Officials of the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development and the Department of Social Services moved one giant step closer to ensuring that qualified recipients of the Department’s Food Assistance Programme throughout The Bahamas are in possession of their Visa Pre-Paid Cards, distributing the 40 cards following a verification, training and distribution process. The launch in Mayaguana was conducted for residents of the three communities comprising Mayaguana – Abraham’s Bay, Betsy Bay and Pirate’s Well. Officially launched in New Providence in November 2014, the Visa Pre-Paid Card replaces the paper food coupons previously used as part of the Department of Social Services’ Food Assistance Programme.

    Social Services officials have partnered with those from the Bank of The Bahamas in the development, implementation, distribution and monitoring of the Cards throughout the Family Islands. A little over twenty-four months since its official launch, the only island remaining on the schedule is Acklins – which was severely impacted by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015. Social Services officials say now that businesses have been restored in addition to infrastructure, lives and homes, Acklins Islanders will receive their Visa Pre-Paid Cards by the end of March 2017, ensuring full coverage for clients of the Department’s Food Assistance Programme.

    A training session was conducted for qualified recipients of the Food Assistance Programme and participating vendors in Mayaguana by Miss Tianya Johnson, Manager, Card Services, Bank of The Bahamas. Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin, applauded the work of staff of the Department of Social Services and the Bank of The Bahamas for ensuring Mayaguana’s launch. [Officials also worked with local businesses to ensure that they met the requirements necessary to have the cards operational.] Mellany Zonicle, director, Department of Social Services; Cherely Kelly, assistant director, Community Support Services Division, Department of Social Services; and Miss Johnson accompanied Minister Griffin.

    Mrs. Griffin said issuance of the cards in Mayaguana and other communities within the Commonwealth, is a “very strong signal” that the Government of The Bahamas remains committed to responding to the needs of all Bahamians in a timely fashion, wherever they may live and no matter how far they live from the capital.

    Minister Griffin said partnership with local merchants on individual islands, also affords the Government the opportunity to create business opportunities in those islands. The Cards can be used anywhere in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas by qualified recipients at approved business establishments, but Social Services officials encourage their clients to use the cards locally in order to boost those economies. “I am so happy to be here in Mayaguana to present these cards to you, our clients. I am also quite happy that the local merchants have agreed to be a part of this process,” Mrs. Griffin told residents.

    “It is our mandate to supply assistance to Bahamians wherever they may live and no matter how far-flung those islands are,” Mrs. Griffin said. “It would be much easier if The Bahamas was not an archipelagic nation (spread out over 100,000 square miles of ocean), but no matter where you live, we have been given the mandate to have a presence.”Mrs. Griffin said the implementation of the Visa Pre-Paid Card into the Family Islands has allowed qualified recipients of the Food Assistance Programme more flexibility in their purchases, while speeding up payments to vendors.

    “The Visa Pre-Paid Cards provide clients with a better way of managing their purchases during the course of a month and at their convenience,” Mrs. Griffin said. “No longer will clients have to pick up all of their groceries at one time or in one place. With the food coupon, if clients went into the food store and did not use it all at one time, that was it. “Now, clients can measure their spending to better suit their household needs. If they want to buy meat at one place, and their dry goods at another store, they now have the flexibility to do that. If they want to break down their purchases into four monthly purchases, or however is most beneficial to their household needs, then they now have the capability of doing that.

    “We are more than happy with this new, modern payment system as additionally, vendors will receive payments within 48 hours. This means an immediate increase in cash flow and eliminates the high level of paperwork for accounting purposes,” Mrs. Griffin added. The Card also guarantees clients the opportunity to make approved purchases on groceries anywhere in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas at approved stores that either accept Visa Pre-Paid Cards or have Point-of-Sales machines – thereby providing clients who may have to conduct inter-island travel the flexibility of making purchases at approved vendors anywhere in The Bahamas.

    Photo Caption: Tianya Johnson, manager, Card Services, Bank of The Bahamas, conducts a training session for residents and approved business owners in Mayaguana. The Bank of The Bahamas has partnered with the Department of Social Services/Ministry of Social Services and Community Development to issue the Visa Pre-Paid Card. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)




    Environment and Housing Minister the Hon. Kenred Dorsett outlined several initiatives that the Government has implemented during the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF).

    Among the initiatives is the National Energy Policy. “This demonstrated that the legal, financial and political framework put in place is designed to last, not just for the next few years, but reaches out twenty years into the future,” said Minister Dorsett.

    “We believe that energy efficiency needs to become a core part of domestic life; business and industry; as well as a central task for the power production and transmission industry. We believe that government has a vital role in ensuring a framework is in place to encourage energy efficiency and the necessary investments into it at every stage of the energy chain.”

    He said the framework will boost “home-grown” low carbon technology and energy efficiency, reducing costs over the long-term, and providing lasting relief for “hard-pressed” consumers.

    The CSEF is a biennial event of the Caribbean community, held on this occasion at the British Colonial Hilton, January 23-25, 2017.

    During the Forum key national, regional and international stakeholders from the public and private sectors “take stock of the present state and realign their future outlook as it relates to the pursuit of a sustainable energy pathway within the region.”

    More than 100 delegates from across the region representing ministries of energy, environment, communications, science and technology, natural resources and planning were attending the Forum. This year’s theme being ‘Future Energy, 2027.’

    Mr. Dorsett told attendees that improving energy efficiency to meet its commitment contained in its “intended nationally determined contribution” (the phrase that countries are using to describe the climate pledges that they will make ahead of the UN negotiations in Paris later this year) is a high priority for The Bahamas.

    He said, “Accordingly, the Government has defined the policy framework for a low carbon development plan through the National Energy Policy, that sets a target to achieve a minimum of 30% renewables in the energy mix by 2030 and will allow for a 10% Residential Energy Self Generation Programme.

    “This comprehensive programme of efficiency improvement and energy diversification will allow The Bahamas to provide high-quality, affordable, environmentally-friendly energy and to reduce the amounts of imported oil that the country uses. Energy diversification will involve moving from a high dependence on petroleum to increase the contribution of other sources such as renewable energy from solar and wind.”

    He shared a three-pronged approach for The Bahamas:

    1. Create and disseminate insightful products that raise awareness of and enhance access to existing support initiatives, tools and resources, including finance;

    2. Facilitate technical assistance and capacity building at national, regional and global levels by fostering greater collaboration between environment and development agencies and

    3. Facilitate enhanced financial support of existing and new country-specific, bilateral and international NDC support programs.

    Minister Dorsett outlined some of the behavioral changes that The Bahamas has already embarked upon on the way towards energy efficiency. They include: general public awareness campaigns, and the opportunity the forum presents to pursue narrow, more thematic articles, calendars, media contests, websites (local, regional and national projects), TV programmes on pilot projects and journalist trainings.

    “To address future energy, we see the need to partner with agencies for the creation of ‘green centers’ in municipal offices providing face-to-face advice for visitors around recycling, energy efficiency and biodiversity in general.”

    Moreover, he suggested that programmes for example, ‘one-off’ events (e.g. ‘plastic bag amenities’) should be organized to complement the centre’s drive to connect with the public, boost its profile and engender greater interest and increased visitor numbers.

    He highlighted that the need for energy efficiency components in public procurement tender documents should be addressed.

    This, he said, would ensure that authorities select not only the lowest price in the short term, but also consider the potential long-term energy usage impact of any procurement related to energy.




    Minister of Transport and Aviation, the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin says that an article that appeared in the The Tribune daily newspaper is false. The Minister invited the media to a press conference on Monday, January 23, 2017 at the Ministry’s offices to refute the article, which she deemed “a complete and perverse misrepresentation of the facts.”

    The article was titled ‘Hundred of Millions in Flyover Fees Lost by PLP,’ and was featured in The Tribune on Monday. The Minister said that article was in line with the ‘fake news’ phenomenon, currently plaguing the country.

    “The facts related to the Bahamas Flight Information Region and over-flight fees are clear,” said Minister Hanna-Martin. “The Progressive Liberal Party has been the only government which has assiduously pursued the realization of the sovereign air space of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and the payment of over-flight fees for the Bahamian people.”

    The Minister said that the government has been in negotiations with the United States government since the PLP was last in power in 2006. She said, therefore, The Tribune’s reporting that discussions were initiated in 2014 is false.

    She said that the discussions with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) were stalled after the Christie administration lost at the polls. Discussions recommenced in 2012.

    “I wish to assure the Bahamian people that as long as I am in in a position to do so, I will fearlessly and without compromise pursue the interests of the Bahamian people, and in that regard I expect to make a further announcement in the upcoming weeks as negotiations continue on the terms of the management of The Bahamas’ airspace by the FAA, the delineation of the FIR (Flight Information Region), and arrangements for collections of fees from users of The Bahamas’ airspace.”




    Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie told businesspersons and stakeholders attending Bahamas Business Outlook at Melia Nassau Beach Resort that that the remobilization of the Baha Mar Resort is well underway and the project will open in phases with the golf course, convention centre, casino and hotel in a soft opening by April. "It is my understanding that since the announcement, Baha Mar’s website has received over 20,000 views and 5,000 job applications have already been received for the 1500 positions now available, with several thousand more positions coming on stream by year end, when the project is fully completed," Prime Minister Christie said, January 23, 2017. "The new owners, CTF Enterprises -- a Hong-Kong based conglomerate and operators of top branded hotels worldwide -- are also making plans to add additional features to what is already the largest single resort complex under development within the region."

    While continuing to speak on foreign investment, Prime Minister Christie noted that Atlantis Resort, with 7,763 employees continues to be the largest private sector employer in the country. "Its owner, Brookfield Asset Management, which was restructured just before we took office, and successfully refinanced during this Administration, is carrying out $38 million in upgrades and renovations to the property," he said. "In 2016, Atlantis contributed $290 million in salaries, fees and taxes, for which the Government has extended appropriate concessions, and will maintain a vibrant capex programme over the next three years." A signal achievement of his Government, Prime Minister Christie said, has been the initiatives taken with respect to the expiring provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, which is expected to result in the strengthening and expansion of the Grand Bahama economy. "The consultative process undertaken by this Administration for review of the expiring provisions of the Agreement has led to the implementation of a new policy framework and conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding with key stakeholders for commitments to further development," Prime Minister Christie said. "This will deliver a wide range of economic and social gains for Grand Bahama’s residents." Some of the outcomes from this new framework include changes to the regulatory framework governing Freeport, creating improved transparency and regulatory oversight, he added.

    "Future concessions to developers will be administered by Government and conditional upon compliance with real estate and business development milestones," Prime Minister Christie stated. "A collaborative strategy is being developed with key stakeholders for attracting, retaining and expanding investment in Grand Bahama, including the injection of new equity capital into the Grand Bahama Port Authority group of companies." Prime Minister Christie pointed out that The Bahamas' cruise sector continues to expand with the recent negotiation by the Government of a Waiver of Exclusivity from Freeport Harbour Company to enable development by Carnival Cruise Lines of a cruise port in Eastern Grand Bahama. "More than $350 million has been committed by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCA), Disney and Mediterranean Cruise Lines (MSC) for refurbishment and creation of cruise ports in The Bahamas," he added. The construction of a large pier and enhanced amenities at Coco Cay in the Berry Islands will enable RCCA, which is a minority investor in the Grand Bahama Shipyard, to transport over two million passengers per annum to The Bahamas, Prime Minister Christie said.

    "The development by Mediterranean Cruise Lines (MSC) at Ocean Cay of a $200 million, exclusive private cruise destination, the Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, will enable MSC’s new, smart mega ships sailing in November 2018, to bring an additional 390,000 passengers to The Bahamas," he said. "MSC is committed to hiring more than eleven hundred twenty (1,120) Bahamians for the construction and operation of the Cay and, in partnership with the National Training Agency, will train and employ an additional 240 Bahamian crew who will join the 20 Bahamians already working on its cruise ships." "The efforts of my Administration on job creation from foreign direct investment have been fruitful, with approvals given for over eight billion dollars in touristic projects and, inclusive of 300 estate homes which, along with Baha Mar, will create an additional 15,000 permanent jobs throughout key islands of our archipelago," Prime Minister noted. "As a matter of record, the Department of Statistics has recorded the creation of 31,735 jobs during the current Administration."

    Prime Minister Christie said that investor confidence in The Bahamas is continuously demonstrated, given the number new projects tabled over the course of his Administration. He stated: "The successful launch and operation of new hotels such as the Resorts World Bimini Hilton, Island House, the Pointe, Ocean West, Warwick and Memories; the expansion of Sandals, Albany, One & Only Ocean Club, Bimini Bay, Baker’s Bay and February Point, and new projects to soon come on stream in Lyford Cay, the Four Seasons & Cotton Bay in Eleuthera; the JMMC Exuma Great Adventure Resort and all of these places which envisage and involve new business development and employment in hotel, second home, cruise, maritime and sports sectors for years to come."












    Members of the Board of Directors of The Bahamas Children’s Emergency Hostel have applauded a local philanthropist for the donation of a 2017 twelve-seat bus to the Hostel on Tuesday, saying that the donation speaks to the importance and effectiveness of public/private partnerships to their work.The donor has wished to remain anonymous. Mr. Samuel Clarke, Board Member, said the donation of the bus could not have come at a more opportune time for the Hostel and its children. Mr. Clarke called on other public/private organizations/corporations to partner with the Hostel. “This is fantastic,” Mr. Clarke said. “Our children were in need of this service. It’s a means of transportation to and from school and all of the other community activities in which we involve our children in order to provide them with as much normalcy as we possibly can while they are with us. We are just so blessed to have this donation at this time. I cannot say thanks enough. It is enormous. I am so elated. God has blessed us so enormously in what is the beginning of the year.”

    Mrs. Marita Ferguson, Hostel Administrator, echoed Mr. Clarke’s sentiments, saying that the donation was “indeed a gift from God.”“I was at a loss for words when I got the call that someone had donated the bus because the one we had been using previously to transport the children to school and their activities and to run errands was in the shop as a result of the usual wear and tear on a vehicle that comes with accomplishing those tasks.” The Home, which currently caters to 28 children (the number can fluctuate), provides a number of services to children ranging in ages from infancy to 12 years. “Everything that is done in a well-grounded, family-oriented, home-setting is duplicated here,” Mrs. Ferguson said. “We provide a home atmosphere to children from all backgrounds -- some of whom may need structure upon arrival, but once we provide that structure, some love, care and guidance for them, they tend to respond positively.”

    Mrs. Ferguson said the Hostel “would welcome year-round volunteers to assist with the children” – particularly male volunteers to help work with the young boys.“The children are always happy to see persons come in and assist. We are thankful and grateful to those who visit at Christmas time, but we are looking for additional year-round volunteers. We do an awesome work here. Our children are very much involved in community activities, just like any other home, [as we] try to bring as much normalcy to their lives as we possibly can.” Mrs. Ferguson said donations do not always have to come in the form of monetary donations.

    “It’s not always monetarily, but we need service in kind -- particularly volunteer service. We need males to volunteer their time, become more involved with us and particularly our boys. Another example is that now that we have a new bus, perhaps another kind person or company can donate servicing and operating fees in terms of providing gasoline for the vehicle for the year because we want to maintain it so that it can serve our needs for a very long time.” Mrs. Zenovia Coakley-Mills, Assistant Director, Child Protection/Childcare Facilities, Department of Social Services applauded the donation. She said despite its yeoman's efforts through the Department of Social Services and the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development, “Government cannot do it all by itself.” “We are responsible for 8 homes – the Hostel being one of the larger homes because of its capacity. Our partners assist us with the care of the children and as the word home suggests, it provides the level of care that the children receive if they are in homes with fully functioning families. Our job is to help those families that are not functioning the way they ought to, get to a place where those children can return home.

    “The financial burden of this is humongous and so we are very grateful for this donation from this particular philanthropist who has helped on numerous projects and tasks and has assisted the children daily,” Mrs. Coakley-Mills added. The Hostel, like the seven other homes under the charge of the Department of Social Services, provides 24-hour/7-days-a-week care, coverage and attention to the children who reside there.

    Dr. Novia Carter, Co-Chairperson of the National Child Protection Council, which works closely with their counterparts at the Department of Social Services and the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development to ensure the safety and protection of Bahamian children everywhere, said maintaining children’s homes allows child protection officials the opportunity to meet their obligations to Bahamian children. “Our chief goal is to ensure that every child is happy, secured and protected in a safe environment and so this is one more step towards us ensuring that we create a safe, happy Bahamas for our children to live in,” Dr. Carter said.

    “The establishment of the children’s homes not only provides a safe haven for the children residing in those homes, but is also in keeping with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) and helps the Government to fulfill its mandate to ensure that every child in The Bahamas has the opportunity to grow up in a safe, happy environment.” The Convention on the Rights of the Child, in a nutshell, is a promise Member States of the United Nations (such as The Bahamas) have made to the children of those member state countries (in becoming Signatories to the Convention) that they we will be able to grow up in a safe, secure and happy environment to ensure their positive development.

    A child psychologist by profession, Dr. Carter said it is paramount that children are allowed to grow and develop in safe, secure and protected environments. “It’s paramount that we make sure that these children feel secure; that they feel happy; that they feel that they are going to be a part of a productive society,” Dr. Carter said. “As our culture continues to grow, it is going to be paramount that we make sure that we are going to put the provisions in place for the health development of our kids in a violence-free Bahamas.”




    Some 600 care packages containing breadbasket items including grits, rice, flour, canned goods and bread were given to residents of the Kemp Road community as the Urban Renewal Commission 2.0 programme continued its Community Uplifting Services in that neighborhood on Wednesday, January 18, 2017. The event was a part of the Commission’s efforts to uplift and encourage residents following the passage of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Songs and prayers of praise and adoration were given during the service.

    The Hon. Cynthia Pratt, Co-Chair of the Urban Renewal Commission, in her remarks, addressed the issue of crime and asked the residents to be their “brothers’ keepers”. She urged them to resolve their conflicts in a different way and to continue to have “hope”. Also participating in the service were the Hon. Algernon Allen, Co-Chair, Urban Renewal Commission, and the Hon. Richard Lightbourn, MP for Montagu. Music was provided by the Urban Renewal Praise Team.

    Community Uplifting Services are also planned for residents in the communities of Gambier and Adelaide.




    The implementation of an Integrated Health Information Management System (IHIMS) at the public healthcare level in The Bahamas, has the potential to “fundamentally change” the public healthcare system’s approach to service delivery and care. Public healthcare officials said patients across the Commonwealth of The Bahamas will “directly benefit” from the implementation. Minister of Health, the Hon. Dr. Michael Perry Gomez, said implementation of the IHIMS Program will allow for -- among other critical matters -- health information (including patients’ records) to be exchanged securely and privately across the public healthcare system thereby allowing for greater efficiency and effectiveness; will enhance the purchase and delivery of life-saving medications; and can alert physicians to specific patients’ needs or problems in real time.

    “There is no question that when health information can be exchanged securely and privately so that a patient’s record is always available and always current, that our hospitals experience a greater measure of efficiency and productivity,” Dr. Gomez said. “Indeed, when patient information and medical records are instantly available to clinicians, our clients experience an enhanced quality of care. “When a Health Information System can enhance the procurement and delivery of life-saving medications; when it can automatically alert physicians to a specific patient’s needs or problems, then what we are talking about is quite simply a quantum leap forward in the reform and transformation of our healthcare system.”

    Dr. Gomez made his statement at the Official Launch of the IHIMS program on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at St. Joseph’s Church Hall, Boyd Road. He said: “To fully understand the assignment/significance of this implementation, one must take into consideration the fact that our national public healthcare system consists of more than 100 public health clinics, three major public hospitals and their associated agencies; a complex multi-island pre-hospital care service and the support services necessary to operate such a diverse network of health facilities and services.” Dr. Gomez, said implementation of the program is part of a national initiative of “vital improvements” that have been undertaken or will be facilitated across the public healthcare system under the auspices of the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA).

    The Public Hospitals Authority, he said, has already made “tremendous progress” with respect to those capital projects “necessary” to improve the physical plants of the country’s public hospitals, and in its recruitment efforts to address longstanding shortfalls in key clinical professions. Progress has also been made to replace and enhance diagnostic imaging and medical laboratory equipment in addition to PHA officials “working hand in glove” with counterparts at the Department of Public Health to adopt a ‘Whole Health’ approach to national healthcare policies. “The Public Hospitals Authority has proven to be a vital lynchpin in the reform and advancement of our public health services and infrastructure,” Dr. Gomez said. “Modernization has been a key theme with respect to the Authority’s strategic development of the physical environment, services, management and resources at all of our public hospitals and allied agencies.

    “As we move forward with the integrated health information management program, we are once again taking a giant leap forward with respect to modernizing our public healthcare sector,” Dr. Gomez added. Dr. Gomez said reformation of the public healthcare system, its infrastructure and its services by the Public Hospitals Authority has paved the way for modernization and advancement of the public healthcare system. “I often reflect on the march of progress that I, and those of my generation, have witnesses in my three decades as a physician in this country. Progress is often taken for granted in so many spheres of life. However, when applied to healthcare, each advance we make represents a direct improvement in our capacity to deliver care.

    “Many of the most advanced technologies and treatments in the world are available to patients in our public hospitals, but for far too long, our basic medical records, patient information, billing and hospital registration systems have lagged. That lag has, at times, retarded the effective delivery of our services and bottlenecked access and resources. “This is why the adoption of an Integrated Health Information Management System reflects such significant enhancement for our public health system [as] every patient in every health facility across the nation will benefit directly,” Dr. Gomez said.




    The Ministry of Financial Services conducted an information session on The Bahamas’ Trade Information Service Desk and Electronic Portal at SuperClubs Breezes on January 18, 2017. The official launch of the trade portal is tentatively scheduled for early March 2017. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) sponsored the event.

    Minister of Financial Services, the Hon. Hope Strachan was in attendance. She told attendees that the portal was of great importance to the country and assured the audience -- which comprised mainly members of the business community – of the government’s commitment to diversifying the economy and expanding trade.

    The establishment of the Trade Portal is a part of the government’s ongoing efforts to diversify the economy by expanding trade with regional, hemispheric and international trading partners. Currently a Bahamian entrepreneur seeking to export his or her product to a foreign market will have to sift through an excessive amount of information to find reliable trade information on how to export that product. This, I am sure you would agree, makes doing business with The Bahamas unnecessarily difficult and expensive.”

    She said that grant funding has been provided by the European Union through the technical assistance component of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, and subsequent to an international bidding process, the International Trade Centre (a specialized joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations) was retained to provide the services to design and develop a Trade Portal in mid-2016.

    “The intention of this Trade Portal is to create a “one-stop-shop” to access important national, regional and international trade information such as export/import statistics, information on trade regulations – such as quality requirements and standards, certification requirements and rules of origin – as well as shipping information, company profiles and key information on trade agreements,” said Minister Strachan.

    The Portal will serve as an important business facilitation tool by reducing the cost and time required to access trade information, and in turn improve the ease of doing business in The Bahamas.

    Mr. Joost van der Kooij, the lead Technical Consultant of the Dutch company Globally Cool, is working along with the International Trade Centre in the development of the Trade Portal.




    The No. 1 player in the 2017 recruiting class and Arizona Wildcats signee BAHAMIAN DeAndre Ayton has been named to the 2017 McDonald’s All-American team, it was announced Sunday night. Ayton, a 7-footer from Hillcrest Academy in Phoenix, is known to be a big man with a tremendous physical presence and a smooth stroke from the perimeter.

    This year’s McDonald’s All American game is scheduled for March 29 in the United Center in Chicago. It will be televised on ESPN.





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