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Columns Last Updated: Apr 15, 2017 - 2:08:29 PM


This Week in The Bahamas Commentary by Elcott Coleby: Apr 10 - 14
By Elcott Coleby
Apr 15, 2017 - 1:35:45 PM

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Prime Minister Christie announces 10th May 2017 as General Election date

Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade, as Provost Marshal, read the Proclamation dissolving the current Parliament, and the Proclamation of the convening of a new Parliament, on the steps of the House of Assembly in Rawson Square, April 11, 2017.

Shortly thereafter, Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie read the following nationally aired statement on the date of the next General Elections:

“Earlier today, just a short while ago, the present Parliament was officially dissolved. Every seat in the House of Assembly is now vacant. It is now left to you, the citizenry of our beloved nation, to decide who will fill those seats in the next House of Assembly.

“In doing so, you will also be deciding who will form the Government of The Bahamas for the next five years. You will make that momentous decision in what I earnestly hope and pray will be free and fair elections, following a spirited but peaceful campaign. Let us contest the forthcoming elections with all the vigour at our command. Let us do so, however, with respect for the human dignity of our opponents, and with respect for the traditions we all hold dear.

“We are one of the oldest democracies in our hemisphere. Our Parliament traces its history back hundreds of years.

“Let us by our conduct in the general election campaign that officially starts today prove ourselves worthy of the great democratic traditions of free, fair and peaceful elections that have made our country the marvel of nations around the world.

“I have every confidence that we shall.

“And so, my fellow Bahamians, it's over to you now. Together you will decide the way forward. You will do so in General Elections that will take place throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas on Wednesday, the 10th May 2017.

“May Almighty God guide you in this great endeavor, and may Almighty God bless our great nation.”

NHI enrolment begins 24th April 2017


Beginning April 24, 2017, the National Health Insurance (NHI) Secretariat will launch phase two of NHI Bahamas, which is enrolment.

During the enrollment phase, Bahamians will select their Primary Care physician, which includes family medicine practitioners, general practitioners, internists, OBGYN, and paediatricians.

In order to enroll, persons will need the following:

1. NIB Smart Card
2. Must be a Bahamian citizen or legal resident
3. Proof of residency in The Bahamas for the last six (6) months

(e.g. Utility bill in your name, lease agreement, job letter, etc.)

Persons who have private insurance will also need to provide the insurance policy group and Member ID number. However, individuals who do not have private insurance can still enroll for NHI Bahamas.

The Secretariat strongly urges Bahamians to enroll in NHI Bahamas online through: www.nhibahamas.gov.bs

The enrollment form will be available as of April 24on the website and at NHI Bahamas enrollment locations, which will soon be announced.

The form will require persons to fill out personal information and select their doctor from a list of registered Primary Care providers.

Enrollment forms will be processed and persons can expect to receive either confirmation of their enrollment and Primary Care provider selection within 10 business days, or be contacted to provide additional documentation.

Confirmation notices will also provide the date when each person can access Primary Care services under NHI Bahamas at no cost at point of care.

The NHI Secretariat asks that persons enroll early so that they can start receiving the benefits NHI Bahamas will bring, especially to those who cannot afford health care.

Industrial Action By Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers

On Thursday of this week, some members of the Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union staged a sickout ahead of the busy Easter weekend, impacting travel in and out of the Lynden Pindling International Airport. The Minister of Transport and Aviation the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin released the following statement:

“This morning the Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union engaged in an apparent industrial action with a number of air traffic controllers calling in sick. The Bahamas Air Navigation Service Division (BANSD) put in place a contingency plan incorporating air traffic controllers who reported for duty along with online managers which permitted operations to continue. This industrial action, however, significantly slowed down the movement of aircraft during what is normally a very busy period before the Easter holidays.

“This action taken by surprise, relates, according to the President, to a number of outstanding matters which are the current subject of discussion with the Ministries of Transport and Labour ranging from the frequency of the shuttle service from the security checkpoint to the Tower to the payment of outstanding holiday pay and other money matters. Indeed the Minister of Labour is currently in ongoing dialogue with the Union relative to some of these matters.

“As a result of the action taken many international and domestic flights suffered significant delay with American Airlines cancelling 3 of its flights, I am advised. The action taken by the Union is of an extreme nature in its impact to the Bahamian people and our economy.It has led to economic loss, gross inconvenience and an unwarranted interference with the right to the enjoyment of movement by air. All of this has no doubt impacted the reputation of The Bahamas in the travel industry, the foundation of our economy.”

By the afternoon of Thursday, operations at the airport had returned to normal as only workers scheduled for the morning shift called in sick. Much of the negotiations by both the Transport and Aviation Minister and Labour Minister the Hon. D. Shane Gibson are credited with bringing about this quick resolution.

PLP: “15% to 20% of lowest income households” to get free electricity


The governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Democratic National Alliance (PLP) released either part of all of their election campaign promises this week.

The campaign promise that attracted much interest was the PLP’s proposal to cover the cost of electricity to the poorest 15% to 20% of Bahamians.

In a press release, the party said the proposal “comes from a core PLP value: to bring hope and help to those amongst us who need it most.”

“Our proposal is simple” said the statement: “To introduce policies under which the government will cover the cost of electricity to residential customers who limit their monthly use to below specified limits.”

“Under the new policy” the statement continued, “the next PLP government will cover the cost of electricity to residential customers who limit their monthly use to below specified limits. This means that the use of electricity will be FREE to those customers.

“Using current data, we anticipate that this will affect 15%-20% of the lowest income households. These are people who are struggling the most, and need assistance in maintaining even a basic level of electricity supply. Although specific levels will be determined nearer the time of the introduction of the policy, the customers who will benefit currently pay around $50 per person per month, which covers all basic electricity usage.”

BPL responds to Tribune article on free electricity proposal

The Tribune published a headline story in its Thursday edition on the PLP’s proposal to cover electricity costs for some categories of BPL customers. Persons on social media interpreted the story to mean BPL was offering free electricity and persons began asking where and when could they sign up for this free electricity. BPL released the following statement in response to the newspaper article:

“Please be advised that the information contained in today’s Tribune is unknown to BPL, nor was it provided by the company. Our goal at BPL is to provide consistent, reliable and affordable electricity service to our customers, while maintaining a viable operation.

“We would like to thank our customers for their continued patronage, and we are most appreciative of your support as we execute our mandate and policies that are in the best interest of the people of The Bahamas.”

Baha Mar to Open to the Public on April 21st at 12 Noon

Dear friends,

Friday, April 21, 2017 marks the first day on a journey into a glorious future for Baha Mar. As we get ready to open our doors to the world for the first time, we cordially invite you to be part of our celebration.

Below, please find a schedule of events taking place on opening day:


9:00am – 9:25am - Media and Special Guests Only

Press Conference hosted by Graeme Davis, President of Baha Mar, followed by brief Q&A

9:25am - 9:45am

Ribbon Cutting - Media and Special Guests Only

Location: Baha Mar Porte-cochere

9:00am - 9:30am

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony - Media and Special Guests Only

10:45am – 11:00am

Location: Baha Mar Convention Center

Reception - Media and Special Guests Only

11:00am – 2:00pm

Location: Baha Mar Convention Center - Andros Ballroom

Enjoy a taste of Baha Mar!

12:00pm -- Baha Mar opens open its doors to the public.

You are welcome to explore our beautiful property!

In Passing…

The country’s fisheries industry is experiencing higher yields as a result of the enhanced naval/military operation being conducted throughout The Bahamas by officers and marines of the RBDF.

A Freeport News article noted that Prime Minister Christie was the bearer of good news for Grand Bahama, announcing that a letter of intent (LOI) for the sale of the Lucayan Hotel Properties has been signed with a new purchaser. The Prime Minister made the announcement to a crowd gathered for the PLP’s first official rally in Grand Bahama on Friday, 7th April 2017.

Freeport News noted that Minister Darville led a tour of Capital Investment and Development Projects throughout Central and West Grand Bahama, which showcased the $1,000,000.00 E-Nose System Project in the Freeport Industrial Park that borders the Southern Shore Communities of Pinder’s Point, Seco Town, Lewis Yard, Hunters, Bevans’ Town, Mack Town and Hawksbill.

A Bahamian seafood exporter on Tuesday said it expects to receive approval to export live lobsters by air to China before Christmas, adding that this market could ultimately surpass the US as its largest.

Speaker of the House of Assembly Dr. Kendal Major on Tuesday agreed with the need for fixed election dates, following Prime Minister Christie’s announcement that the next general election will be held on May 10.

Just over 170,000 people have registered to vote for the May 10 general election, Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall said Tuesday. This follows what he described as a “mad rush” of people registering to vote on Monday, the last day of registration.

Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell has hinted at possible legal repercussions for comments leveled at him by FNM Leader Dr. Minnis earlier this week, dismissing the claims that he was “giving out citizenships” as “damnable and contemptible falsehood and untruth”.

Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller has criticized the two local academics who have campaigned for voters to spoil their ballot as a form of protest, stating because of their comments the professors “should not be on staff” at the University of the Bahamas.

FNM North Eleuthera candidate Howard “Rickey” Mackey Tuesday said that in no way was he concerned by PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts threat to “drop some more bombshells” about him as the 2017 general election campaign season progresses.

Despite widespread backlash over a last-minute delay and ultimate revision of dates for the third Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday insisted that there has not been any “negative” feedback associated with the festival.

The Ministry of Tourism held a ‘party in the backyard’ to introduce residents, industry partners and media in the Washington DC area to Bahamian culture.

PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts blasted lambasted FNM Leader for his refusal to take questions from the Tuesday press and once again encouraging voters “not to turn the clock back” on the work the Christie administration has done over the past five years. Minnis responded that he pays no attention to what Roberts has to say.

The Bahama Journal reported that despite numerous calls for debate among the country’s political leaders, FNM Chairman Sidney Collie said that if it is left up to him, his leader Dr. Hubert Minnis, would not engage in such a debate.

The Bahama Journal reported that after allegations by DNA Fox Hill candidate Kendal Smith that Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell accepted a two million dollar cheque from the Chinese to complete the Fox Hill Community Centre, Mr. Mitchell yesterday called the accusation as false. Actually the funds to finish the project were secured from the IDB. The Grants Town Community Center was also completed from IDB funds.

The Ministry of Education on Tuesday announced that three national examinations have been rescheduled due to their clash with the May 10 date for the 2017 general elections.

Tribute was paid to former Governor General Sir Orville Turnquest at the annual general meeting of the Governor General’s Youth Award as he steps down as the organization’s chairman of the board of trustees.

The “exploding” vacation rental market will likely eat into hotel occupancy rates, a Bahamian realtor predicted Tuesday, estimating that 20 per cent of this nation’s stopover visitors are currently using such accommodations.

Bahamas First chief executive yesterday said it “definitely has no intention” of entering the local health insurance market, despite a subsidiary obtaining ‘exclusive rights’ to refer Bahamian patients to a Cayman hospital.

The Bahamasair ATR plane wrecked in a freak storm that spawned a tornado has been declared a write-off by ATR engineers, the chairman of the airline said Tuesday. The company expects receipt of a new ATR by the end of June.

Part-owner of the Town Center Mall, Brent Symonette, suggested that the mall would have been a more cost-effective option for the new post office. The Government instead entered into a public-private partnership to construct the new General Post Office at the Independence Shopping Center opposite AF Adderley Junior School.

Aliv, the Bahamas’ newest telecommunications company, is committed to the empowerment of young people throughout the country and assisted Project Social, a program geared at driving youth entrepreneurship and reducing youth unemployment.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources has lifted the temporary ban on the import of beef and beef by-products from Brazil.

There has been a recall of Robin Hood flour in Canada due to possible e-coli contamination, the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources has advised.

The proposed Credit Bureau will be an “eye opener” for many Bahamian consumers when it exposes just how heavily indebted they are, the Central Bank’s governor said yesterday. John Rolle said that legislation for the Bahamas Credit Bureau’s creation is in its final draft form, with the next government tasked with bringing it to Parliament.

Further, the Central Governor said that the Central Bank will better understand the true level of foreign currency financing demand among Bahamian businesses when the next exchange control liberalization phase takes effect on April 24.

While Central Bank of the Bahamas Governor John Rolle did not shut down the idea of web shop owners applying for a bank license, he warned that establishing a financial institution in The Bahamas still requires integration into the global financial community.

As the end of the budget period approaches, Governor of the Central Bank of the Bahamas John Rolle said the Government would have been much closer to meeting its fiscal targets if Hurricane Matthew had not occurred.

The Bahamas has to move away from the current economic model that relies heavily on tourism and foreign direct investment if it is to start to recognize real growth in the long term, suggested a former governor of the Central Bank this week. Additionally, two former Central Bank Governors agreed that Bahamians have been “badly served” by the political class in terms of understanding the country’s economy, how it works and where it is going.

Spanish Wells residents were said to be “elated” that Commonwealth Bank has confirmed it will open a branch on the island, filling the vacuum left by RBC’s pull out.

The Water and Sewerage Corporation has signed a $14.2 million contract with Island Site Development (ISD) for the construction of several wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations in New Providence.

Commissioner of Police Greenslade Wednesday confirmed that Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall forwarded several cases for the police to review of people being registered to vote more than once, but said he is satisfied those cases were done without “bad intentions.”

HAPPY EASTER TO ALL OUR READERS AND BAHAMIANS!


About the author: Elcott Coleby is a Deputy Director at the Bahamas Information Services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry (B.Sc) and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). He provides frequent commentary on public policy and communicates the works of the government. Address all comments to the following email: egcoleby44@gmail.com





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