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Shareholders Applaud Bank Execs, Directors at AGM for $53 Million Profit Commonwealth Bank ‘Most Profitable of All Banks’ Execs tell Shareholders

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Nassau, 22 Jun 2015 – For the second consecutive year, Commonwealth Bank reported it was ‘the most profitable of all (retail) banks’ with net earnings of $53.3 million, $16 million higher than its nearest competitor and up from $48.7 million over the year before.

That news of a 7% increase in profits topped a list of positive performance figures for fiscal 2014 reported by the bank at its annual general meeting at SuperClub Breezes May 27, a standing room only event with the crowd applauding and breaking out in cheers more than 30 times.

“Commonwealth Bank continues to be the leader in personal banking services and remains focused on personal banking,” Chairman William B. Sands, Jr., told the packed room, noting that other banks were now “placing more emphasis” on the personal banking platform that has been the core of Commonwealth Bank’s business model. Commonwealth Bank has built its reputation and its success on granting consumer loans for purchases, education, medical and special purpose applications, reducing the risk associated with hefty capital commercial lending and enhancing loyalty. Its average loan value is $17,155.

This was the third time in four years that Commonwealth Bank’s profits exceeded $50 million, profits it has shared with shareholders since it went public with an oversubscribed share offering in 2000. With more than 6,000 shareholders, Commonwealth Bank is the second largest publicly-held company (largest publicly held financial services company) in The Bahamas and accounts for 22% of all trading on the Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX). In 2014, the bank paid $.06 per share in quarterly dividends plus an extraordinary dividend for a total of $.30 per share. Equity earnings per share were $0.49.

In other performance figures, the bank reported gross revenues of $139.3 million and total assets of nearly $1.5 billion. The bank’s efficiency ratio, 48.4%, was the sole declining indicator, a result, said AVP & Group Financial Controller, Mrs. Gladys Fernander, of a $5 million increase in business license fees and an increase of 85% in fees overall.

Despite those increases, the bank maintained its commitment to community with contributions totaling $400,000, much of that going to education, including a long-standing partnership with the Ministries of Education and Social Services to provide school backpacks and supplies for thousands of students. The bank’s outreach stretches from the youngest child to the aged in a senior citizens’ home, from the teen mother who wants to earn her high school diploma and find employment to the college student benefitting from a scholarship for future leaders of The Bahamas.

Like other financial institutions, the bank’s internal focus was on managing lending and curtailing bad loans during an economy that continues to be challenging. That focus paid off. Tougher lending restrictions and more stringent collections resulted in a substantial reduction in loan loss impairment with total write-offs of $28.4 million, an 18.6% improvement over 2013 when the bank reported $34.9 million in write-offs. Both years placed Commonwealth Bank’s loan losses far below competitors’ and shareholders were reminded that while some banks in The Bahamas announced in 2014 that they were closing branches, Commonwealth Bank had expanded services and hours and now offers Saturday banking in six locations.

Non-interest income, mostly earned from its subsidiary Laurentide Insurance & Mortgage Co Ltd, stood at $14.5 million.

Total capital was reported at year-end at $294 million, exceeding regulatory requirements by 64% and contributing to share value. Market capitalization rested at $732.4 million and the bank paid out $30 million in dividends.
The domestic capital market responded to those positive performance indicators driving share value up 8.5% in 2014 to close at $7.50.

In looking toward the future, the chairman said Commonwealth Bank would maintain its interest in the consumer market, control loan growth, continue to improve its efficiency in operations as well as in collections and recovery, and devote resources to staff development and succession planning. He hinted at changes in the long-serving board of directors, some of whom have served for more than 30 years. Mr. Sands also said the bank would not be constructing or opening any new branches in the coming year, but would introduce a chip enabled VISA debit card and would also enhance its international MasterCard products with the high-security, chip- enabled card in 2016, to complete its array of MasterCard/SunCard offerings. This represented a significant investment for the Bank.
Given continuing high unemployment and slow growth, Mr. Sands said, cautious optimism will guide the economic outlook until BahaMar opens.

And, according to Commonwealth Bank President Ian Jennings, in such a challenging and competitive environment, “it is critical for service-oriented businesses like Commonwealth Bank to focus on constantly upgrading how they interact with customers, how fast they respond, how well they develop products consumers need.
“We have no foreign parent, we have to protect ourselves, our staff and our shareholders,” said Mr. Jennings, “That is why we take a conservative approach. We never lose sight of the fact that we are a Bahamian bank for every Bahamian and we want you to know that your all-Bahamian bank was once again the first choice of Bahamians for personal banking services and the top performing bank in The Bahamas.”

Shareholders returned the Board of Directors unanimously. Those directors include William B. Sands, Jr., Ian A. Jennings, Rupert W. Roberts, Jr., Roland C. Symonette, Vaughn W.T. Higgs, George C. Culmer, Earla J. Bethel, Larry R. Gibson Marcus C.R. Bethel and Robert D.L. Sands.

Commonwealth Bank with more than 525 employees operates 11 branches in New Providence, Abaco and Grand Bahama. A record crowd of nearly 500 persons attended the annual general meeting for the year January 1 – December 31, 2014.

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Scale up carbon dioxide removal to achieve climate targets, urge United Nations regional leaders

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#September 28, 2021 – In a joint statement, the Executive Secretaries of the United Nations Regional Commissions have called for enhanced regional cooperation to develop nature-based and technological solutions for capturing CO2 emissions from the atmosphere and ensuring its long-term storage.

This week’s High-level Dialogue on Energy will be the first global gathering on energy mandated by the UN General Assembly since 1981.  It gives all member states an opportunity to demonstrate their commitments and actions to achieve clean and affordable energy for all by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Time is running out to avert a climate emergency. Nations around the world are failing to live up to their objectives and commitments on sustainable energy. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stated that climate change is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying”. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres called it “code red for humanity”.

First of all, we must protect our precious carbon sinks, which include forests, oceans and wetlands. Second, carbon dioxide removal is essential if the world is to achieve its universally agreed sustainable development goals. Carbon dioxide removal includes nature-based approaches such as reforestation and technology-based approaches such as capture of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants for underground storage or re-use.

All countries should set clear decarbonization targets. In addition, governments and politicians must be empowered to support ambitious and immediate carbon removal targets.

Developed countries should put a fair price on the carbon stocks held as global goods in rainforests and peatlands, including the Amazon and Congo Basin, mangrove and coral reefs ecosystems and ocean, and support efforts to increase the capacity of those carbon sinks which are at risk of becoming carbon sources with increasing land degradation driven by climate change.  While countries must continue to increase ambition under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions, data show that fossil fuels will in some ways remain part of the energy mix in many countries for years to come. Some industries such as cement, steel and iron production, and transport cannot be easily decarbonized.  Nations need to institute favorable conditions for investment in carbon dioxide removal and develop the needed legal, financial and regulatory frameworks in collaboration with infrastructure and banking institutions.

Industrialized nations should retrofit existing infrastructure now. In coastal regions, nature-based solutions such as mangrove forests can be increased to support carbon dioxide net emissions targets and to alleviate the effects of extreme weather events. Patent waivers on next-generation climate technologies could facilitate investment in modernizing global energy infrastructure.

Carbon dioxide removal is not considered universally as a viable approach to climate change mitigation.  The UN Regional Commissions can play an instrumental role in convening stakeholders to address existing gaps in knowledge and governance in the context of regional and national specificities and address the region-specific implications and trade-offs of global action on carbon dioxide removal. Sharing best practices among nations with respect to carbon dioxide removal improves the opportunity to build inclusive sustainable livelihoods.

In developing countries, carbon dioxide removal activities, whether nature based or technological, should also feature as part of the effort to provide sustainable livelihoods that can accelerate the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

A circular economy approach towards carbon needs to be embraced by societies to be able to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and net-zero GHG emissions by 2060-2070 to keep the global warming within 1.5 ℃  Having a sound understanding of the potential contributions of natural and technological carbon dioxide removal would underpin the call for a radical transformation of production and consumption patterns. In our everyday lives, the systemic changes required will see high performance buildings that re-use carbon dioxide becoming commonplace alongside stronger commitments on methane management and socio-environmental-economic contracts in resource management. These actions will integrate quality of life aspirations with environmental stewardship to deliver climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Enhancing governance of carbon dioxide removal could provide an excellent opportunity to focus and align regional and international efforts to attain global circular carbon economy. By working together, carbon dioxide removal has the potential to become a critical component of viable climate policy options for regions now and in the decades to come.

 

Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
Armida Salsiah Alishahbana, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)
Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC)
Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commissions for Western Asia (UNESCWA)
Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

 A virtual dialogue on “Challenges and Opportunities for Harnessing Climate & SDG Synergies: the role of carbon dioxide removal” was broadcast as an official side-event to the High-Level Dialogue on Energy on 24 September at 07:00-08:15 EST.

This event was organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) In cooperation with Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G), fellow United Nations’ Economic Commissions and the International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development.

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Is the glimmer of hope for the nation’s capital fading away?

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#TurksandCaicos, September 28, 2021 – Nearly 18 months have past since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, bringing a sudden collapse to the economy in Grand Turk which is the nation’s capital.  The island is still reeling from the impact, and hasn’t been in such an economic despair since 2008, during the devastation caused by hurricane Ike.

It never dawned on me how much Grand Turk have become so dependent on the tourists dollars until now.   With the pause on the cruise ships embarking on Grand Turk shores, it has impacted hundreds of local jobs and small businesses.

Although a few tourists from the island of Providenciales trickle in, it is not near sufficient revenue to add any sort of real relief to the people of Grand Turk and Salt Cay, many of whom are unable to find jobs to help support their families.  For some, the only lifeline is the benefit of having a family member or two, who are employed by the government. The reality is, this is unsustainable if further delay of the cruise ships to Grand Turk continues for much longer.

Cruising has resumed in select Caribbean countries like the Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Jamaica and a few others.   However, the debacle continues as the cruising industry faces fluid embarkation protocols with international ports, in addition to requiring mandatory vaccination of passengers.  Having said that, as much I would like to be optimistic about the imminent return of cruising to Grand Turk, the prospects for 2021 appear pretty bleak.

During the earlier part of this year, some extravagant plans were proposed by the government, with talks of utilizing a portion of the Carnival infrastructure funds to help resuscitate the ailing economy in Grand Turk, but execution appears to be at a standstill.

As the government struggles to find an economic balance to fuel recovery efforts, it would be prudent to keep hope alive on a continuous basis particularly for the people of these two Islands. This can easily be done by providing more regular updates on the progress of talks with Royal Caribbean and Carnival’s executive team.

Public communication should also include a targeted date for reopening of the Grand Turk cruise port and any interim plans to mitigate the loss of employment income.  As the summer months drawn down, there are literally very little flow of tourism now.  Hoteliers, tour operators and small businesses have taken huge losses and are feeling the punch.

Local government contracts are sparse, and under the current laws of how contracts are awarded, there aren’t enough to go around. Given the nature of this unprecedented virus and prolonged hardship, this may not be the best approach especially for those needing it the most.   Therefore, citizens are anxiously awaiting to see what the next big step this administration will take to provide jobs for many of those who are unemployed.

In my opinion, what both political parties have failed to do is to share the wealth, which I think is a huge missed opportunity.  With the staggering number of tourists visiting the island of Providenciales on a weekly basis, more could be done to lure tourists to these outer islands.

Among many things, the government could increase the marketing budget abroad, with specific focus on promoting whale watching which is a niche market to Grand Turk and Salt Cay.  In addition, promoting the “magnificent wall”, The Wall as it is referred too, is an amazing 7k feet deep ocean shelf, approximately 1000 feet off Grand Turk shore line, a dream for scuba diving enthusiasts.  Or perhaps, having on display, posters with names of the outer islands at the international airport. Animation of our brand via promotional videos would also capture travelers attention.

Stakeholders across the travel and tourism sector, can also partner with the local airline operators to offer promotional discounts on airfares and lodging to these particular islands etc. In all likelihood, this would entice more tourists to consider taking a day trip to these outer islands.

How long will the pendulum continue to swing both ways in the nation’s capital, regardless of political parties?

Granted, the newly proposed reforms and projects recently announcement by the Premier, appeared to have given the people of Grand Turk some renewed hope.

Nevertheless, for added accountability, the focus should continue to be on tangible deliverables and timeframe of these ministerial proposals.

My fear is, if cruising doesn’t resume within a reasonable timeframe, we could began to see an uptick in petty crimes. With the trickle down impact,  it could also force the closure of more small businesses on the island.

Subsequently, causing an exodus of folks seeking employment elsewhere, which could cause further drain of the talent pool from the Capital.

 

 

Ed Forbes

Concerned Citizen of Grand Turk

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Turks and Caicos Islands Releases Preliminary Visitor Statistics, Depicting the Summer of 2021 as One of the Busiest Summers on Record

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#TurksandCaicos, September 28, 2021 – The Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board, the exclusive tourism authority for the Turks and Caicos Islands, is pleased to announce the preliminary visitor statistics for the destination, clearly depicting that the Islands saw one of its busiest summers on record in 2021. Compared to pre-pandemic statistics in 2019, the destination saw an increase of over 18% in June with 54,188 visitors, an increase of 19% in July increase with 56,022 visitors, and an increase of 15% in August with 41,734 visitors. These numbers exceeded all projection modules and are well above average in a normal economic climate. Taking into consideration the current economic conditions and travel sentiment caused as a result of the global pandemic these numbers are considered extraordinary. Tourism in the destination continues to flourish thanks to diligent safety protocols and strategic marketing campaigns in the United States, Canada, South America, United Kingdom and Europe.

These powerful statistics are due to a combination of factors, including pent up demand for travel during the summer, and the result of the Tourist Board’s strategic marketing plans to promote the destination as a safe destination, including protocols enacted to ensure that both the local and international population are protected during these challenging times. The Tourist Board has carried out aggressive public relations campaigns, including press visits with key publications to ensure that they tell the authentic Turks and Caicos story on a consistent basis. The current public relations campaigns also include radio campaigns in source markets, advertising and partnerships with key stakeholders, and executing the Tourist Board’s signature event, Turks and Caicos Conference (TACC), which updated key wholesale and airline partners, who drive millions on dollars in revenue to the destination, on updated protocols and accommodation availability.

These strategic promotions with key partners and the TCI Assured protocols to increase travel confidence, combined with the aggressive vaccine campaign spearhead by the Ministry of Health, has had a tremendous positive impact on the business that the Turks and Caicos Islands has received and confidence in the safety and security in the destination.

September is traditionally the slowest tourism month of the year for the Turks and Caicos and regional competitors, primarily due to it being the peak hurricane season in the Caribbean region.  Many of the destination’s hotels and restaurants take this opportunity to seasonally close for renovations that ensure the quality of the product remains consistent and it also allows staff members to take vacations, ensuing that they become rejuvenated for the busier winter season. While these predicted seasonal closers occur in 2021, information received from the Tourist Board’s local and international partners indicate that September statistics are pacing to be the same as 2019 and October statistics are currently pacing approximately 10% ahead of 2019. Booking windows are shorter than they have been in previous years, so while the remainder of the season will be impacted by the Delta Variant, we are working towards and hopeful for a busy and successful Festive season.

“I am pleased to see that our destination has performed so well, especially during the summer which has historically been the slow season for the Turks and Caicos Islands,” commented Minister of Tourism Honorable Josephine Connolly. “We enacted and enforced the necessary protocols to keep our local population and our visitors safe, which has resulted in excellent numbers and a summer that has performed above previous years. We are looking forward to a promising Festive season and are doing everything in our power to ensure that tourism, our main economic driver, is servicing our community and our travelling public equally”.

The Turks and Caicos Islands also continues to promote its vaccine campaign among residents, with over 70 percent of the adult population being fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine—making it one of the most inoculated countries in the world.

For more information on the Turks and Caicos Islands, call 1 (800) 241-0824 or visit www.turksandcaicostourism.com.  Follow the Turks and Caicos Islands on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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