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Growth Plan for Bank of The Bahamas

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NASSAU, 31 Oct 2014 –

Statement by
The Right Honourable Perry G. Christie MP
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

For 25 years, successive governments have worked hard to transform Bank of The Bahamas from a foreign owned entity into a fully Bahamian owned clearing bank with a unique mix of public and private sector ownership, offering to the public a wide range of banking services in New Providence, Grand Bahama and various Family Islands where other clearing banks have historically shown little interest in going.

Today:

• BOB is 100% Bahamian-owned : 65% by the Government of The Bahamas, with the remaining 35% being widely held by some 3,500 Bahamian shareholders.

• BOB now has total assets of $771 million dollars, compared with only $93 million when the Government acquired ownership of the bank from the Bank of Montreal 25 years ago in 1988.

• BOB has approximately 40,000 depositors today with deposits totalling $679 million dollars.

• BOB has total loan assets of approximately $650 million dollars

• BOB operates through 14 branches in The Bahamas

• BOB employs more than 350 Bahamians.

With all that successive governments have done over the years as majority shareholders of the bank, the guiding resolve has remained the same:

• to maintain the safety and security of customer deposits at all times;

• to ensure that the bank is operated in accordance with regulatory norms imposed by the Central Bank of The Bahamas and industry “best practices” ;

• to ensure that the bank delivers its services to its customers at a world-class standard and in a way that is relevant and responsive to the needs of Bahamians and their national economy ;and

• to ensure that at all times the bank is backed by what is colloquially referred to as the “full, faith and credit” of the government as the majority shareholder, while at the same time preserving the integrity of the bank through a policy on non-interference by the government in day-to-day management and credit decision-making.

Although between 1993 and 2012, BOB enjoyed an unbroken record of profitability, it has, in common with nearly all other clearing banks in The Bahamas, experienced reversals either resulting from or exacerbated by the recent global recession and, in particular, the last U.S. recession.

In the case of the Bank of The Bahamas, the Central Bank, under the leadership of Governor Wendy Craigg, has carefully monitored BOB with particular reference to the risks posed by BOB’s portfolio of non-performing commercial loans. As part of this regulatory oversight, the Central Bank has engaged the Ministry of Finance in constructive dialogue on remediation strategies. Out of this has developed a specific plan of action.

I am therefore pleased to announce this plan today. Here is how it will work:

The Ministry of Finance has established a new Bahamian company, Bahamas Resolve Ltd (“Resolve”) which is wholly-owned and wholly controlled by the Government of The Bahamas. Resolve has taken over B$100M in troubled commercial loans from Bank of The Bahamas, thereby removing this risk from BOB’s books. In so doing, the Bank’s revenue prospects will be immediately and significantly improved. At the same time, shareholder value and the Bank’s overall financial condition will be enhanced as well. It will also allow Bank of The Bahamas to return to profitability in the near future and will restore full compliance with Central Bank and international regulatory standards for capital adequacy.

I should like to emphasize, firstly, that no public treasury or National Insurance funds have been disbursed in connection with the assignment of these loans from BOB to Resolve. However, liability for these debts has been transferred to Resolve along with the benefit of the loans and the underlying security. And as the new owner of the transferred loans, Resolve will be putting special mechanisms in place to assist in the collection of the overdue loans.

Secondly, I should also like to emphasize that this transaction, under which $100 million in commercial loan debt has been transferred from BOB to Resolve, was developed in close consultation with BOB’s legal advisors in this matter, Higgs & Johnson, and BOB’s external auditors, Ernst & Young, both of whom have provided affirmative opinions on the transaction.

And thirdly, I should also like to emphasize that this kind of transaction is not fundamentally dissimilar to state-led re-structurings that were done or accommodated for a number of banks in the more developed economies of the world, including the U.S., in the wake of the 2008 recession.

In addition to what I have just outlined, I wish to make it known that the Bahamas Government, consistently with its 65% stake in BOB, will be pursuing new initiatives designed to steer more public sector business and public employee credit demand towards the Bank of The Bahamas. In doing so, however, the Government will, of course, be mindful of its obligation to maintain a fair and competitive commercial environment for all banks in The Bahamas. I have therefore instructed the Ministry of Finance to determine the best course of action for achieving these objectives on a correctly balanced basis.

In conjunction with the elements of the plan that I have just outlined, the Bank of The Bahamas will also undertake re-structuring action of its own to re-align and re-balance the bank’s business model towards more retail banking, consumer lending and e-banking products.

BOB’s Board of Directors has also been directed to assess its management and cost structure, and to submit recommendations to the Government, as the majority shareholder, for management and administrative re-organization, before the end of 2014.

Together, the plan and measures that I have outlined will help ensure the sustained stability and future growth and profitability of BOB. The Bank of The Bahamas bank has a great and prosperous future ahead of it.

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Health

COVID Vaccine mandate expires Dec 31, TCIG stalled on ending it sooner

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By Deandrea Hamilton & Dana Malcolm

Editorial Staff

 

#TurksandCaicos, September 30, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos does not seem primed to do away with its Covid-19 vaccine mandate for entry to the islands just yet, Magnetic Media learned from Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and Human Services.

Robinson maintained that “As usual all remaining regulations are continuously under review. Current regulations expire December 31st.”

Despite them being under constant review, the Minister gave no indication that the Turks and Caicos Islands Government would accelerate any change to the rule.

The question though, is why? The Turks and Caicos Islands Government has continuously stated that it is following the science and the UKs lead when it comes to the country’s Covid-19 response.  The UK dropped its vaccine mandate for entry back in March as the country was coming off of the Omicron wave and dozens of other countries have done so since.

In terms of the science, not only does vaccination not stop the virus from spreading to vulnerable islanders, the earliest vaccines and boosters have notoriously little efficacy against the circulating variants.

In addition, there is little evidence to suggest that allowing unvaccinated individuals within borders has a negative effect on that country’s Covid case count.

Not only are the islands missing out on a major chunk of their source markets who are unvaccinated, homeowners who are unvaccinated have not been able to return to or see their property investments since the mandate was adopted in September 2021.

Deputy Premier E Jay Sanders had explained that, “thanks to the country’s over performing tourism sector when the decision is made to pull back that requirement it will be done not out of pressure but with the TCI people in mind.”

It’s unclear what the reasoning behind keeping the mandate is when it now has been proven to provide so little protection.

Additionally, it was explained that multiple attempts by the Ministry of Health to secure avenues for unvaccinated homeowners in the Turks and Caicos to visit their properties have been rebuffed at the Cabinet level.

Robinson was addressing the continued COVID-19 vaccine requirement for travel to the TCI which blocks unvaccinated tourists and homeowners from entering the island.

“On several occasions, I have presented possible pathways for homeowners to be able to visit their properties outside of a full repeal of the vaccine entry mandate and each time there was not full support for it moving forward in Cabinet,” he said.

Magnetic Media has spoken to irate and broken-hearted  homeowners who have not been able to visit their properties in a year despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and other fees to have a home on the islands.

The Health Ministry however says his team is now preparing a cabinet paper to weigh the pros and cons of continuing with the vaccine mandate.  Robinson said that paper has not made the agenda as yet, taking a back seat to more pressing issues including the passing of Hurricane Fiona.

The paper should reach cabinet “soon” but this is not a guarantee that the measure will be dropped. Robinson also defended the TCIG’s current policy.

“Based on the numbers I have received from the (tourism) industry to date, being one of the few only remaining destinations with a vaccine mandate doesn’t seem to be hurting our projected occupancy rates for the months of December, January, and February across all segments of the Industry.”

The issue of why the vaccine mandate persists are heightened due to major announcements in recent days including, Joe Biden, US president declaring that the Coronavirus Pandemic “is over”; Canada moving to end its vaccine entry requirement on September 30 and The Bahamas calling off mandatory testing as of September 22 and rescinding the mask rule (for most public places) on October 1.

The mandatory vaccine measure came into effect in September 2021 prior to the widespread emergence of Omicron and lowered vaccine efficacy.  It is also a mandatory requirement for guest workers in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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Turks and Caicos Islands Rebounding Quickly from Hurricane Fiona

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#TurksandCaicos, September 30, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos Islands is working around the clock to quickly rebound from the effects of Hurricane Fiona, which hit the islands as a Category 3 storm on Tuesday, September 20th 2022.  By 11:50PM EDT of the same day, the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) advised that hurricane warning for the Turks and Caicos Islands was discontinued and stated that the National All-Clear was given by the Department of Meteorology.

Preliminary assessments indicate that significant damage across the country was minimal.  Major airport updates are as follows:

  • The Providenciales International Airport re-opened on Wednesday, September 21st 2022 for all flight operations.
  • The South Caicos Airport re-opened on Thursday, September 22nd 2022 for all flight operations
  • The JAGS McCartney International Airport in Grand Turk re-opened on Thursday, September 22nd for emergency and medical flights
  • Airport operations on North Caicos and Salt Cay remain closed until further notice

Carnival Cruise Line is currently working alongside the Turks and Caicos Islands Government to conduct preliminary assessments of the port facility at the Grand Turk Cruise Center. Once completed, all necessary measures will be taken to have the port operating as soon as possible.

Yesterday, during the briefing in the NEOC, the Acting Governor, Her Excellency Anya Williams advised that Public Service in Providenciales would re-open on Thursday, September 22nd 2022 – restoring normal service delivery.

“We thank God that the Turks and Caicos Islands was able to hold strong through Hurricane Fiona – with only minor damages and without any lives lost.  The following day after receiving the National All-Clear from the NEOC, the hub to the Turks and Caicos Islands – the Providenciales International Airport – was re-opened and international flights arrived” stated Minister of Tourism, Hon. Josephine Connolly.  “But while we were extremely fortunate, we acknowledge that some of our neighbouring countries were not and our thoughts and prayers are with them”, added Hon. Connolly.

“A day after Hurricane Fiona, we were already welcoming guests back to the home of the World’s Best Beach, Providenciales”, stated Acting Director of Tourism, Mary Lightbourne. “Resorts and hotels in Provo are fully operational, so we encourage guests to keep their travel plans to visit. And in the upcoming days, we will welcome visitors to our sister islands” added Lightbourne.

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Turks & Caicos Coasts still ‘beautiful’ despite Hurricane Fiona

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, September 30, 2022 – Despite its strength Hurricane Fiona thankfully did no major damage to the TCIs coast according to Roddy McLeod, Reef Specialist at the Department of Environment and  Coastal Resources.

He explained that the DECR has been working with DDME to assess community impacts. So far, no significant erosion has been observed around Providenciales but the seas and sea-beds were definitely disturbed.

McLeod said “Sediments remain in suspension. This will have impacted our reefs and will continue to impact our reefs until the seas settle. Sediments will likely settle on marine habitats and negatively impact them. Some sand bars have been moved so mariners should take extra care.”

Cleanup operations and restorations continue across the islands in the aftermath of Fiona, which hit the islands as a category three hurricane September 19-20.

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