• “TOWARDS THE RISING SUN..." – 44th INDEPENDENCE CLEBRATIONS ANNOUNCED

    The 44th Bahamas Independence Celebrations will have all the ingredients of the annual national birthday bash – pomp and circumstance, music, dance, singing, storytelling -- lively ‘Bahamiana,’ and proud waving of the aquamarine, black and gold Bahamian Flag. At a press conference, June 23, at the Cabinet Office, Churchill Building, Chairman of the 44th Anniversary Bahamas Independence Celebrations planning committee, the Hon. Mark Humes, MP, announced that the festivities give cause to celebrate “our one-ness,” as the theme for this year reflects: “Toward the Rising Sun, One God, One People, One Bahamas.” To launch the official week of activities, men and women of our national security forces in a combined musical band will perform the popular Beat Retreat in Rawson and Parliament Squares on Sunday afternoon, July 2 at 5:30 p.m.

    National Pride Day will take place in Rawson and Parliament Squares on Friday, July 7. Beginning at 10:00 a.m. there will be Flag Raising and ceremony with address by the Governor General, performances by children’s groups including the National Youth Orchestra and the National Children’s Choir, marching bands, all-Bahamian music, fun and lots of food -- all day -- to provide lots of entertainment. On Sunday, July 9, beginning at 8:00 p.m., the 44th Grand Anniversary Celebrations begin at Clifford Park. The Independence Celebrations will feature an Ecumenical Service conducted by the Bahamas Christian Council. As is customary, there will also be a Cultural Show, driven by artistic team of Ronald Simms (producer of bands, cultural show, march past), Fred Ferguson (musical director), Erin Knowles (cultural show director) and Patrice Francis (writer of the cultural show).

    The centerpiece cultural production will be a unique unfolding of steps to Bahamian Independence through the eyes of a grandmother speaking to her grandchild – starting from ‘way back’ and bringing it to present day. The storytelling will feature top performers in the country, who will narrate the perspective from different islands of the archipelago. The cultural show will be different this time – not a variety show, but a story being told. At 1:00 a.m. on Monday, July 10, the annual “People’s Love and Unity Rush” takes over Bay Street in an explosion of Junkanoo. Organizers will, just prior, give a nod, first, to honour several persons for their Junkanoo contributions in special ceremonies; and then there will be the excited rush to main street in the Flag Colours. Official ceremonies for Bahamas Independence culminate with the annual Government House State Reception.

    Other activities surrounding the official week include: a Culturama Liturgical Dance Parade & Concert at the Western Esplanade on the afternoon of Monday, July 10, when typically 1,500 young people participate and perform. It is a family event featuring Gospel singing, liturgical and folklore dance. The National Children’s Choir performs at the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts on July 3 at 7:00 p.m.; Bahamas Press Club holds an Art Exhibition at the Central Bank of The Bahamas, July 6-28; and other special events include the Junkanoo Summer Festival on Saturdays in July; and Commonwealth Youth Games at the National Sporting Complex July 18-23. Independence Celebrations take place throughout the Islands of The Bahamas and at Bahamian Embassies in different countries.

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  • MORTON SALT EXECUTIVES HAVE DISCUSSIONS WITH LABOUR MINISTER

    Senior executives of Morton Salt, Inc., Kevin Brad Morris and Vivian Moultrie, recently met with the Minister of Labour, Senator the Hon. Dion A. Foulkes at the Department of Labour on Rosetta Street. Minister Foulkes was accompanied by Robert Farquharson, the Director of Labour and Mr. Morris was accompanied by Attorneys at Law Oscar Johnson and Christal Sands-Feaste of Higgs and Johnson Chambers. The Labour Minister noted that he was delighted to meet with the group as he is very well aware of the importance of Morton Salt to the people and community of Inagua. Morton Salt’s executives described the relationship with the management of Morton Salt and the Bahamas Industrial Manufacturing and Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU) as harmonious.

    The executives pledged to continue to make regular financial contributions to the social and educational development of Inagua including, funding for educational pursuits, public library, youth activities and the fitness center. Pictured seated from left to right is Mrs. Christel Sands-Feaste, Partner, Higgs & Johnson, Minister of Labour, Senator the Hon. Dion A. Foulkes at center and Mr. Robert Farquharson, Director of Labour. Pictured standing from left to right is Mr. Kevin Brad Morris, Director Labour and Employee Relations at Morton Salt Inc., Mr. Vivian Moultrie, Morton’s Salt Manager of Administrative Services, and Mr. Oscar N.Johnson Jr. Managing Partner, Higgs & Johnson Chambers.

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  • WORKS MINISTER OUTLINES INFRASTRUCTURE STRATEGIES IN BUDGET ADDRESS

    The Minister of Works the Hon. Desmond underscored the importance of an “improved” infrastructure to a well-run economy and outlined ongoing infrastructure projects for New Providence and the Family Islands during his Budget Communication address in the House of Assembly, Monday, June 19. “Very modest infrastructural maintenance in communities contributes to our overall well-being. All of us should be concerned that public works expenditure (roads, sidewalks, bridges, docks, etc.) converges with personal expenditure (homes) to strike a balance for population good,” he said. “We have many sidewalks around New Providence. Good! They facilitate the health of communities by providing a safe trek for pedestrian traffic out of the way of vehicular traffic. “What I am challenged to understand is the disconnect between the construction of roads and construction of sidewalks when it is the Ministry of Works that contracts for construction of both. Almost as a rule, the roads and sidewalks do not meet.” Minister Bannister suggested that with regard to public sector accountability, it would be useful for The Bahamas to follow every other “progressive” country. “The plain fact is that concrete is cheaper and costs less over time than issuing contracts to maintain than a strip of weeds between the sidewalk and the road. This is a simple illustration of wastage, yet a more remarkable point is that infrastructure development – the mixing of concrete, the building of sidewalks, the construction of bridges, docks, harbours and marinas – serves the agenda of youthful employment, employing the widest range of skills among young men and women.

    Minister Bannister announced that Abaco will receive a $23 million upgrade of all roads in Marsh Harbour, Dundas Town, Murphy Town, and Sandy Point settlement roads -- “critical” addition to that island’s infrastructure. The renewal and resurfacing of major roads and sea defences in Elbow Cay and Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, are also on the drawing board at a cost of over $21.5 million. The Pothole Repair Programme is progressing well. He said Bahamians will see a difference in his Ministry’s “proactive” response to pothole elimination efforts. New Providence streets will bear names once again. Minister Bannister told Parliamentarians that metal road signs have been stolen and there are plans to replace them with plastic signs. Moreover, Minister Bannister informed that his Ministry will be “more discriminating” with regard to construction of sidewalks. He said the Sidewalk Construction Programme has been utilized to provide employment opportunities for “small” contractors.

    Minister Bannister noted that infrastructure development presents an opportunity for training and the immediacy of employment. He said fostering partnerships with NGO’s, within government and communities, and public/private is the key to the way ahead. “Innovative ideas such as the use of casuarina for biomass, an organic herbicide; or to utilise as mulch, are useful to try. We have a significant

    amount of casuarina here that could also be reduced to mulch and help to beautify those weedy patches between the road and sidewalk until my Ministry remediates them properly,” he said. Moreover, Minister Bannister informed that “proper” maintenance plans to protect the country’s large investments should be implemented. “That is how my Ministry understands administrative austerity. It is conservation of precious resources, and the requirement to avoid waste. What we have to build new, as modest as they may be, we will do in the best possible way,” he said.

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  • 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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