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.
Barbados to Host 41st Caribbean Travel Marketplace this Spring
By Sherrica Thompson
#Barbados, February 2, 2023 – Barbados has been selected to host the 41st edition of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace. The event will be held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre in Bridgetown from May 9 -11, and it is expected to build on the success of the 40th staging held in Puerto Rico last fall.
CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig, who made the announcement recently, said it’s the first time in the organization’s history that the association’s largest annual event, which brings together buyers and sellers of the region’s tourism products and services, will be staged in Barbados.
“CHTA has a very strong relationship with both public and private sector stakeholders in Barbados, and as we position the region’s top earner for robust growth this year, we are delighted to lock arms with our Bajan partners to drive business to the Caribbean,” she stated.
Noting that: “This year’s Marketplace will also provide unique access to the Eastern Caribbean for buyers and tour operators as the region places a strong focus on the revival of multi-destination travel.”
Minister of Tourism and International Transport of Barbados Ian Gooding-Edghill, said the Barbados tourism industry was undergoing a major renaissance in the post-COVID environment, and the timing could not be better to welcome Caribbean Travel Marketplace to local soil.
“We are honoured to host such a preeminent gathering of tourism stakeholders from around the world,” Minister Gooding-Edghill said, noting that the meeting aligns with Barbados’ value offerings, which appeal, among others, to the very important MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions] market.
The launch of the first Caribbean Travel Forum & Awards, a highlight of the Puerto Rico meeting, will return for a second edition and will be held in Barbados on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, ahead of the official opening ceremony of Caribbean Travel Marketplace.
The Forum will also focus on the business of tourism, and business appointments will be conducted on Wednesday, May 10 and Thursday, May 11.
Over 150 delegates, including Ministers of Tourism and key private sector leaders, engaged in the Caribbean Travel Forum last year.
National Food Policy to be created in the Bahamas
By Shanieka Smith
#TheBahamas, February 2, 2023 – A new initiative by the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs in the Bahamas will see the creation of a National Food Policy geared towards ensuring food security on the island.
“This agricultural policy would encompass a holistic approach and incorporate regulations, legislation, and other aspects to assist the farmers who have not really gotten the attention they deserve for a long time,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, Hon. Clay Sweeting.
Other initiatives within the agriculture sector will also be implemented, such as the digitalization of applications and forms, which will make farming more efficient.
Clay said, “we have already digitalized for the most part the Department of Marine Resources and soon we will unveil new services such as dog licences, import permits, and other services needed for a successful agricultural sector.”
The construction of the Cultivation Centres (TCC) in Eleuthera and New Providence with produce exchange, food processing kitchens and farm stores will continue.
Sweeting said he hopes these initiatives will help to decrease the country’s yearly $1 billion food import bill.
The Incredible Story of David Avido of Kenya, 24 Year old designing for the Grass Roots to the Stars
By Dana Malcolm
#Africa, February 2, 2023 – One Kenyan designer began a sewing business out of the slums where he was born; now he dresses some of the Caribbean and Africa’s most famous faces.
Born the oldest son of a single mother and from Kibera Nairobi, David Avido Ochieng did not have an easy start. In Kibera, the largest urban slum in East Africa opportunities for international success are hard to come by and yet Avido can now say he has dressed the likes of former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Beyoncé, Chronixx, Romain Virgo, Tarrus Riley, Chris Martin, Ty Dolla Sign, Koffee and many more.
As explained on his website, David dropped out of school to work and support his family quite young. In just first form he was working on a construction site but he knew he wanted more from life. After quitting his job he danced and saved what he could and tried his best to complete his education.
He told Vogue magazine: “When I started dancing I used to save money in order to go back to high school, with the little that I could get from dancing and my mom’s money from doing work as a house help, we were able to raise 15,000 shillings and with that, I joined an adult school and skipped forms two, three and four.”
David picked up a sewing machine to make costumes and realized his talent. By 2015, his brand LookslikeAvido was born. He completed a fashion & design diploma at Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts and began to sew incredible pieces right at home in Kibera. Even as his brand is globally recognized, Kibera is where his workshop remains; David says, his homeland is his great inspiration.
“There is no barrier if you believe in your talent and take the next step. I want to encourage and create beauty, where people don’t expect.”
Talented and thoughtful Avido is well aware of the stereotypes surrounding him, his home and the black community globally.
“We know about injustice and violence, prejudice, racial and social discrimination – we experience it within Kenya and we experience it globally, as people look at us as the poor, the uneducated, the needy,” he said.
Featured in Vogue, CNN and other international publications, Avido remains connected to his origins in a tangible way and as his success grows his roots just go deeper. Twenty per cent of all sales of his jackets and other clothing items go directly back to Kibera; his website explains that all the tailoring, product photoshoots and collaborations ‘is all done here in Kibra.’
There is no fabric waste from his garments, instead, scraps are repurposed into masks and shopping bags for residents, all his tailors are local residents, a portion of profits are used to pay school fees and Avido and his team put in extra time to make school uniforms as well.
On his website, is a photo of him sitting around a sewing machine, his worktable resting on hard-packed earth with presumably a group of family and friends surrounding him, a source of pride. The introspective photograph could have been taken in Nairobi, Trinidad or Barbados, so nostalgic is the picture, the bench and the story of community success that it represents.
In a video posted to his YouTube, David sits at his new work desk, and beside him hangs a rack of clothes in the cramped space that serves as his kitchen as well.
“I’m the firstborn of Kibera,” He explains, “Every kid in Kibera is looking up to me— my main dream is to open up a place where I can inspire people to work.”
David has a dozen employees and is listed in Beyonce’s directory of black businesses; with an uncommon wisdom, the designer knows that his successes so far are not parking spaces but rather stepping stones as he faces his future announcing that the journey, for him, continues.
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