• BAHAMAS AMBASSADOR JACKSON DELIVERS CARICOM STATEMENT

    H.E. Rhoda M. Jackson, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of The Bahamas to the United Nations, Geneva, on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, delivered the historic, inaugural statement of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in the Human Rights Council since that body’s establishment in 2006.

    At the initiative of the delegation of The Bahamas, the statement was drafted and delivered during the Annual Full Day Discussion on the Human Rights of Women, during a panel discussion convened under the theme of “Accelerating efforts to eliminate violence against women; engaging men and boys in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls.”

    The Bahamas, the endorsed CARICOM candidate for election to the Human Rights Council for the term 2019-2021, presently serves as focal point on human rights matters for the CARICOM Group in Geneva. It is the hope that this will be the first of many future statements by the Group in this Forum, with a view to ensuring that the voices of CARICOM States are heard on issues of priority for the sub-region.

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  • FORMER ADMINISTRATION ACCUSED OF "CHANNELING MONEY TO CERTAIN PEOPLE"

    Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis, in his contribution to the Budget Debate, June 20, in the House of Assembly accused the former Progressive Liberal Party Administration of using Hurricane Matthew “as a way of channeling money to certain people.” “Hurricane Matthew was a massive storm. It left destruction and devastation [across a number of islands]. It is absolutely unacceptable for public funds to be channeled to a select few in the aftermath of the Hurricane,” Prime Minister Minnis told House Members. The Prime Minister said, for example, a total of $28,975,187 was expended on Hurricane Clean-up. $22,939,178 was spent to clean up New Providence, while $5,881,649 was spent on clean-up efforts in Grand Bahama and another $154,360 on clean-up efforts in North Andros. Prime Minister Minnis said a number of individuals were engaged in the clean up exercise following the passage of Matthew. “Upon my review of payments made to various vendors, I was astonished by one particular vendor which stood out. There are many questionable payments, but the payments the vendor are shocking.”

    Prime Minister Minnis said the one vendor received 46 payment transactions totaling $7,056,348.24. The request for payment was submitted through the Ministry of Works and the National Recovery and Reconstruction Unit. In addition, he said, contracts for cleaning and sorting debris at three dumpsites totaled $1,057,560 for a grand total of $8,113,908.24. “We have quite a bit of information, much of which is quite shocking,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “We will pass this and other information to the Office of the Auditor General. “Can you imagine what over eight million, one hundred and thirteen thousand dollars can do for this country? When one examines this, one can imagine the families that could have been hired; the homes that could have been constructed; the school repairs that could have been completed; the scholarships that could have been awarded,” Prime Minister Minnis added.

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  • GOVERNMENT HOSTS RECREATIONAL FISHERIES WORKSHOP

    The Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries opened a recreational fisheries workshop at BAIC headquarters, Wednesday comprising 30 experts from 12 Caribbean countries. It was the Sixth Meeting of joint Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC), Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Organization for Fisheries and Aquaculture of Central America (OSPESCA), and Caribbean Fisheries Management Council of the USA (CFMC) Data Provision workshop. Various organizations, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Nature Conservancy, and University of Miami joined the workshop, which over the duration of three days would give focus to national and regional recreational fisheries data and sustainable capacity building.

    Organizers, dedicated to the needs of recreational fishers, advocate for detailed-oriented data collection needed to build the sport; they discussed using an app to collect data and share globally from the region.

    Recreational fisheries significantly contribute to job creation and employment, tourism, food security and coastal livelihoods in the Caribbean region. The economic impact of recreational and sport fishing in The Bahamas is estimated at US$500 million plus annually to the nation's GDP through tourist expenditures, and it gainfully employs approximately 18,000 Bahamians.

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  • GOVERNMENT COMMITTED TO SUPPORT OF UWI SCHOOL OF CLINICAL MEDICINE AND RESEARCH, BAHAMAS CAMPUS

    Minister of Health Dr. the Hon. Duane Sands said the Government remains committed to its support of the University of the West Indies School of Clinical Medicine and Research (The Bahamas) programme, which includes provision per student of $13,400 of the $20,000 per annum tuition, along with a monthly stipend, and the subsidies of the salaries of the lecturers. This translates to an investment of approximately $4 million per year. The total number of doctors trained to date is 329 with 70 per cent being females and 30 per cent males, Dr. Sands said. He addressed the Induction and Awards Ceremony for the 2017 graduating class of the University of the West Indies School of Clinical Medicine and Research at Melia Nassau Beach, Monday, June 19, 2017. There were 44 new graduates and 16 post-graduates from a number of specialities including emergency medicine, family medicine, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology and surgery. “This graduating class being the largest graduating class to date for the programme will now join the ranks to ensure the delivery of quality healthcare in our Bahamas.”

    The Health Minister said establishing the University of the West Indies Bahamas campus, was one of the best national investments made in strengthening the health workforce. The University of the West Indies School of Medicine is the medical school of choice for Bahamians seeking careers in the practice of medicine, and over 50 per cent of the graduates continue to be employed in the public health sector, he said.

    However, he noted that a review of the physician manpower status revealed that within the next 10 years a physician shortfall will occur. Dr. Sands said to meet the expanding healthcare needs in The Bahamas, continued investment must occur, not only to strengthen the workforce capacity of the Faculty but also the delivery of services at the primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare levels. He said a long-term effort is required to rebuild the public health workforce, and it will require major support from national and a wide variety of international agencies.

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  • MINISTER DAMES COMMENDS POLICE RESERVISTS

    The Royal Bahamas Police Reserves have been extremely helpful in supporting the front line operations of the Force, Minister of State the Hon. Marvin Dames said, during his 2017/2018 Budget Contribution in the House of Assembly, on June 12, 2017. He said this dedicated group of volunteers sacrificed time and talents to assist in public safety and nation building. Minister Dames said that on May 29, 2017, he met with the Reservists at Police Headquarters to listen to their concerns, and also shared the government’s anti-crime policies. "Our Government will commence a restructuring exercise with the intent of modernizing the Reserves in such a way that it keeps pace the constantly changing law enforcement profession," he said. "This exercise will involve the review of its establishment, rank structure, eligibility requirements, training and mandate."

    In addition, Minister Dames said, his Government will also take a look at some of the outstanding welfare issues that continue to be a concern by that group, with a view of doing whatever the Government can -- within the fiscal parameters -- to bring relief. "I wish to assure the members of the public that in this new era of transparency and greater public sector accountability, many of the provisions of the Police Force Act 2009 will be implemented," Minister Dames said. "In addition to the Commissioner’s Policing Plan, we will ensure that as is required by law, within six months after the end of each year the Commissioner’s Report will be presented to Parliament for all to assess the extent to which the Commissioner’s Policing Plan was carried out."

    Minister Dames said that, additionally, internal and external inspections of the Force will be conducted to assess its overall efficiency and effectiveness. He added that the Government would reactivate the Police Complaints Inspectorate to ensure that all complaints made by members of the public are properly investigated. "We shall also, in accordance with the Police Force Act 2009, ensure that all accounts as outlined by the Act are audited and that the audited reports are tabled before this Honourable House," Minister Dames said. "I shall use my authority to make whatever regulations are necessary for carrying out the objectives of the Act, as outlined in Section 125 of the Police Force Act 2009."

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  • MINISTER OF EDUCATION GIVES STATUS REPORT AND PROPOSED WAY FORWARD IN BUDGET CONTRIBUTION

    Minister of Education the Hon. Jeffrey Lloyd in his Contribution to the 2017/2018 Budget Debate expressed displeasure with the state of the education system in The Bahamas at all levels ranging from preschool to high school.

    Minister Lloyd stressed that to fix these problems, we must first admit we have them.

    Noting persistent ill-preparedness of Bahamian students to compete in the 21st century, the Minister covered a number of areas the government will fund in order to create a more technology and knowledge-based learning environment to equip students to successfully contribute to the country’s growing economy.

    At all levels of education, the Minister of Education proposed many improvements to the education system such as teachers’ training, apprenticeship programmes, special education, and plans to improve the overall curriculum at all levels of education so that education in the Bahamas is at world standard.

    He described the 2016 results for the 24th sitting of Grade Level Assessment Tests (GLAT), Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) and Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE).

    In 2016, there were 5,428 third grade students across The Bahamas who sat the GLAT examination, in English and Mathematics. Results were 63.48 percent of the grades awarded were A-D passes, whereas 36.5 percent of the grades awarded were between the E-U range.

    At the sixth grade level, 5,053 candidates registered to sit examinations for four subjects offered (English, Math, Science and Social Studies). Results were 59.56 percent of the overall candidates who wrote the examination received A-D grades, whereas a startling 40 percent were awarded failing grades between E-U.

    At both the third and sixth grade levels, female students continue to outperform male students, achieving higher percentages at the upper grade levels while our young men continue to achieve higher percentages at the lower grade levels.

    In 2016, approximately 11,703 candidates from a total of 120 centers registered to sit the BJC examinations for 11 subjects offered. Candidates came from 68 independent centres and 52 public schools. Of the grades awarded, 64.3 percent were in the A-D range, which indicates that 35.7 percent of the grades awarded were in the E-U or failing range. In 2016, a mere 2,240 candidates, just 20 percent achieved a minimum grade of ‘D’ or higher in five or more BJC subjects.

    In 2016, there were 6,450 candidates registered from a total of 104 centres to sit the BGCSE examination. Sixty-five centres were independent while, 39 were public. Although the total number of subjects offered is 27, the average number of subjects written per candidate in 2016 was four, and in 2015 it was five.

    English Language, biology, mathematics and religious studies have remained the subjects of choice for the vast majority of candidates, for the past few years; note however, he said, no subject has a 100 percent subscription rate.

    In 2016, a total of 1,459 or a mere 23 percent of the candidates, obtained a minimum grade of ‘D’ in at least 5 subjects. A total of 903 candidates received at least ‘C’ in five or more subjects in 2016. In other words, he said, 14 percent of the candidates who registered to take the BGCSE examination received at least a 'C' in five or more subjects.

    The Minister announced a graduation rate of 50 percent in 2015, which was unchanged in 2016.

    However, under previous Minister of Education, Jerome K Fitzgerald, the standardized “Bahamas High School Diploma” came to fruition in 2017, which Minister Lloyd had the honor of recently presenting to students. Its concept had begun its development in 1998 and is now the standard for all high schools in the Bahamas. The criteria are:

    1. Four BJC Passes including Math and English with a ‘C’; grade’

    2. A 2.0 Cumulative average

    3. 90% punctuality and attendance rate

    4. 30 hours of voluntary community service

    5. 20 hours of job-readiness training, especially in soft skills.

    The Minister remarked that this would hopefully boost the graduation rate to the projected 85 percent by 2030, even faster than projected. This will then show accountability for the $300 million that has been invested in education.

    The importance of proper preschool education was also a key concern of the Minister of Education: he pointed out that there are insufficient preschools in the public system and that more than half of children do not attend preschool prior to first grade. To date, there are only 550 registered preschools in the country, which strains the need for better funding and technology. Minister Lloyd announced a $2 million budget for tablets for every preschool student in two New Providence schools as a pilot programme, which will be monitored and evaluated over the course of two years.

    Improvement of the curriculum from preschool to high school was also discussed as the Minister of Education allocates $200,000.

    The initial phase of curriculum improvement will take two years and will focus on the core components Bahamian history, civics and culture, multi-lingual and numeracy competence, Information Technology competence, entrepreneurship and personal financial planning. Continuous training for teachers was also mandated to ensure the success and sustainability of these investments. Also mentioned were advancements in special education, The National Apprenticeship Scheme, Science and Technology, The Bahamas Learning Channel, Same-Sex Schooling and of course overall infrastructure.

    With respect to tertiary education, Minister Lloyd mentioned improvement and supportiveness for staff, procedures and infrastructure of The University of the Bahamas (UB) and The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI).

    Scholarships are being increased for students to attend UB and BTVI, which will, again, assist students to contribute to the country’s growing economy.

    In conclusion, the Minister of Education commended all teaching and administrative staff, from preschool to tertiary, and students who take full advantage of their educational rights and privileges.

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  • GERMAN CARRIER TO BEGIN SERVICE INTO NASSAU IN NOVEMBER; FAMILY ISLAND DESTINATIONS TO RECEIVE FOCUSED ATTENTION

    German leisure air carrier Condor Airways is scheduled to begin direct air service between Frankfurt, Germany, and Nassau as early as November, Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis said Thursday.

    Condor Airways is headquartered in Frankfurt, operating from Frankfurt and Munich. The airline flies to some 90 destinations. Prime Minister Minnis said the Government will actively seek to increase airlift, not just from traditional markets in the United Sates of America, but also from markets “further afield.” “Air Service from the Frankfurt hub comes with the added benefit of connections to cities all over Western and Eastern Europe,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “We must work to resolve the challenges of connecting visitors to our multiple tourism destinations. I again note, that we should identify any Bahamians interested in providing airlift from overseas. “We must think boldly and widely, about how Bahamians can own, or be involved in, the multiple dimensions of tourism,” Prime Minister Minnis added

    Prime Minister Minnis also laid out his Administration’s plans to “ensure the economic empowerment of the Family Islands.” Addressing the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) Board of Directors and Membership Meeting at the British Colonial Hilton, Prime Minister Minnis said the increase in airlift into The Bahamas is in conjunction with the further development of Family Island tourism destinations. The plan for the further development of those Family Island destinations calls for the granting of Crown Land to ensure the economic empowerment of those destinations; assistance with technical and marketing support for projects utilizing these lands; and the provision of tax exemptions for specified periods. “We will invest in the modernization of Family Island infrastructure with the goal of providing clean, potable water, good roads, modern airports and docks and we will incentivize locally-owned airlines to establish local hubs for inter-island transportation through strategic partnerships,” Prime Minister Minnis added.

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  • GOVERNMENT TO "STIMULATE' BAHAMIAN ENTREPENEURSHIP IN TOURISM; CREATE AGRICULTURE-TOURISM LINKAGES

    The Government of The Bahamas must increase its commitment to encourage and support the development of home-grown businesses in tandem with direct foreign investment, Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Alexander Minnis said Thursday (June 15, 2017). Prime Minister Minnis said a key economic objective of his Government is the development of an incentive framework for entrepreneurship. This framework will facilitate local and international access to capital; the formation of joint ventures among private interests; improvement of business advisory and cultivation of tools to stimulate Bahamian entrepreneurship in tourism. The Minnis Administration will also implement a plan that will achieve the long, sought after goal of creating linkages between agriculture and tourism to “effect significant reduction in the food import bill of hotels and restaurants.”That Plan will enable the Bahamas Agricultural Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) to focus efforts on the production of select, quality products for both local and export markets.

    The Minnis Administration will also privatize the Produce Exchange and will provide land, supplies, equipment and business services to Bahamian farmers to support the industry. Tax incentives and concessions will be introduced to encourage Bahamian farmers and farming cooperatives throughout the country to promote sustained production and packaging initiatives and to ensure the continuous supply of quality products. “We must boost local ownership in the tourism industry to promote sustainability and improve the livelihoods of Bahamians,” Dr. Minnis said during an address at the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s Board of Directors and Membership Meeting. “By example, are there Bahamians interested in providing airline services to The Bahamas? What about Bahamians who may be able to design computer software for the many aspects of the tourism product? “We must think boldly and widely about how Bahamians can own, or be involved in, the multiple dimensions of tourism,” Prime Minister Minnis added.

    The Prime Minister said tourism is the platform from which the country can boost and launch a network of inter-related businesses. “Your organization encompasses a myriad of products including multinational resorts, boutique hotels and fishing lodges, water sports operations and ground transportation companies. As diverse as you are, you all share the common goal of increasing your bottom line and growing your businesses. “This then, must be one of the driving forces behind the master strategic plan which – in collaboration with the private sector – my Administration will roll out during this term in office. “The Bahamas has always been a country that has welcomed foreign investment, but the experience of Baha Mar has taught us a great lesson.”Prime Minister Minnis said a common lament facing the country is that its economy is not diversified enough. “We are confronted with the challenge of growing an economy that has been stagnant for several years. We are in a climate of unprecedented competition in the global and regional marketplace,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “While diversification is needed, there is extraordinary diversification that can still be gained within tourism,” Prime Minister Minnis added.

    The Prime Minister said his Administration has a number of plans designed to drive the economy through tourism-related initiatives.Among them, is the introduction of legislation to make it attractive for international filmmakers to produce cinematic productions at a fraction of the cost comparable to other leading offshore film locations. Prime Minister Minnis said there are also new hospitality products such as vacation rental homes “which are today operating outside of the regulatory environment in our country.” “Such products will have to be registered with the Ministry of Tourism and appropriate taxation will be applied to level the playing field and ensure their contribution to the public purse,” the Prime Minister continued, “through registration, we can ensure that they meet our standards for safety and quality.” The Prime Minister said another critical success factor in tourism is the more affordable delivery of goods and services, especially in the areas of food production, distribution and service.

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  • GOVERNMENT TO TAP INTO "HERITAGE TOURISM'; NATIVE FOOD MARKET/NATIONAL MUSUEM PROPOSE

    The Government of The Bahamas will implement a number of strategies designed to further “monetize the number of cruise ship passengers traveling to The Bahamas” by taking greater advantage of the country’s tremendous heritage tourism potential. This will involve the restoration and maintenance of historic sites and the designation of iconic locations throughout The Bahamas including heritage sites such as the Clifton Heritage National Park in New Providence, Mount Alvernia in Cat Island, the Columbus Monument in San Salvador and plantation ruins on other Family Islands. The Government of The Bahamas is also committed to completing the National Museum of The Bahamas not only for the benefit of Bahamians, but also as a heritage experience for tourists. The Minnis Administration will also build a Native Food Market Over-the-Hill that will feature Bahamian art and is expected to be a “major economic empowerment and revitalization project.” The Native Food Market will boast a variety of Bahamian foods and products for sale, from ice cream to potato and cassava breads, tamarind sauces, local teas and other Bahamian treats.

    The ice cream sold at the Native Food Market is expected be made from tasty Bahamian fruits such as mango, soursop, sugar apple and coconut. “A Native Food Market will welcome scores of Bahamians and tourists alike,” Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis said as he laid out his Administration’s objectives for the economic empowerment and revitalization project to the tourism stakeholders gathered at the Hilton Hotel. “It will provide business opportunities and allow many Bahamians to sell their goods and products. Just as a previous FNM Administration created Fish Fry and a new Straw Market, my Administration will build a Native Food Market Over-the-Hill. Many cities and countries around the world boast native food markets.”

    Prime Minister Minnis said the completion of the National Museum of The Bahamas will also reap benefits and dividends for the country. “Cruise ship passengers throughout the world visit museums,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “Imagine if New Providence can provide more of these experiences? “We are nowhere near monetizing the number of cruise ship passengers we have coming to The Bahamas. We can do so through heritage experiences.”

    Addressing the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) Board of Directors and Membership Meeting, June 15, 2017 at the British Colonial Hilton, Prime Minister Minnis said twenty-first century travelers are seeking more than the proverbial sun, sand and sea experiences. “They travel in search of unique and authentic experiences.” Prime Minister Minnis said The Bahamas has a rich culture that can provide those experiences and should be tapped into to generate additional tourism revenue. “Ours is a richly textured culture. Our history, music, food, dance, art, craft and our folkways are distinctly different. We must fully capitalize on our culture and heritage to add a more vibrant visitor experience. “The formation of joint ventures will be a central approach to the execution of projects in this Administration, including the restoration and maintenance of historic sites and the designation of iconic locations,” Prime Minister Minnis said.“Imagine, also, if there was a Maritime Museum located at the Lowell J. Mortimer Maritime Institute, with a virtual reality component and replicas of maritime vessels such as sloops and a scaled-down version of a pirate ship? I understand that the Institute is interested in creating such a museum.”

    The Prime Minister said his Administration will also facilitate the development of heritage and eco-tours throughout The Bahamas, including through the usage of signage. “I note the famous Blue Plaque – an oval plaque seen on numerous buildings throughout the United Kingdom. I suggest we develop the Aqua Plaque, which can be used as a heritage marker in The Bahamas. Designer Carla Whittingham (a Bahamian) has already designed a prototype which is cast in appropriate material for our climate.” The Blue Plaque is a permanent sign installed in public places in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker. Prime Minister Minnis said the Aqua Plaque should be utilized with other signage to note the significance of the heritage site in question and to recall noted Bahamians associated with that site. “I am herby directing the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Tourism to collaborate on making this a reality as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Minnis added.

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  • MINISTER DAMES: RECRUITMENT PROCESS WILL BE REVIEWED

    Minister of State the Hon. Marvin Dames said, during his Contribution on the 2017/2018 Budget Communication in the House of Assembly, on June 12, 2017 that his Government intends to review the recruitment process of all law enforcement agencies. "There have been too many reports coming to my desk from members of the public -- some family members and others, of young persons who have been waiting for many years without any feedback on whether they were successful or not," Minister Dames said. "As a matter of fact, there are some persons who have mentioned to me that they are aware of others who had applied only recently and have been accepted into these organizations." Minister Dames pointed out that there was a view that the recruitment process in the Police Force, and other departments, are driven by politics and nepotism. Real or perceived, he said, there is a need for the Government to bring about a greater level of transparency to that process. "We are going to ensure that only the best and brightest, and most deserving Bahamians are recruited and afforded the opportunity to become a part of the law enforcement family," Minister Dames said.

    When speakng about education and training, Minister Dames said in the dynamic and constantly changing field of law enforcement, training and education are essential."During this budget year, we will develop a modern training schedule for all law enforcement agencies which will have as its focus the latest crime fighting and investigative techniques, multi-agency approaches, customer service, management and leadership training, Minister Dames said. "We will explore the opportunities to partner with the University of The Bahamas to help us to develop our junior and senior level law enforcement managers in the areas of management and leadership." To foster greater camaraderie and efficiency, Minister Dames said his Government will seek to invest in joint training exercises across The Bahamas' law enforcement agencies to improve readiness and synergy."We will also take full advantage of training opportunities offered by our regional and international partners," Minister Dames said. "We will also strengthen in-service training at the Police Training College throughout the rank and file -- which we left in place in 2002 -- to keep pace with international standards of law enforcement today."

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