rate.

In the House of Assembly and at the subsequent press conference for the contract signing, a lot of colourful renderings were shown.

I went to the government’s website and the Works & Transport Ministry’s website in search of the airport highway description in the hope that I could begin to fathom WHY seven miles of a four lane highway with utilities being placed underground, government acquired private land (I presume), and, landscaping along the highway, should cost $10,000,000 per mile. The government has not yet put the information online.

In the absence of information to the contrary, I concluded that the same road contractors hired by the government to build the road are the people who designed the road and calculated the cost of the works to be done. There has been no competitive bid on this massive expenditure. How does the Bahamian tax payer know that she or he is getting value for money? If we are overpaying to build the road then the low interest rate has no real value. Maybe Minister Laing would kindly explain this?

Further, even if the work that is to be done really does cost $10,000,000 per mile for a total of $71,000,000, what were the alternatives considered by the government? Do we need to spend $71,000,000 to build seven miles of landscaped road way from the airport to Farrington Road? How is the Bahamian public to receive benefit for their investment?

I call on those Bahamians with the technical and financial backgrounds to guide us on a full appreciation of this matter to weigh in on the issue.
The government is not supposed to be the overlord but, rather, it should be the servant of the People answerable to the People.

14th October, 2010

myplp.com

Friday, October 15, 2010

Baha Mar Drama – (Part 2)

by Simon


To understand the potentially colossal mistake the PLP made in handing over the redevelopment of Cable Beach to Baha Mar, some historical background is necessary.

Before Baha Mar there was Cable Beach. The area derived its name after a telegraph cable line connecting The Bahamas with the rest of the world came ashore at Goodman’s Bay in 1892. One of the first people to receive a cable was the proprietor of the Royal Victoria Hotel.

Fast-forward some half a century and the area with its miles of pristine beach would surpass downtown Nassau as a major site for the expansion of the hotel sector. There was the Balmoral and the Bahamas Country Club.

In 1954, the Emerald Beach became the first fully air-conditioned hotel. Boasting 300 rooms and New Providence’s first convention centre, the ultramodern hotel came in at a price tag of $3.5 million. With the opening of the Nassau Beach Hotel on the strip in 1959 -- along with a Howard Johnson restaurant -- Cable Beach was helping to set the pace for the tourism industry and hotel sector.

In many ways, Cable Beach became the gold standard, even receiving the moniker, “the Bahamian Riviera”. Then, through the 1970s to the 1990s, the PLP made a series of fateful decisions that would prove disastrous for Cable Beach and end up costing the Pubic Treasury hundreds of millions if not more.

UNAPPEALING
This included construction of the monstrously unappealing, aesthetic nightmare that became the Crystal Palace Hotel, as well as the environmental damage that may have been caused through the erection of one of the hotel’s towers.

Re-elected in 2002, a new PLP Government would make another fateful and potentially disastrous decision about Cable Beach, reinforcing its record of economic incompetence and mismanagement. Much of the same PLP culture which proved disastrous for Cable Beach under Sir Lynden has resurfaced under Perry Christie.

But back to the 1970s. The then PLP Government purchased three major hotels on Cable Beach: the Sonesta Beach Hotel, the Balmoral and the Hyatt Emerald Beach. The Pindling administration also set up the Hotel Corporation, with Sir Lynden predicting that once the Corporation was doing well financially, shares would be offered to Bahamians.

His prediction was way off the mark. Indeed, the Hotel Corporation would come to have a checkered history, with Sir Lynden serving as Chairman at various junctures. In 1991, Carnival Cruise Lines, the owner-operator of the Crystal Palace Resort experienced considerable losses and threatened to either pull out of the development or declare bankruptcy.

In volume two of her major history of The Bahamas, Dr. Gail Saunders details how the Hotel Corporation responded to this threat:

“The Hotel Corporation, already accused of making an initial ‘sweetheart deal’ with Carnival and using the Crystal Palace to ‘featherbed’ PLP supporters, agreed to yet another bailout. Adding to massive debts, incurred through an unbusinesslike combination of takeovers and extravagant new building, the Hotel Corporation took a 40 percent stake in the Crystal Palace for $70 million.

“Though the government cited the drastic decline in tourist stopovers resulting from the worldwide recession as the cause of the Hotel Corporation’s woes, the opposition charged the corporation with gross irresponsibility as well as corruption and accused the government of virtually printing money to disguise its failures.”

UNTENABLE
State ownership of a large chunk of the hotel sector was rife with internal contradictions, with the Government being in the untenable position of having to act as the regulator and the regulated. In “Pindling: The Life and Times of the First Prime Minister of The Bahamas”, Michael Craton captures how irreconcilable were the contradictions:

“The Hotel Corporation had to weigh and juggle the cost to the Treasury against the benefits of import duty concessions, the advantages against the disadvantages of levying a government tax on rooms, the problem of keeping the owners and managers happy with the level of the wages bill while keeping the workers contented with pay and working conditions, the acceptable balance between Bahamian expatriate employment.”

This defied even the political skills and charm of Sir Lynden. It was akin to asking Moses to keep both the Egyptians and the Israelites happy at the same time. Shockingly, despite this failed history, one of their own making, the PLP condemned the Bahamas to repeating some of this history in the deal with the I-Group in Mayaguana.

By taking a 50 per cent stake in the Mayaguana Development Company, the Government once again placed itself in the role of the regulator and the regulated, an inherent conflict of interest.

But this is indicative of a PLP that refuses to learn the lessons of history, including its own massive failures and endless conflicts of interest. The “All for me baby” mentality in the PLP is alive and well, waiting for the next opportunity for nepotism and deal-making in a hidebound culture of self-entitlement.

After coming to office in 1992, the FNM privatized a number of hotels owned by the Hotel Corporation, including Cable Beach properties now owned by the successful Sandals and Breezes chains. This helped to revive an ailing and ageing Cable Beach.

With its return to office, the Christie administration had an opportunity to demonstrate that it was a new PLP with new ideas for tourism in general and for Cable Beach in particular. Sadly, the re-elected PLP was as clueless about market economics as when it was turned out of office a decade earlier.

This included Mr. Christie, a former Minister of Tourism whose understanding of tourism seems not to have evolved since he held that office. It also includes the former Minister of Financial Services and Investments, who was also involved in the Baha Mar deal.

Senator Allyson Gibson Maynard’s breathless defence of the ill-conceived Mayaguana Project -- with its near give-away of many miles of pristine coastal property to a single foreign developer -- is suggestive of a disturbing mindset in the PLP in terms of national development. It is an essentially neo-colonial mindset for a party still pretending to be progressive and liberal.

RHETORIC
Absent any real ideas to realize its rhetoric of empowerment and Bahamianization, the PLP seized upon all manner of schemes proposed by all manner of developers. Many of those developers had more ideas -- not necessarily good ones -- than they had dollars or good sense.

But no matter, a desperate PLP was prepared to essentially give away Bahamian treasure in the form of land, excessive concessions and cash to lure many of these developers. This was a part of an unreconstructed mindset in the PLP which talks Bahamianization while trashing the best interests of Bahamians in the service of narrower interests.

Cable Beach was in need of redevelopment, but not just by any developer at just about any cost. One of the PLP Government’s lead negotiators on this project, a consummate uber-consultant, continues to defend the original Baha Mar deal in both the print and broadcast media.

The uber-consultant is defending The Bahamas alienating some of our more valuable Crown and government land so that the developer could secure a loan. If this level of extraordinary state beneficence was necessary in order for the developer to receive the loan, we chose the wrong developer, especially for one of our premier touristic sites.

That the developer has laboured to pay back and renegotiate the terms of its major loan is suggestive of many things. All of which should have been taken into consideration before the Christie administration handed over the vision and patrimony of Cable Beach to selective interests.

As egregious, the developer was a middleman with no real track record in such a megaproject. And, the original deal that is being defended was rife with concessions the country never should have granted, a number of which have been clawed back by the Ingraham administration.

To see some of the blunders made at Baha Mar - readers may wish to read Baha Mar: Anatomy of a Big Blunder.

While Baha Mar may bring some short- and medium-term gains, its longer term prospects may be problematic on numerous fronts. The country continues to pay for the mistakes an earlier PLP made at Cable Beach. It may now have to endure the problems of a potentially colossal error that the Christie administration made with Baha Mar.

Baha Mar Drama – (Part 1)

bahamapundit

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Baha Mar Drama - (Part 1)

The Drama at Baha Mar – Part 1
by Simon


Lights, camera, action! At least, that was the theory. With giddy fanfare the Christie administration broke into the ZNS evening news to broadcast live from Cable Beach a deal hyping an agreement with Baha Mar. The made-for-television reality show was obviously and deliberately timed to coincide with the beginning of the evening news, commandeering most of that night’s broadcast.

But after the lights and cameras trekked back to Third Terrace Centreville, nothing happened. Well, quite a bit happened. Except, of course, the construction of the promised mega complex. The original deal, the world economy and the Christie administration all collapsed, though not necessarily in that order.

The impressive architectural models and glittering high-tech videos of the touted development glossed over the realities on the ground. The public relations bonanza also obscured the nature and details surrounding the proposed plans to re-develop the historic Cable Beach.

We have seen this reality show before. It involves the same mindset, plot and cast of PLP cabinet ministers and their associated dealmakers that brought us the Great Mayaguana Land Give-away. The initial arrangements for the Baha Mar deal and the I-Group deal in Mayaguana involved more than rank hypocrisy by the party whose progressive and liberal brand name are whispery echoes of a by-gone era.

More fundamentally, the deals betrayed the PLP’s own nationalist rhetoric and chest-thumping patriotism. At the core of the Cable Beach and Mayaguana deals were stunning betrayals of the very idea of Bahamianization. This included making Bahamians subordinate in the deals, while alienating prime Crown Land and Government real estate to foreigners in perpetuity.


GALLING

Equally galling, was the PLP’s attempt to market these schemes to Bahamians as if we were idiots who could not see the big picture or read the fine print. There was also the smugness and arrogance by PLP hucksters. They pretended that these deals were more for the benefit of ordinary Bahamians than for the self-satisfied oligarchs who brokered them with gleeful abandon.

As recently as the 2010/11 budget debate, the Opposition’s Leader in the Senate, Senator Allyson Maynard Gibson, boasted that the Mayaguana Development Company, the group responsible for a proposed development at our most easterly island, was owned 50/50 by the I-Group and the Bahamas Government.

As noted in Front Porch in July: “This 50/50 arrangement would have eventually sold off nearly 100 per cent of Mayaguana’s coastal area and nearly 10,000 acres to non-Bahamians.

“As Mayaguana, by comparison, is somewhat larger than New Providence, the deal the PLP continues to brag about was the equivalent of turning over to a single developer a stretch of coastal land from the eastern end of New Providence to Lyford Cay. Again, the vast majority of this land would have ended up in foreign hands.”

Back to the drama at Baha Mar. Perry Gladstone Christie and his new PLP sold off at bargain basement prices prime beachfront and other public land at Cable Beach that Sir Stafford Sands and the UBP, Sir Lynden Pindling and an earlier version of the PLP, and Hubert Ingraham and the FNM never did over the course of more than half a century. Mr. Christie now has his place in the history books!

The original Baha Mar deal was a disaster on so many levels. Despite the rhetoric, the supposedly new PLP under Mr. Christie never updated their philosophy and policy ideas. The party simply wanted to be back in power. Upon returning to office they scrambled, cobbling together various slogans, clich├ęs and talking points to justify their old habits of wheeling and dealing.

Perhaps realizing the controversial nature of significant elements of the original Baha Mar deal, Mr. Christie -- who purports to be the man of great consultation -- kept details of the deal secret. It was left to the Ingraham administration to table the Heads of Agreements on the initial deal.

INSULT

This was an insult added to the many injuries inflicted on our national interest in the initial deal, including public land sold at discounted prices and the proposed grant of extraordinarily generous concessions and cash payments. There were initial hints that Goodman’s Bay may have been alienated from the Bahamian people, though somebody appeared to backtrack quickly on this affront.

With Baha Mar and various anchor projects, the PLP failed to embrace newer ideas in terms of our tourism product and economic development. The idea of Baha Mar as essentially another Atlantis may have been a critical mistake. Such a vision stoked the egos of the proponents of the deal and Mr. Christie.

Still, a different type of project or variety of projects at Cable Beach, aimed at a different tourism demographic, would have been the wiser course of action. Moreover, rather than alienating invaluable public land, other arrangements could have been made to secure most of this land for generations of Bahamians.

In the Mayaguana deal the PLP at least pretended to be concerned about the national interest. The deal with Baha Mar was a give-away of monumental proportions.

There could have also been arrangements to enable Bahamians to have various levels of ownership and equity in a development which was to be built on mostly public land. Instead, the Christie administration turned its back on the core ideal of Bahamianization which was at the heart of the movement for Majority Rule.

Sadly, with the conclusion of the original deal with Baha Mar, there was no turning back, one of the slogans beloved by the PLP’s marketers. That other favourite PLP slogan, “Forward Ever, Backward Never”, also crashed and burned in light of the initial deal negotiated by Mr. Christie.

Having set in motion and made unavoidable many of the features of the current deal with Baha Mar, Mr. Christie in his typical political style, has left it up to Prime Minister Ingraham to do the heavy lifting on a final deal which he himself failed to conclude.

TONE!

Now Mr. Christie is commenting on the Prime Minister’s tone – tone! -- on a final deal. This is in keeping with his usual course of inaction in which style and tone are more important than substance. After all, who can forget his gushing and ingratiating tone when the Baha Mar deal was announced live on television? For all of Mr. Christie’s sweet melodies and tone, nothing happened.

Moreover, despite his lovely tone about the initial deal, he brokered an agreement which was wrong for The Bahamas on many levels. Mr. Ingraham has replaced Mr. Christie’s amateur tone with that of a seasoned leader. Whereas Mr. Christie was impetuous and cavalier, Mr. Ingraham has been measured and has driven a harder bargain.

Unlike Sir Lynden and the PLP’s unilateral abrogation of elements of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, Mr. Ingraham negotiated the best deal he could for the Bahamas with Baha Mar. He has struck the right tone in negotiating with others who simply rolled over the hapless Mr. Christie, who was panicked about getting a deal at just about any cost to secure his re-election and legacy.

Short-term, the Prime Minister has sometimes been criticized about his manner and timing in negotiating elements of a final deal. In the longer term the wisdom of his negotiating strategy may prove more beneficial for the country.

In addition to tabling all heads of agreements related to Baha Mar, the Prime Minister is correct in bringing a resolution to the House of Assembly so that the Bahamian people’s elected representatives can express their will.

This will be time for Mr. Christie to do something which he has been reluctant to do from the inception of Baha Mar: To go on record clearly and unambiguously about his party’s stance on many of the controversial issues involved in an agreement whose initial seeds he helped to plant and water.

Baha Mar Drama - (Part 2)

bahamapundit

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham will personally discuss aspects of the proposed Baha Mar project which continue to be of "concern" to his Government - during his upcoming trip to China

Baha Mar on PM's China trip agenda
By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
tthompson@tribunemedia.net



PRIME Minister Hubert Ingraham, in an interview with The Tribune, said he intends to personally discuss aspects of the proposed Baha Mar project, which continues to be of "concern" to his Government, when he meets with the leaders of the China State Construction Company and the China Export Import Bank during his trip to China next week.

Mr Ingraham gave details of this considerably important visit and the issues he hopes to discuss with several companies and the government of the People's Republic of China.

The Prime Minister will also meet with high level officials from Hutchison Whampoa and the Chinese Government to discuss, among other things, the future of Hutchison's hotel properties in Grand Bahama, the National Stadium and the Gateway Road Corridor.

Mr Ingraham's hectic schedule begins when he leaves the country on October 22. His proposed itinerary reads like a list of some of the most economically vital and controversial issues facing the country today.

It seems almost fitting that it is Mr Ingraham who is sitting at the helm of the nation's business while the government has to deal with the eminent completion of the National Stadium, the construction of the Gateway Road Corridor and the proposed multi-billion dollar Baha Mar project, as it was under his leadership that the Bahamas established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1997.

The prime minister has publicly expressed concern over what he considers some of the more vexatious aspects of the Baha Mar deal.

He proposes to take advantage of his visit to China to meet with the leadership of the China State Construction Company and the China Export Import Bank to discuss "aspects of the proposed Baha Mar project construction terms which continue to be of concern" to his government.

Mr Ingraham will also meet with the leaders of Hutchison Whampoa - Deputy Chairman of Hutchison Whampoa Vincent Li and Raymond Chow, head of Hutchison's Hotel Division. While all of Hutchison's operations in The Bahamas will be discussed, uppermost on his agenda will be the future of Hutchison's hotel properties in Grand Bahama.

Hotels

"As you are aware those hotels continue to operate at a loss and to be supported by direct funding from Hong Kong," the prime minister said.

When Mr Ingraham visits Beijing, he is expected to call on a number of senior officials in the Government of the People's Republic of China to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern.

These will include the National Stadium, the Gateway Road Corridor, the Bahamas' interest in training and transfer of skills connected to the engagement of significant numbers of Chinese construction experts on projects in The Bahamas; cooperation on matters arising from climate change and disaster relief initiatives, agriculture, clean energy (solar and wind) and IT, increased tourism flow and other general bilateral relations, including China-CARICOM relations. The prime minister is travelling to China this year at the invitation of the Government of China. It is an invitation that he has had to delay on at least two occasions due to pressing national matters and other scheduling conflicts.

"Originally I had proposed to visit China during the last Olympiad. Subsequently, I signalled my intention to attend the opening ceremonies of the Shanghai Expo earlier this year. As it turns out, it will be the closing ceremony of the Expo that I will attend," Mr Ingraham said.

He is also expected to meet with Chinese officials, including Chairman Wu Bangguo and Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu both of whom have visited The Bahamas recently.

On his way to China, Mr Ingraham will spend a full day in Hong Kong where he will participate in the official opening of a new Bahamas Maritime Authority office and attend a reception, hosted by the BMA for a cross section of potential investors in The Bahamas - maritime, financial services and tourism in particular.

"I believe that we have excellent relations with the People's Republic of China. The importance that my Government places on this relationship is demonstrated by our appointment of a former non-portfolio Cabinet Minister to head our Diplomatic Mission in Beijing. Ambassador (Elma) Campbell is the first resident Bahamian Ambassador appointed to Beijing.

Diplomatic

"It was under my party's leadership that The Bahamas ended diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan) and in recognition of our support for the One China policy, established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1997," Mr Ingraham said.

Mr Ingraham acknowledged that China has been a generous friend to The Bahamas whether in response to hurricanes, in offering technical and language training scholarships to Bahamian nationals, in gifting the National Stadium, or in supporting the Bahamas' recent efforts to overcome the challenges from the OECD regarding the country's financial services sector and the conclusion of TIEAs with OECD and G20 countries.

China has set aside the sum of $1 billion for soft loans to Caricom countries. Of that sum, some 15 per cent, i.e. $150 million, has been earmarked for lending to The Bahamas.

Mr Ingraham said that the extent to which the Bahamas might identify other suitable projects that fall within the quota set for The Bahamas, will be determined at a later date. The House of Assembly recently approved a resolution for the government to borrow nearly $58 million from the China Export-Import Bank to construct a four-lane airport highway. The project will mean the grant of 200 work permits for Chinese labourers, but also a very low interest rate for the loan. "The Bahamas very much appreciates that in an international environment where soft or concessional loans for infrastructure development is increasingly scarce for middle income countries like the Bahamas, the willingness of the Chinese Government to extend such low interest loans to us," the prime minister said.

This will be Mr Ingraham's second visit to the People's Republic of China. Mr Ingraham first visited China in 2000.

October 12, 2010

tribune242

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham lashes out at the Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP's) 'absolute nonsense' on the Baha Mar deal

PM lashes out at PLP's 'absolute nonsense' on Baha Mar deal
tribune242


PRIME MINISTER Hubert Ingraham has called the PLP's latest jab over his stance on the Baha Mar deal "absolute nonsense".

The PLP accused Mr Ingraham of making a mockery of the foreign investment process after he declared that the government was still not satisfied with the terms of the deal, particularly with regard to the foreign labour element and the fact that the entire project is to be completed in one phase.

The PLP accused the government and Mr Ingraham of having policies that "come off as shifting sands, sinking ground".

But in a dismissive two line statement issued yesterday, the prime minister said the PLP's problem is they "simply cannot take a stand".

"Having negotiated a deal giving away our land, they shamelessly continue to defend the indefensible," he said.

The debate over the proposed $2.6 billion resort development intensified this week after Baha Mar announced it had concluded an agreement with SoctiaBank over outstanding loan payments, this being considered one of the final hurdles to the project getting off the ground.

Mr Ingraham responded shortly after, saying the government still has concerns about the deal.

This prompted the PLP, on whose watch the Baha Mar heads of agreement were signed, to accuse the government of not sticking to its word. The party issued a statement which read: "What does someone think of a prime minister who comes to parliament asking parliament to approve a project, having negotiated a new agreement with Baha Mar and then unceremoniously abrogates that agreement by changing the rules in the middle of the game?

Warned

"We warned him that there was a problem with the high foreign labour content. He was dismissive saying a deal was a deal.

"We warned him of the consequences of default of the project falling into the hands of a foreign state. He was dismissive and said a deal was a deal.

"Now it turns out that a deal is not a deal and he is prepared to flip and flop at every turn to save his political skin."The opposition said the Baha Mar project is the only major investment game in town and there is no other project on the horizon that offers the same level of capital injection, job creation, economic stimulation, and public revenue generation - all of which "the weakened and challenged economy of the Bahamas so desperately needs."

October 09, 2010

tribune242

Stephen Wrinkle - Bahamas Contractors Association (BCA) President says: It is time for industry involvement in the Baha Mar negotiations

Call for more industry input in Baha Mar negotiations
NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
nnicolls@tribunemedia.net


IT IS time for industry involvement in the Baha Mar negotiations, according to the Bahamas Contractors Association.

Since the BCA submitted its position paper to the government in August it has received no response. Association president Stephen Wrinkle said "it seems to be the typical way of doing business" that industry stakeholders are not consulted.

Mr Wrinkle's comments came in the wake of Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham making his strongest personal statements yet on the Baha Mar issue.

Now that the financial hurdles have been overcome, Mr Wrinkle said he hopes the major stakeholders - Baha Mar, government and industry - will be brought together to iron out the remaining kinks.

"I would have thought more industry consultation would have taken place. They certainly have access to people in the industry through the Ministry of Works, but then again that is a government ministry," said Mr Wrinkle.

"We met with the opposition party and their caucus; we briefed them on our position paper and had discussions. We have met with Baha Mar and had discussions with them, but we have had absolutely no response from the government. I couldn't elaborate any further on what their position is because we don't know," he said.

Last week Mr Ingraham suggested Baha Mar may have to review the labour component of its proposal as well as plans for a "single-phased development" in order to satisfy the government's concerns.

One of the main concerns of industry, according to Mr Wrinkle, is the involvement of Bahamian contractors and the transfer of knowledge.

"These big international contracts are extremely difficult to micro-manage at a small level. It will take additional resources on their part to include more Bahamian contractors. It will take more oversight, more management, more participation from the project management team. We understand that," said Mr Wrinkle.

"I think there are concessions that have been given and others that are available to offset this added expense. The tradeoff is well worth it," he said.

On the matter of transferring knowledge, Mr Wrinkle said foreign contractors are not interested in transferring knowledge at the level of labour.

If the focus is only on supplying labour, he said, there would likely be little transfer of knowledge.

"How do you transfer knowledge on how to drive a shovel? That is nothing. We don't need that type of transfer of knowledge. We need to capitalise on techniques and technologies that are unavailable to us on the local market.

"There is not transfer at knowledge at the labour level. It is the duty of the government, the responsibility of government to put in place measures to ensure participation of the local industry. We cannot do it on our own," he said.

So far, Baha Mar has been responsive to the concerns of industry representatives, according to Mr Wrinkle.

However, there are currently no pledges on the table for money to be allocated for training and no stipulations requiring Baha Mar to integrate Bahamian contractors and their crews into the Baha Mar project.

October 09, 2010

tribune242