COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT COLEBY
BAHAMAS INFORMATION SERVICES
Much of the Bahamas news in 2014 was driven by social media with hyped up and emotive presentation. On the governance front, there were a myriad of national issues that the Bahamas government tackled both legislatively and executively. Described by the government as doing the “heavy lifting,” Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie characterized the 2014 legislative agenda as arguably the most “reform driven” in recent history. This sentiment was also expressed by the Minister for National Security and leader of government business in the House, the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage. As the country continued to emerge from the protracted global recession and faced the inevitability of change, some very important and transformative decisions were made to facilitate the country’s transition through these changes that are a necessary part of growth and national development. Some decisions of governance, though necessary, were tough and unpopular but governance is not a popularity contest.
In 2014 The Bahamas Parliament passed tax reform with the passage of Value Added Tax (VAT) with a targeted 1st Jan 2015 implementation date; four constitutional amendment Bills centering around the theme of equality were tabled; the House passed the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Bill; the House also passed the historic Gaming Bill with modernized the laws and regulations governing land based casino operations, placing land based casinos in The Bahamas on par with top casino operations in the world such as Macau and Las Vegas. Also, the Gaming Bill legalized web shop gaming for Bahamians for the first time in this country’s history. FATCA came into effect; the condominium bill was passed; the Environment Minister tabled the Petroleum Act and attendant regulations as our first step toward energy sector reform; both House chambers passed historic Stem Cell legislation and implemented a new Immigration Policy. The Bahamas government also implemented prison reform and established the Foreign Service both with Acts of parliament while the Prime Minister appointed and chaired a national taskforce that educated and prepared the country for the newest global health threat to confront us in 2014, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
The Ministry of Tourism celebrated its golden anniversary as a government ministry, an upgrade from the Tourism Promotion Board until 1964. Coincidentally, the country recorded its highest tourist arrival numbers in history, beating out 2013 arrivals of 6.2 million visitors. Leading the way in the resurgence of tourism was romance, religious and sports tourism. The Bahamas hosted the IAAF World Relays, the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl, co-branded with NBA and NFL teams and launched the 16 weddings promotions to showcase the unique visitor experiences on 16 different islands. New airlift gateways from several Canadian and US cities in addition to the opening of new tourism field offices in the northeastern US seaboard, the Midwest and the west coast increased airlifts to islands such as San Salvador, Exuma, Elauthera, Bimini and Grand Bahama. Resort World Bimini with its casino and fast ferry service literally transformed the economic landscape of Bimini in 2014.
During this year of culture, The Bahamas beat a world record for most conch shells blown at one time at our 41st independence celebrations at historic Clifford Park. The Bahamas government announced and began preparations for Junkanoo Carnival 2015 and named 41 Cultural Warriors during 2014.
Dr. Rodney Smith was named President of the College of The Bahamas with the mandate to transition the country’s tertiary institution to university status by 2016 and we launched our National Development Plan at the College of The Bahamas, an important player in its crafting and shaping.
The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Resources Institute, or BAMSI, was established, received its first enrollment of students and reaped its first harvest of fruits from its commercial farm in 2014. BAMSI is a major policy thrust of the government to address the high food import bill that is in excess of one billion American dollars annually. The Prime Minister in his groundbreaking address cited the preparation of some 70,000 meals daily for the indigent as another compelling reason for government intervention to facilitate a paradigm shift in the access of affordable healthy food and bolstering the country’s level of food security.
The more than $120 million National Civil Aviation structural framework in The Bahamas made significant strides in 2014. The consultancies to determine the model options for the restructure of Civil Aviation Regulatory Oversight and Function and the provision of comprehensive, empirical data to effect evidence-based, decision-making were in the advanced stages. Additionally, enabling oversight legislation was passed in Parliament and a nationwide audit of all 28 government-owned airports was completed. The government also broke ground on a brand new multi-million dollar Radar tower that will usher in a new era in air space management, air traffic control and training in The Bahamas. By the end of 2014, this radar system was more than 85% complete.
The Bahamas, however, was not immune from and faced its share of challenges in 2014. The Prime Minister dismissed the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Urban Development and the Minister of Financial Services resigned from the cabinet for personal reasons. It was the year Canine Distemper hit Nassau and Bahamian Rock Iguanas were smuggled out of the country from San Salvador. There was the National Security Agency (NSA) spying story where it was alleged that the NSA officials eavesdropped on the cell phone conversations of Bahamians. Also, the Bahamas government came to the aid of the ailing Bank of The Bahamas in a $100 million government bailout. The government continued to tackle the serious scourge of crime with 122 murders recorded in 2014. A compendium of crime bills, intensified saturation patrols in criminal hot spots, increased resources for the police, additional courts and an amendment to the Jury Act were some of the measures taken by the government to fight this scourge. To fight illegal poaching, illegal migration and human smuggling and other transnational crimes committed on the high seas, the $232 million asset acquisition called the “Sandy Bottom Project” materialized in 2014 with three of the nine defence force vessels turned over the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
On the 22nd of December 2014, a US federal court fined French energy giant Alstom more than $772 million for its involvement in an elaborate bribery scheme involving officials in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and The Bahamas. Court documents revealed that a government official received some $300,000 in exchange for a contract to supply the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) with slow speed diesel engines.
CARPHA Remembers Former PAHO Director Emeritus – Dr. Carissa Etienne as a “Tireless Advocate for Regional Solidarity”
Port of Spain, Trinidad. 01 December, 2023: It is with profound sadness and shock that I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends, people of Dominica, the Caribbean Community and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), on the untimely passing of PAHO Director Emeritus, Dr. Carissa Etienne.
Dr. Etienne’s contributions to public health in the Americas were not only significant, but also transformative. Her leadership and unwavering commitment to our Caribbean Community’s collective pursuit of healthier people, healthier spaces and a healthier Caribbean were a source of inspiration to many. Dr. Etienne was a tireless advocate for The Americas’ regional solidarity, for she knew that was the only way to address the glaring inequalities that exist here.
She was the Director at PAHO for most of the life of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and under her leadership, CARPHA graduated from the PAHO Biennial Work Programme (BWP) arrangement to having framework agreements.
PAHO funded many of the programmes that are difficult to attract support, like the Caribbean Regulatory System (CRS) and the Medicines Quality Control and Surveillance Department (MQCSD), which are important services for the Region to ensure the quality of medicines. Under Dr. Etienne’s leadership, PAHO also funded non-communicable disease interventions, another area that does not attract large pots of funding, although the number one cause of deaths in the Caribbean region.
During the Pandemic, CARPHA worked with PAHO to fund the downpayments to give 12 Member States access to COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX to the tune of US$2.6 million.
Dr. Etienne will be remembered as a true Caribbean lady who worked with great dedication and focus throughout the horrible COVID-19 period and right up to her last working day at PAHO.
During this challenging time, we pray that God will give strength to Dr. Etienne’s family, friends, and colleagues. CARPHA cherishes the memories of her remarkable contributions to the well-being of individuals and communities throughout the Americas, but especially the Caribbean.
The CARPHA Executive Management and staff stand in solidarity with our Caribbean Community as we mourn the loss of a visionary leader.
Dr. Joy St. John
Executive Director, CARPHA
Energy & Utilities Commissioner says new legislation will help to stabilize energy costs in Turks & Caicos Islands
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – Thursday, 30th November 2023: The Energy and Utilities Department (EUD) of the Turks and Caicos Islands, today reminds the public that the comprehensive Renewable Energy Legislation is currently before the House of Assembly and that the Legislation not only addresses the existing challenges posed by fuel price volatility but also lays the foundation for a sustainable and resilient energy future for the TCI.
In a recent press release, FortisTCI cited global factors such as production cuts and increased demand for fuel, leading to a surge in market prices. The EUD acknowledging these challenges thanks our power supplier for its proactivity when it comes to informing consumers of any changes in the cost of electricity. Further, the Government of Turks and Caicos wants residents and guests to know that it is committed to taking proactive measures that will transform the energy landscape through robust Renewable Energy Legislation.
In that vein, Delano Arthur, the new Energy and Utilities Commissioner looks forward to working with FortisTCI in the upcoming days to find innovative and collaborative solutions to reduce the cost of Fuel and Energy in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This initiative aims to not only mitigate the impact of volatile fuel prices but also secures a sustainable, reliable and affordable energy future for all of us.
Key components of the Renewable Energy Legislation include:
- Integrated Resource Plans: A formal planning process to prioritise renewable energy in addressing evolving energy needs.
- Competitive Tendering Process: Government-run initiatives to promote healthy renewable energy competition, achieve low-cost energy, and meet Paris Agreement goals.
- Administrative and Regulatory Measures: Establishing clear processes and responsibilities for all players who are in the renewable energy market.
- Licensing and Safety Standards: Comprehensive licensing provisions to ensure accountability and safety standards for renewable energy systems.
- Net Billing Program: Allowing building owners to self-generate and sell surplus electricity back to the grid.
The Renewable Energy Legislation serves as a mitigation against volatile fuel prices. By transitioning to cleaner energy sources and fostering a diverse renewable energy infrastructure, these Islands aim to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. The competitive tendering process introduced in the legislation ensures the selection of the most cost-effective renewable energy solutions, contributing to energy affordability and stability.
As the Islands invest in renewable energy, the increased share of clean, locally produced electricity provides a stable alternative to fluctuating fuel prices. The Net Billing Programme further incentivises distributed energy generation, offering a predictable path for building owners to contribute to the grid and receive compensation, thus reducing reliance on traditional fuel sources.
For further information, please contact:
Delano R. Arthur
Energy and Utilities Department
Turks and Caicos Islands Government
CANARI outlines climate priorities ahead of Cop28
The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) informed that the Caribbean Climate Justice Alliance, in preparation for the upcoming annual COP28 in 2023, launched its “Caribbean Climate Justice and Resilience Agenda,” outlining the priorities for climate justice and resilience in vulnerable Caribbean small island developing states (SIDS).
In a press release, CANARI highlighted that the agenda recognizes the major threat of climate change to the region as well as aims to louden the voices of the at-risk groups “on the frontlines of the climate crisis and catalyze actions for climate justice and local resilience in the Caribbean SIDS.”
The priorities stated under the agenda are:
- Curbing emissions to limit global temperature
increase to 1.5 ̊C
- Scaling up locally-led solutions for adaptation and
loss and damage
- Improving access to and delivery of climate finance
for frontline communities, small and micro enterprises, and civil society organizations as part of a ‘whole of society’ approach
- Scaling up just, nature-based solutions for resilience
- Supporting a just transition for pro-poor, inclusive,
sustainable and resilient development
- Promoting gender equity and social inclusion
approaches to climate action
- Promoting youth and intergenerational equity as
core to the climate response
- Integrating a rights-based and earth-centered
approach in addressing all these priorities and ensuring climate justice
The at-risk groups referred to in the release include small-scale farmers and fisherfolk, rural women producers, income-poor people, elderly and disabled people, Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, migrants, and LGBTQIA+ people.
Being cognizant of the severity of the effects of climate change on the Caribbean, CANARI referred to the fact that the very existence of the region is on the line.
“If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated and global temperature exceeds 1.5 ̊C, the impacts of rising sea levels, more intense hurricanes, rainfall variability, ocean acidification, and other changes threaten the very existence of our way of life in the Caribbean and other SIDS that have contributed the least to global emissions.”
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