Friday, December 31, 2010

Filmmaker boost from telecoms liberalisation

Tribune Business Editor

Telecommunications market liberalisation could further aid the growth of the Bahamian film production industry as a niche market, a leading investment banker said yesterday, as it would provide more avenues for distribution of local work.
Owen Bethel, president and chief executive of the Montaque Group, told Tribune Business that with movies and 'shorts' now being viewed on iphones, and movies being downloaded on to cell phones in many countries, the long-awaited development of new products and technologies following the Bahamas Telecommunications Company's (BTC) privatisation and market liberalisation could further help to unleash Bahamian creativity in film production.
And he added that the Government's policy for the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas (BCB), moving it towards a public broadcasting service and possible privatisation, could also provide new opportunities for Bahamian filmmakers, given that it would require locally-produced content and programming.
"With the development of the telecommunications avenues for release, you have movies and 'shorts' on iphones," Mr Bethel told this newspaper. "It really tells you that the telecommunications industry is moving by leaps and bounds, where you can even now download movies on a cell phone.
"The number of avenues local producers can take to ensure exposure and sales of their production are increasing, and it means the growth of the industry is not just [confined] for theatrical release."
Bahamian filmmakers and producers could specifically tailor their works for cellular phone customers, tapping into the fastest-growing area of telecommunications worldwide, Mr Bethel suggested, thus exposing themselves to a new audience and expanding distribution channels.
Given the telecommunications industry's potential future importance to Bahamian filmmakers and producers, and its role in stimulating growth in their sector, Mr Bethel urged the Government to be very deliberate in its decision-making on the BTC privatisation and subsequent liberalisation.
"It is going to require that the process is done properly," he added, "and the potential for these various niche markets and what it means for Bahamians should not be overlooked.
"Government, in its deliberations, must look to see where benefits can be made and reserved for the development of Bahamian industry in the diversification of the economy. That means a very complete and thorough review by all parties in whatever privatisation process there is."
Another potential opening for Bahamian filmmakers and producers lay at the BCB/ZNS, Mr Bethel said. "With the direction the Government is moving in in regards to the TV industry, public service broadcasting and possibly further privatisation of it, there is a need for further content and locally-produced movies and features," Mr Bethel told Tribune Business.
"The ability for local producers to see an avenue for release through these means lends itself to a niche market, where we can showcase local talent in an industry other than tourism and banking.
"It won't happen overnight; it has to evolve over time, but the talent is there. It just needs more avenues to be exposed, and released from the exposure."
Film production is an industry that appears to have, in particular, captured the imagination of young Bahamian entrepreneurs, encouraging them to make full use of their creative talents.
Mr Bethel said their efforts were being further aided by the increasing tendency of US-based film studios to provide an avenue for independent producers to develop their works, not just for theatrical release but also DVDs and TV productions.
"Hidden throughout has been this talent and desire to produce, but it has clearly been limited by what is seen as a limited market and the exposure they would get," Mr Bethel told Tribune Business of Bahamian filmmakers.
"Kudos to the Bahamas International Film Festival and Celi Moss for drawing attention to, and providing an avenue for, the talent here and allowing those filmmakers to see it's really a stepping stone to a larger industry.
"From that perspective, I'm pleased Bahamians are coming out of the woodwork and are confident enough to present their works for review and criticism. I hope constructive criticism makes them better and increases their resolve."
But, in a reference to the still-closed Bahamas Film Studios on Grand Bahama, Mr Bethel said one element lacking in the development of Bahamian filmmakers was access to a purpose-built production facility that would act as a one-stop-shop in taking care of all their needs.
"It would be great to imagine there was a Film Studios established to capture this talent and put it to greater use on an active basis," he told Tribune Business. "Had we seen the Bahamas Film Studios come to fruition, that is an avenue that has the greatest potential to develop this talent. But it is one that is lacking."
Mr Bethel pointed out that Pirates of the Caribbean IV was set to be released next year, having been filmed elsewhere after its II and III prequels were shot at the Bahamas Film Studios, largely due to the facility's demise and closed status.

New COB campus set to finally open in January

After months of delay, the College of The Bahamas announced yesterday that it will open its new campus in Grand Bahama on January 10, 2011, which is the scheduled start date for the spring semester.
Up to yesterday, some students were expressing frustration at what they say has been a lack of communication from officials on whether or not the new campus will be opened for the new semester.
However, in a press release issued by the institution yesterday, students are being advised to report to the new campus for classes beginning in January.
All degree programs, with the exception of the Culinary and Hospitality Management Institute (CHMI) programs, will be moving to the new building on Grand Bahama Highway.
CHMI courses, as well as Continuing Education and Extension Services (CEES) will remain at the current campus site, for the time being.

The campus was originally supposed to be open in time for the Fall 2010 semester, but although the building itself had been completed, officials said the landscaping had not met the Grand Bahama Port Authority's (GBPA) standards for the procurement of an occupancy certificate.

Days later, associate vice president Dr. Kelly Duncan-son told reporters that the GBPA should not be blamed for the delay in moving, since the decision was made internally.

In the COB statement, students who have not yet registered were advised that during the week of January 4, 2011, all advisement, registration and related students services will be carried out at the current campus site, as normal.

"These services will not be available at the new site until the start of classes on January 10," the statement continued.

It was also noted that the installation of furniture and equipment at the new campus is near completion, and information technology and other communication services are being tested and are expected to be up and running for the semester's start.

"Students should expect a further update regarding the provision of other ancillary services in the days prior to the start of the semester," the statement read.

Back in July, COB students had expressed concerns about the new campus, with College of The Bahama Union of Students president Romal Russell saying he believed there would be some challenges.

The remote location could provide issues for transportation for some students, he said, while maintaining in-volvement in student activities could prove to be more difficult.

Russell said there were many amenities that had not been in place in phase one of the relocation including a cafeteria, a student activity centre and an adequate library.

Russell said overall, however, he believes the new campus is necessary.

"I believe with the college undertaking the move from College to University status, that also is necessary and in fact, long overdue," he said.

"Not only will more students have more pride in the college institution they attend, but now we will have more capacity. Hopefully the institution will attract more Bahamian students locally, from other Family Islands and maybe even from Nassau."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve at Sabor

Freeport, Grand Bahama - Bring in the New Year with Happy Hour all night long at Sabor Restaurant and Bar.

Dance to DJ Steelie. No Entrance Fee, and the best view of the fireworks at midnight!

2 for 1 regular mixed drinks and assorted Finlandia Vodka martinis. Or try our new sparkling wine. 2 for 1 on our Serpone Celebration or Brut Serpone Celebration Rose.

Dinner available from 6 to 9pm, regular menu. Dinner reservations required.

For more information: 242-373-5588 or

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blue and White Party New Year's Eve at Mamadoo's

Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas - Be comfortable this New Year's Eve! Join us for our Blue and White Party on December 31st at Mamadoo's Restaurant.

$ 75 per person or $140 per couple. Open Bar from 10pm to 1am with a Champagne Toast at midnight. Complimentary hors d'eouvres. 2-4-1 and beers 2-4-6 from 6pm-2am. Mamadoo's is the spot to watch the fireworks with less crowd. Complimentary New Year party favours.

Tickets available at Island Java or Mamadoo's until December 30th.

The restaurant is known as Mamadoo's Restaurant, or simply 'Mamadoo's' where local cuisine meets Bahamian creativity.

The Restaurant features a signature line of innovative Bahamian inspired seafood and barbeque dishes, with gourmet pizzas/flat bread along with fruit infused vodka like sappa dilly, love vine, guava, mango and tamarind.

The concept of Mamadoo's is a direct result of the these sisters combined 25 years of experience in the culinary arts and customer service. The Customers also voiced the need for a high quality restaurant in a mid price range with a distinctive Bahamian flavor.

Mon - Friday 11:30 - 4:00 - Lunch
Thurs - Saturday 5:30 - 11:00 - Dinner
Sunday - 11:30 - 4:00 - Brunch

Located on the marina side of the Port Lucaya Marketplace
(The former Harbour Room)

Dine indoors or out at Mamadoos, at the Port Lucaya Marketplace. Enjoy the scenic marina view.

For Reservations call 242-374-5282
or email 
Find us on Facebook 


Rand to launch 'Help Desk'


Freeport News Reporter

As the Rand Memorial Hospital continues in its efforts to create an environment that is more welcoming to its clientele, the health care facility will be introducing a new help desk program in January 2011.
"The purpose of the desk is to extend that additional courtesy to our public," said Sharon Williams hospital administrator.
She explained that with the limited number of staff at the facility, there are some areas where it falls short and at Grand Bahama Health Services they are hoping the program will pick up on some of those areas.
Williams noted that volunteers are going to be instrumental to the functioning of the program.

So far she noted that the facility has recruited volunteers from two churches on the island - Agape House and Freeport Bible Church.

"What we have been doing for the past few weeks is working with the persons who will be assisting us with the program to educate them in all aspects of Grand Bahama Health Services," Williams supplied.

She noted that persons who volunteer with the help desk will assist hospital clients with a number of their needs from providing directions to the various departments at the Rand Memorial Hospital to providing additional help to persons situated on the wards.

"They would assist us in escorting our clients once they are discharged to their vehicles and also as necessary they are also looking at engaging in a reading ministry," Williams provided.

She explained that one of the volunteers had suggested the idea.

Williams noted that in addition to reading to young children on the Paediatric Ward, there are adults on the other wards that may appreciate having someone read to them be it from a novel or the Bible.

She explained that the health care facility is turning to the community to make it a success and will welcome volunteers who have the time and are willing to commit some of their time to the patients at the Rand.

She added that Grand Bahama Health Services had reached out to several churches and the ones who are participating thus far responded, but the help desk program is by no means confined to persons from those church congregations. Anyone is welcomed to assist.

"The only thing that we are asking of our persons is that they be willing, able and prepared to lend a helping hand to their fellow men and that they have the time to do so to assist us," Williams said.

She added that the volunteers will be used at the Rand Memorial Hospital to operate the help desk from the hours of 8:00 a.m. until 8:30 in the evening.

Volunteers she noted can choose when and how much time they are going to give during those periods.

"We look forward as the program grows to have at least two persons on at once so that one will remain at the desk while another one will be escorting patients to and from the wards or wherever is necessary," Williams said.

She added that persons will be able to contact the help desk by calling the Rand Memorial Hospital and they will be referred to the help desk line at extension 37.

The help desk she said is an extension of the health care facility's Patient Advocacy Program.

Chamber forges ahead with economic plan

The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce's work on creating an economic plan has been successful so far, said president K. Peter Turnquest, and the committee intends to continue with full speed in the new year.
The committee has been working to collect input from various stakeholders, and intends to compile a document outlining possible solutions to the major challenges facing the island.

"We are moving along. We've had several forums with various stakeholders which have gone very, very well. We've gotten some very good feedback in terms of the issues that are affecting us and retarding our business development. We've gotten some very good possible solutions to those issues," Turnquest said.

The dialogue will continue next year, he noted, as more sessions have been planned beginning in January, which will include the small and medium sized enterprises on the island.

"We will be soliciting participants for that very shortly, and then we'll go on to financial institutions, the religious community, unions and other stakeholders and hopefully we will be able to wrap this phase up sometime at the end of March and then we'll start to write our reports on what has been discovered and what the potential solutions to those issues are and then from there we'll go into the actual design of our program," he said.

The Chamber's economic plan is a three-phase one.

Phase I, which has been completed, was to educate and train the Chamber's Board of Directors and Chamber staff on the elements necessary for effective Economic Development - identifying stakeholders, issues detrimental to economic growth and those change agents that may provide the keys to mitigating those issues identified.

Phase II will include established consultation sessions with those stakeholders and change agents identified in Phase I. The purpose of these sessions is to discuss and present the critical findings on each issue as determined by stakeholder work groups. It is essential that a consensus is reached on how to resolve the critical issues during this Phase. The issues and resolution of these issues will be presented to the public prior to beginning Phase III.

"I've been very, very impressed with the kind of feedback that we're getting, it's been very insightful, so we're very pleased and I think we're going to have a very good product at the end of the day to work with going forward," Turnquest said.

Phase III is the development of a Grand Bahama Economic Development Strategy and Implementation Plan. The Chamber will work with its committee and consultants to develop a project team that will prepare a comprehensive and practical redevelopment and development plan based on the findings of the stakeholders and subsequent confirmation of the findings as well as the Economic Development Strategy.

The strategy will focus on the key assets of the island, but also include appropriate direct investment as well as working to expand the existing companies located in the Grand Bahama area.

That strategy will include entrepreneurial development and ways to encourage and nurture the entrepreneurial spirit. The Chamber also hopes to identify significant catalyst projects that will promote economic development.

Bird count hopes to make Grand Bahama number one in the number of species recorded

Three generations of birders: L-R: Candice Woon, Phyllis Gibson and Gail Woon,

Submitted by Garden of the Groves

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- The Garden of the Groves is playing host to the 2010 Christmas Bird Count (CBC), which will take place on Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 from sunrise to sunset. It promises to be an exciting count with experienced team leaders coming in from the U.S., Abaco and Nassau. They are hoping to make Grand Bahama number one again in the number of bird species being recorded.

CBC is conducted in North, Central, South America and throughout the Caribbean with over 60.000 participants. The count contributes to the largest database in ornithology and determines declines and increases in bird population. This year two of the youngest Grand Bahama birders will join in the count.

Candice Woon and Sarah Knowles have already become recipients of Birds of the Bahamas certificates for the high number of birds on their "life list"and will take up important positions on two of the six teams of this years Christmas Bird Count.
Mother and daughter birders Geana and Sarah Knowles.
Geana Knowles has been bringing her daughter Sarah on birding field trips since she was a little girl. Sarah will make a valuable contribution through her acquired skills in the upcoming CBC.

An orientation meeting will take place Tuesday, January 4th at 5 pm at Garden of the Groves. On Wednesday evening after the count, the popular "tally rally" will take place at Garden of the Groves with everybody sharing dinner and the excitement of the day's sightings.

Call the Garden of the Groves at 374-7778 if you would like to participate. If you have never birded before, you may just want to be a team driver and gain insight into a fascinating hobby.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On-Site Grand Bahama: Missing Out on Tony Macaroni’s


Reposted from Uncommon Caribbean

There was a lot to love about my late-summer trip to Grand Bahama Island. From Billy Joe’s Beach Bar and the Wednesday Night Fish Fry, to the beach at Our Lucaya and a surprisingly great collection of local beers, Grand Bahama exceeded my expectations in just about every way…

Just about.
The only downside: Tony Macaroni’s was closed on the night I happened by.
I heard he was sick. I heard he was off-island. Whatever the reason, this was a problem.

Tony Macaroni’s is an institution on Grand Bahama, renowned for serving up the best roast conch on the island. The rest of the menu sounds pretty good too, with conch salad, roast lobster and shrimp among the many delights I missed out on.
Live music, either jazz or rake ‘n scrape, bonfires in the sand and strong, ice-cold drinks also add to the legend of this famed beach bar. If you’ve read any of our past beach bar posts, then you know this place is right up my alley!

But alas, it was not meant to be.

I hope to be back in Grand Bahama in early-2011, and you know I’ll be paying Tony a visit so I can tell you more about it. Til then, check out this video of the party scene at the bar.

Retailer fears lengthening consumer recovery

Tribune Business Editor

A leading Bahamian retailer fears that the sector is likely to struggle during the 2011 first half due to the ever-lengthening time it is taking consumers to recover from their Christmas spending and pay down debt, warning that the period was going to be "very telling" for some firms' survival.
Christopher Lowe, operations manager at Grand Bahama-based Kelly's (Freeport), told Tribune Business that retail top and bottom lines across the Bahamas were likely to suffer even more in 2011 from the protracted debt hangover many consumers experienced as a result of festive shopping.
Stating that Kelly's (Freeport's) Christmas sales had held firm, essentially being flat when compared to 2009 data, Mr Lowe said: "It's going to be very telling in the February, March, April period, because every year it takes longer for the overwhelming majority of Bahamians to recover from Christmas expenditure, which is definitely bad for Bahamians in retail.
"The recovery period has increased by a month every year for the past six years. That's what we see in terms of historical trending with respect to an individual's financial recovery taking an additional month each year, and that's not going to bode well for us. We see it in our sales figures."

Apart from paying down Christmas shopping-related debt, Bahamian consumers also had to deal with bills such as mortgages, utilities and all manner of existing consumer loans, causing Mr Lowe to bemoan the general lack of budgeting among his fellow countrymen.
"We've held steady to flat to last year," he added of Kelly's (Freeport's) sales performance, "but it doesn't bode well going into the New Year with respect to what's going to happen in the first six months of 2011. It's going to be pretty tough for most people. Like it or not, we don't manage our funds very well in relation to what's around the corner.
"That's something we've been watching for the last six years. The recovery used to take until January/February, but then it lengthened to February/March, then March/April, and by last year it was well into June before we saw an increase in sales.
"Based on the recovery getting stretched out further and further, the banks will be watching that very closely."
Tribune Business reported on Christmas Eve how Bahamian commercial banks saw their hopes for a third consecutive month of bad loan declines dashed by a 3 per cent November increase, prompting one senior executive to say that the $1.169 billion delinquent credit portfolio was becoming "more hard core the longer the recession lasts".
Expressing disappointment that November 2010, during which total private sector loan arrears increased in value by $34.3 million, did not match September and October and create a three-month trend of bad credit declines, Paul McWeeney, Bank of the Bahamas International's managing director, warned that it would be another 18-24 months before the Bahamian commercial banking industry saw "substantial improvement".
November's 3 per cent bad loan increase took the total arrears ratio, as a percentage of all loans to Bahamian businesses and households, to 18.6 per cent - the latter increasing by 0.4 percentage points.
That means that $18.6 out of every $100 loaned by Bahamian commercial banks is in arrears. And, more critically, non-performing loans - those 90 days and more past due, and upon which the banks have stopped accruing interest - rose by $12.6 million or 2 per cent during November to hit $648.4 million.
The latter figure is a sum worth 10.2 per cent of all outstanding loans to Bahamian companies and the private sector, meaning that $10.2 out of every $100 in credit extended by the private sector is non-performing.
Consumer loan arrears rose by $12.3 million or 4.6 per cent during November 2010 to hit $279.6 million, out of a total $2.174 billion in outstanding consumer credit, with short-term defaults up by $6.5 million or 5.5 per cent, while credit 90 days past due was up by $5.8 million or 3.9 per cent.
Commercial loan arrears, which grew by $7.1 million or 2.6 per cent, saw an increase of $4.3 million or 5.2 per cent in the 31-90 days past due category, and a rise of $2.8 million or 1.5 per cent in the non-performing segment.
The November arrears growth was again led by the mortgage sector, where bad loans increased by a collective value of $14.9 million or 2.5 per cent to hit a total of $608.6 million.
Non-performing mortgages, those 90 days or more past due, increased by $4 million or 1.4 per cent, while those between 31-90 days past due increased by $10.9 million or 3.6 per cent.

Lionfish Invade Conch Salad TV

By Conch Salad TV

Nassau, Bahamas - The new Bahamian website Conch Salad TV ( is now featuring The Lionfish Invasion starring Gary Richardson and Thomas L. Bethel, two Abaconians who are learning about lionfish and demonstrating ways to take action. The Lionfish Invasion was featured as a part of the Carribbean spotlight at the recent Bahamas International Film Festival in Nassau.

Using underwater footage the documentary explores what we know about these non native invaders, which are originally from the Indo-Pacific region of the world and are now a major threat to native juvenile fishes and invertebrates. It also documents some of the very interesting research and scientific projects being done in the islands. It turns out that there is not very much information about lionfish or the consequences of marine invasive species, so the Bahamas has become a living scientific laboratory

The film also demonstrates that lionfish can be safely caught, cleaned, eaten and sold. In fact, as Pherrol Duncombe, the chef at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge, demonstrates lionfish can be tasty and cooked several ways. Which is a good thing, since eating lionfish may be one of the only ways to stem their spread!

The film came about because scientists working on this issue in The Bahamas wanted to raise awareness of the problems the lionfish invasion is causing. They were able to make the case to the National Science Foundation, who provided funding through the University of North Carolina. A partnership was formed with scientists from these institutions, Friends of the Environment, an Abaco based education NGO, and Loggerhead Productions to produce the video. Loggerheads used HD cameras, both above and below water, to capture the exciting imagery.

Gary Richardson and Thomas L. Bethel came on board to host the video. They grew up together and have great on screen chemistry, plus both are passionate about local ecosystems. They were able to bring a Bahamian perspective, filled with humor, to an international audience. We hope this video will help make Bahamians, and others throughout the Carribbean, aware of the threats of lionfish - and show them not to fear lionfish, but to eat 'em.

The first portion of the video was posted on Conch Salad TV on Dec 15th, the second on December 29th and the final portion will be posted on January 12th. Conch Salad TV is working to becoming the Discovery Channel of The Bahamas. A new Bahamas video will be posted on the site covering everything from nature to National issues, from culture to comedy.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas & A Happy Holiday season to all our clients, readers and subscribers.

Butler’s Food World opens in Freeport

Jeff Butler

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- Butler’s Food World opened its doors on Saturday, December 18th to the delight, excitement and anticipation of the residents and guests of Grand Bahama. The largest, upscale, high quality supermarket of its kind in The Bahamas, Butler’s Food World now offers Grand Bahamians, winter residents and year-round visitors, the selection, quality and availability of products that were only available in the US, Canada and Europe.

The new 20,000 sq ft. supermarket is located in the Home Center building, in the heart of Freeport. The store, fashioned after a combination of US and Canadian supermarkets, carries the tradition of Butler Specialty Foods featuring goods from over 20 countries with emphasis on top quality brand name products. Fresh produce, organic products, fresh meats, gourmet foods, health foods, housewares, dairy, cold and frozen foods, a deli, a “to go” counter, Café Butler’s - specializing in gourmet coffee drinks and pastries, a flower shop, a liquor store and cigar specialty counter, all combine to create a food world second to none, reinforcing the Butler's theme of “Creating a Higher Standard for Grand Bahama.”

Jeff Butler's decision to bring Brad Scott home from Canada was the main ingredient in the start up and operational success of the new specialty food store. Brad, after several years with Solomon Brothers in Nassau, operated a Sam's Club and later a Wal-Mart in Southern Ontario. It is apparent that Mr. Scott and Mr. Butler make a good team.

Both Butler and Scott confirm that what you see is only the beginning, with several thousand new products coming on line within the next 30 to 60 days.

The Butler reputation for quality, selection and availability will be maintained and expanded into general groceries with better pricing and a larger more diverse selection of goods. This is not a second outlet for Butler Specialty Foods. All retail products will be transferred from Butler Specialty Foods on Yellow Pine Road to the Home Center building Butler's Food World.

Butler's Specialty Foods on Yellow Pine, with its large warehouse, coolers and freezers, will become a holding and receiving facility for the new supermarket while transitioning to a wholesale only outlet catering to hotels, restaurants, convenience stores and service stations on Grand Bahama. On-island retail inventory, which previously stood at over six hundred thousand (600,000+), now has an additional 1.5 million in inventory of dry groceries, meats, poultry, dairy, frozen foods, produce, housewares, etc., making it the largest supermarket in the country.

The Butler Family has successfully been in the food & beverage industry in The Bahamas for 221 years beginning in the year 1790. This newest addition to the Butler Group is history in the making for Grand Bahama in its progression forward. The Grand Bahama community has long awaited the opening of the new Butler's Food World. Well Grand Bahama, here it is.

New Extended Parking at the Port Lucaya Marketplace

Customers taking advantage of holiday deals being offered at the Marketplace. Store owners have also extended their operating hours to accommodate the late evening shoppers.


Freeport, Grand Bahama - Management at the Port Lucaya Marketplace have pulled out all of the stops to attract last minute shoppers before the Christmas holidays. From window displays decked with perfumes, jewelry and other wonderful holiday items, to sidewalk racks filled with pocket tempting deals; merchants are stocked and ready to receive and please customers.
Noting that parking at the Marketplace has been a challenge, management at the Port Lucaya Marketplace has expanded the customer parking area, to ensure that customers will have easy access and a pleasant experience when visiting the Marketplace.

Entertainment and Marketing Coordinator for the Marketplace Ms. Karen Ferguson-Bain expressed, “When you think of fine dining, shopping or family oriented entertainment, the Port Lucaya Marketplace is one of the first places that come to mind, but the issue of parking also accompanies this thought,” Ferguson-Bain commented. “As the final days before the Christmas Holiday approaches, we wanted to make coming to Port Lucaya a pleasant experience for everyone by extending parking to the far Western side of the Marketplace.

The new expanded parking area is intended to accommodate tenants and employees, so that the immediate parking facilities in the Western and Eastern lots can be utilized by customers.

This area is intended to accommodate tenants and employees, so that the immediate parking facilities in the Western and Eastern lots can be utilized by customers,” she continued. As a result of the new parking structure, customers now have ample parking facilities, with access to the Western parking area near Domino’s Pizza and to the Eastern parking area at the rear and to the right of the Oasis Drug Store.

During the final days before Christmas, store owners have extended their operating hours to accommodate the late evening shoppers. Customers are encouraged to check out the deals being offered at the Marketplace as most storeowners are hosting in-house promotions, where with a minimum purchase, customers become eligible to win prizes like matching Movado watch sets, a new 2011 vehicle, a trip for two to London and many other prizes.

Joie de Noel delivers Christmas Spirit to Grand Bahama

The cast of Joie de Noel. Left to Right: Javan Hunt, James Roker, Marjoke Twiest, Dora Brown, Nathaniel Lewis, Dalia Feldman, Anthony Hanna and Jackie Blower. Photo: The Bahamas Weekly

The Bahamas Weekly

Freeport, Bahamas - Close to one hundred people came out to the Garden of the Groves as the full moon was rising in the sky on December 21st to enjoy and participate in Joie de Noel on and around the Grand Bahama Labyrinth.

Bundled warm on a clear and chilly evening guests were treated to piping hot chocolate with whip cream served by Dalia Feldman's family. Song sheets, candles and Christmas cookies were gratefully received as people sat around the Labyrinth on the park benches.
A magical setting at Joie de Noel at the Grand Bahama Labyrinth on December 21st. Photo; The Bahamas Weekly

Dalia Feldman sings O Holy Night at Joie De Noel Photo: The Bahamas Weekly

Founder of the Labyrinth, Barbara Chester opened the evening with a heartfelt introduction about the journey that Mary and Joseph made the night the Christ child was born, and how the Labyrinth itself represents that journey. Her story-telling was so enchanting and detailed that one felt as if that night could have been the same night experienced so long ago. She definitely infused the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.

14 year old Jackie Blower sings I'll Be Home For Christmas Photo: The Bahamas Weekly

The choral group, led by Marjoke Twiest came silently onto the Labyrinth carrying lit candles as their heavenly voices sang Silent Night. Seasoned professional, Dalia Feldman sang Ave Maria to candlelight with her angelic voice filling the Labyrinth with stillness and anticipation. A large Acacia tree, deep in the ground on the side of the Labyrinth, was lit to signify the Tree of Christmas, and when done so oohs and aahs were heard from the audience.
Marjoke Twiest, choral director sings Where Are You Christmas? Photo: The Bahamas Weekly

The choral group continued with solo numbers of Christmas classics new and old. James Roker sang Peace on Earth, followed by Panis Angelicus by Dora Brown, Marjoke Twiest and Javan Hunt. The strong singing voice of Javan Hunt delivered Mary Did You Know, and after that Marjoke Twiest sang the popular modern song, Where Are You Christmas? Fourteen year old newcomer Jackie Blower confidently sang I'll Be Home For Christmas.
Javan Hunt sings Mary Did You Know Photo: The Bahamas Weekly
A star was lit signifying the Star of Bethlehem while the choral group sang We Three Kings. Next the duo of James Roker and Dora Brown delivered a delightfully played out rendition of Baby It's Cold Outside.

The crowd, eager to light their candles, did so next and the whole area became a magical place of light. The audience was invited to sing Christmas Carols along with the vocalists to complete the evening. After the carols guests were invited to send their written Christmas wishes to heaven by placing them into a lit urn in the center of the Labyrinth.

Dora Brown sings Panis Angelicus Photo: The Bahamas Weekly

Event organizers would like to thank Marjoke Twiest's son Chris, a sound technician visiting from Holland for his assistance, as well as Jerry Hill, who created the star and was responsible for providing the sound and light equipment along with operating the lights for the show. The night was a joy to behold!
Original Article HERE

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chamber chief: BORCO buyer 'my best friend'

Business Reporter

FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA- The new Bahamas Oil Refining Company (BORCO) owner's plans for an immediate $400 million expansion of the Grand Bahama facility were yesterday heralded as "obviously exciting" for the island, being likely to result in new "employment and entrepreneurial activities" for residents.
"If they are talking about doubling capacity then (the new owners) are my best friend," K. Peter Turnquest, president of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, told Tribune Business.
Buckeye Partners, which has acquired First Reserve Corporation's 80 per cent stake in BORCO, revealed on Monday that it intends to invest $400 million in an expansion of the oil storage and transshipment facility, which will facilitate current storage capacity being "more than doubled" to 45 million barrels worth.
"We see this as a near-term opportunity we'd like to hit the ground on as soon as we close," said a Buckeye Partners executive in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.
The $1.36 billion acquisition is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2011, with the expansion set to add $70 - 80 million in per annum operating income "phase in over two to three years" for the company.
Mr Turnquest said: "This is a business that has proven relatively stable for us, so it's obviously exciting when we see international investors still being interested in building that facility and increasing capacity.
"Any expansion will obviously result in additional employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for local businesses, and we've seen a number of marine-type entities getting off the ground in the last year, so that all obviously bodes well for what we are trying to do here in Grand Bahama in terms of becoming renowned centre for transportational logistics."
Buckeye Partners said the attraction of the Freeport facility is that it has a "world class customer base" and a major surplus in customer demand, something that supported the expansion and generation of increased cash flows for the company.
BORCO's location amid the Caribbean and Atlantic shipping lanes, plus its proximity to the US, were also deemed advantages, the facility being "strategically positioned to act as a hub in faciltiating international logistics".
Meanwhile, Buckeye Partners is also eyeing the potential for the facility to act as a build bulk and break bulk hub, where cargo could be collected together or broken down into smaller parcels for further onward transportation.
The Government is set to benefit from the acquisition in the form of a multi-million stamp tax windfall that could amount to anywhere between $64 million and $100 million.

Hurricane damaged home gets makeover

MAKEOVER: Violet Butterfield cuts the ribbon to her newly renovated home in Pinedale, Eight Mile Rock on Monday. Grand Bahama Port Authority Volunteers selected Ms Butterfield for a complete home makeover. Volunteers spent four weeks on the renovation project. Also seen in photo next to Ms Butterfield is her pastor, Rev Dennis Missick of Bethel Baptist Church, and Volunteers.

Tribune Freeport Reporter

FREEPORT - After sustaining major hurricane damage six years ago, Violet Butterfield's home in Eight Mile Rock received a complete makeover just in time for Christmas.
The Grand Bahama Port Authority Volunteers, a newly formed service club comprising more than 100 company employees, spent four weeks renovating Ms Butterfield's house in Pinedale.
Kendra Clarke, president of GBPA Volunteers, said the new club was the brainchild of Port Authority president Ian Rolle.
"We started the club in September and from time to time we would do something for the community," she said.
For their latest project, Ms Clarke said they decided on a home makeover and contacted Social Services for possible candidates in the Eight Mile Rock area.
"We were given a list of names in the community and saw five potential homes, but we chose Ms Butterfield because of her story," she said.
Ms Butterfield is a 67-year-old unmarried woman with no children. In 2004 her home was extensively damaged by a hurricane and she had been struggling to rebuild it on her own, with a little assistance from Social Services and donations from her church.
A small number of persons attended an official unveiling of her renovated house on Monday, including Port Authority President Ian Rolle who brought brief remarks.
Mr Rolle said he was very pleased with what was accomplished in just four weeks and commended the Volunteers on their work.
Ms Butterfield said she is very grateful to the Volunteers for their hard work.
In addition to a complete renovation, Ms Butterfield also received new appliances and some furniture, including a gas stove, fridge, water heater and a new king-sized bed, as well as groceries.
Dudley Francis, project manager, said they did all the painting for the interior and exterior, installed new tiles, completed plumbing and electrical work, and completed the bathroom.
"Overall, we pretty much did all finish work," he said. "We also included adding in gas, which was not in place, and we put in a water heater so she would not have to worry about any issues with hot water."
"I must say it has been a tremendous effort on the part of everyone who came out and participated. All the volunteers went over and beyond what was expected," Mr Francis said.
Ms Clarke said that 130 volunteers worked on the house on Fridays, Saturdays, and even sometimes on Sundays to meet their deadline.
"We are very happy that we were able to complete the work for Ms Butterfield and have it finished by Christmas," she said.
"This was done out of love. It is first time that we have done something like this and we may consider doing it next year."
Mr Francis said working on the project also allowed employees to fellowship and form friendships with one another.
Ms Clarke thanked other contributors to the project, including Campbell's Trucking for donating the sand, Jared for digging a ground well at a discount price, and other residents in the area who helped.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Over The Bridge' residents to receive cable television

Residents living in the area commonly known as "over the bridge" will finally have cable television in their homes, after agitating for years for the amenity.
Cable Bahamas officials have announced that by Christmas, many homes in that area will have service.
"The technical team has been working around the clock to get those areas ready and we expect them to be about 80 percent complete by Christ-mas," said Edris Wilson, operations manager of Cable Bahamas' northern division.

"We know that this has been a long time in coming and we're happy to see it come to this point.

"The over the bridge area is so expansive that there are some areas that we have not been able to get to in this first phase of work, but it will be an ongoing process we expect."

Complaints from persons living in that area have been frequent over the years, with one resident of the Derby Subdivision, west of the Casuarina Bridge, making a public appeal back in October 2009 for change.

The homeowner told The Freeport News at that time that the lack of cable service in the area was a great inconvenience, and put residents at a disadvantage.

They have had an added expense of having to purchase satellite systems simply to keep abreast of current events, the resident said.

Wilson acknowledged that the company's work in Grand Bahama is not yet done, since there are still some populated areas of the island with no service.

"We will have small pockets of areas that don't have service. I know Bootle Bay is an area that's come up.

"At the time that we initially took service out in that area, Bootle Bay was really not on the map and so now that those areas are becoming more populated there are residents there who I know have been agitating for service," she said.

"We're amassing a complete list, not just in Grand Bahama but certainly in the other Family Islands as well as areas that we'd like to get to, it's just a matter of meeting our commitment with the regulator in terms of the areas that we need to provide service to on a more immediate basis.

Besides an increase in the availability of service, the company will also be providing customers across the island with more choices as it relates to their service selections.

"As a part of where we are today, the opening up of competition, we've been asked by the regulator, URCA, to unbundle our services and essentially we have cable TV, we have Internet and as an addendum to cable TV we've got our premium services that's available through the set top box," Wilson explained.

"Unbundling means now that a customer wanting Internet service only, no cable TV, no set top box, can now get that service. Previously cable TV was a prerequisite to getting the Internet service and so now with the unbundling that's what will be available. The unbundling of services, will of course happen with areas that have been transitioned as fully digital areas."

Bahamas sees record arrival numbers

Randy Holmes of Canada will be recognized as the country's 5 millionth visitor. Pictured (from left) are Marilyn Fernander of Bahamas Customs, Randy Holmes his sister Liana Holmes, and Ministry of Tourism & Aviation representatives Betty Bethel and Terrance Roberts. (Photo: Andre Cartwright/Ministry of Tourism)

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- The Bahamas recorded 5 million visitors Saturday for only the second time in history, and the country is on track to receive the largest number of visitors in its history as well.
Minister of Tourism & Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace announced the milestone Sunday as he explained a process to recognize and award the 5 millionth visitor. Since the Bahamas has as many as 20 ports of entry into the country, and the arrivals process is not fully automated, it is impossible to tell exactly which visitor became the 5 millionth, Minister Vanderpool-Wallace said. As a result, the Ministry of Tourism & Aviation initiated a process to identify a person to be recognized as the 5 millionth visitor.

Throughout the Bahamas, arriving visitors were selected as candidates to be the 5 millionth visitor on Saturday – the day when statistics showed that the 5 millionth tally would be achieved. Through random drawing, Randy Holmes of Vancouver, British Colombia. Mr. Holmes and his wife were selected when their American Eagle flight arrived in Grand Bahama at 11:45am Saturday.

“We expect that by the end of this year, we will be beyond the numbers we had the first time around, and we are delighted to have this year, the largest number of visitors ever,” Minister Vanderpool-Wallace said.

Although the record number of arrivals has been achieved, the Bahamas still has much work to do to ensure that economic conditions are sustainable, Minister Vanderpool-Wallace said. He said most of the growth was in cruise arrivals. When looking at tourism development, destinations concentrate on growing high-spending stopover visitors, he said.
Minister of Tourism & Aviation Vincent Vanderpool Wallace selects Randy Holmes as the 5 millionth visitor of The Islands of The Bahamas for 2010. Also pictured are Basil Smith, chief communications officer of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (left), and Raymond Francis, executive director of the Bahamas Out Islands Promotion Board (right). (Photo: Derek Smith)

Minister Vanderpool-Wallace said that total arrivals by the end of the year are expected to be about 14 – 15 percent ahead of last year’s total. Stopover visitors would have grown about four or four and a half percent, he said.

However, Minister Vanderpool-Wallace also pointed out that 70 percent of cruises to the Bahamas only visit the Bahamas and no other destination. He said that this was an important source of business for many small businesses, and the healthy cruise arrivals are also providing more business opportunities for Bahamians, especially in tours and attractions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sand In My Shoes: A Collection of Island Stories

I love this book. It’s touching. Tender. Laugh-out-loud funny. It gives you a taste of island life that goes beyond the usual idyllic picture postcard images and gets straight to the heart of things. I love these vibrant, adventurous, warming, and humorous stories so much that I helped the author (a dear friend of mine—Marina Gottlieb Sarles) orchestrate the layout of the book for publication, and I’m pleased to say it has been received as a new island classic. Well into its 2nd printing, the book has garnered fans from around the world. It’s a wonderful gift any island lover will enjoy and a great introduction and insight into Grand Bahama’s beginnings—the author, Marina Gottlieb Sarles, is the daughter of the first village doctor and nurse—and draws storytelling inspiration from her childhood in The Bahamas.

Sand In My Shoes author Marina Gottlieb Sarles

You can learn more about this delightful book by clicking here. And it can be ordered online here or via Amazon.

On Grand Bahama Island, Sand In My Shoes is available at the Coldwell Banker James Sarles Realty offices at #9 Regent Center, at the beautiful new Art of Giving gift shop at The International Bazaar (beside Island Watch Repair near the arcade), at Oasis drug stores, and at the Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO).

Falling in love with the island and getting sand in your shoes is a true treat—enjoy!

Prime Minister Ingraham on BTC, GINN, CLICO and the GBPA

Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham speaks to current national issues during his address to Free National Movement supporters in Freeport on Saturday, December 18, 2010. (BIS Photos/Sharon Turner)
Remarks by
Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham
Leader – Free National Movement
FNM Pre-Christmas Breakfast
Freeport, Grand Bahama

Greetings, Grand Bahama FNMs
As you know, you are an important cog in the FNM’s wheel and without you, we would not be where we are today. We are not unmindful of that reality; we know that to be fact. What you did for us in May 1990 in the Marco City by-election catapulted us to win in 1992, and what you did for us in 2007, caused us to win the government today. And so we are very much appreciative of that, and we seek to do the best we can for you as often as we can, and sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to work.

The Grand Bahama Economy

The current economic situation here in Grand Bahama and in The Bahamas is not something that if we could have done something immediately about, we wouldn’t have done something about. But in thinking about it, I want you to remember some of the things that we did do while we were in office that did come here that is helping today to sustain the economy of Freeport and Grand Bahama. There is the Container Port, the ship care facility (GB Shipyard), or Our Lucaya or Pelican Bay or Polymers International. All of those things came while the FNM was in, and the new ownership of BORCO came while the FNM was in. And when you talk to the other side, let them tell you what came while they were in for those five years.

The GINN Development

While we are on that point, let me say that as you know the GINN project down in West End has gone into bankruptcy, the bank has taken over its part of the property. The owner of the other part – who is not Mr. Bobby Ginn that we thought it was, we thought Mr. Bobby Ginn was the owner – he is not the owner. I saw the owners last week. They are making some plans for the development down in West End. I don’t want to make any announcements for them, but they do not want to be known as GINN anymore. They are going to call themselves Old Bahama Bay.

The Harcourt Property (Royal Oasis)

We still have not been certain about the Harcourt property, as you know Harcourt is an Irish company. Both of these are products of the PLP government – they are the two things that I can credit them for: GINN in West End and Harcourt here in Freeport and you know what’s happening with both of them. Nothing has happened with Harcourt yet.

Several other things are in the bill for Grand Bahama and you will hear about them as times goes on, and you might hear about one or so of them very, very shortly but let other people talk for themselves and not me for them.

The Grand Bahama Port Authority

With respect to the Grand Bahama Port Authority, as you know in 2015 the benefit under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement for businesses in Freeport to be exempted from the payment of business license like other places in The Bahamas and from Real Property Tax comes to an end.

The Port Authority has written to my office asking for us to engage in discussions with them as to what is going to happen after 2015. We have told them that we would not be inclined to have any discussions with them until they, first of all, are able to get their own house in order in terms of ownership. Notwithstanding that, they have now written back to us and so I wanted to tell you this publicly. We are not inclined first of all to have any discussions on it with them while they are divided, and secondly, we don’t think it is appropriate to have discussion before the next election.

And when we do have the discussion, we would like to put them on notice of a couple of things that we would like to discuss and agree with them. We do not believe that we ought to continue to have the Port Authority determine what the power rate ought to be in Freeport, or the water rate or anything to do with telecommunications. We believe they ought to come under a national regulatory authority like URCA, and we would like to engage them in discussions about that when its time to talk to them.

Government Pays CLICO Workers and Policyholders

With respect to what is happening nationally, I picked up the newspaper this morning and I saw on the front page where a Ms. Outten is complaining that she was an employee or agent of CLICO, and that she only got $100,000 (one hundred thousand dollars) and that she should have gotten much more. And I was reminded of the story in The Bible about the lepers who were cleansed, and how one came back [to say thank you].

There were about 129 people or thereabouts. The Government of The Bahamas had no legal or moral or ethical obligation to pay anybody any money at all. It was not The Bahamas Government’s bill, it is not your bill as the taxpayers of The Bahamas.

Out of the goodness of our heart we determined that we would put in place a means by which we would pay the wages that were due to these people up to $100,000, and that we would do the same thing for the policyholders up to $100,000. We did that for all 129 of them. There were only five people who were owed more than $100,000. So 124 of the 129 were owed $100,000 or less, and we paid them in full.

Now because five of them were owed more than $100,000 – one of whom was only owed $100, 280+, so they lost $280, but it gets in the newspaper as a front page story that one person didn’t get all they were supposed to get and not a word could be said about the 124.

You know, in public life you often get blamed for many things and you don’t get credit for many things you do, but it is not intended to be a thankful job. It is intended to be a job that you do the best you can everyday and you satisfy yourself that I did all I could and the best I could, and that you will never be able to satisfy everyone.

Take the BTC matter. The PLP has had the nerve and the gumption to say that we are keeping secret the sale of BTC. We told The Bahamas from day one that it was not possible for us to continue to have a monopoly in the telephone business. And we established all sorts of policies to prepare ourselves for this eventual day.

You know, before the time of the FNM, you couldn’t buy a telephone in a shop in The Bahamas. All telephones were BTC’s telephones. Now everyone who wants to sell telephones and cell phones can do it. There was no Vibe, Vonage, Indigo or Skype, [there was] one radio station, only you in Freeport had cable. Now I am catching hell from people as far away as Rum Cay and Ragged Island [asking] “what happened to my cable?”

There are hundreds and hundreds of people employed in the communications sector in The Bahamas who were not so employed, before we began the liberalization of the telecommunications sector in The Bahamas. And we have been methodical in our approach towards it.

The Bahamas has publicly gone to bid twice for the sale of BTC, spent lots of money, invited major telephone companies from anywhere in the world to come forward. On both occasions, the bids that came in were totally unacceptable and were rejected. And ofcourse The Bahamas was not prepared to sell at a fire sale for BTC.

The PLP, just before the last election, agreed to sell it to some person. Zhivargo [Laing] reminded me this morning that normally in The Bahamas, you find a Bahamian fronting for a foreigner. They agreed to sell to somebody who some people think were fronting for some of them.

But the reality is that election came. They never told the public a single word that they had agreed to sell BTC – not a word. On the same day that we agreed and signed we announced it to the public – the same day. They never told the public a word. And if it wasn’t for the election and the winning of that election by the FNM, things would be different today.

Instead of me being condemned by some people for what we are now doing, quite frankly they ought to stop and think. They ought to applaud us for saving them.

I made the point earlier about doing the best you can. The president of the Union, Mr. Evans and others are making lots of noise and making lots of threats – and of course you know, that does not get anywhere with me. But sometimes we have to consider whether or not what you did was the right thing.

We went out of our way to protect jobs for people who are at BTC to your disadvantage. It is in the interest of The Bahamas for the cellular service to be liberalized, by that I mean for there to be another cellular company in The Bahamas in the shortest possible time. Turks Island has two or three cellular companies and they do not have as many people as Abaco. We’ve got one.

We’ve got one and we are charging rates that are not charged in other places; higher than other places. I heard one of the Union presidents say ‘all that has to happen is for Hubert Ingraham to call down to BTC and reduce the rates.’

Yes, I could reduce the rates – and fire hundreds of you. It follows like night follows day.The rates are high because we have more people employed there than they need there. And you have people who are seeking to protect what they have to your disadvantage. It has nothing to do with whether or not we sell to Cable and Wireless – they don’t want it sold, period because there is plenty juice there for them, and we want you to have more minutes for your five dollars.

In fact, many of you have no idea how much money you spend for cellular service. Start adding up how much you are spending on it. We think that you are spending a disproportionate amount of your money on cellular service, and we think its being done to sustain a few people to the disadvantage and at the expense and cost of the many in The Bahamas.

Now, if you love them more than you love yourself – even The Bible tells us to love our neighbour as ourselves, not more than. And so if you love yourselves and the population of The Bahamas more than you love the few people who are working at BTC, then you will stand with the Government.

While the Government owns BTC today, the Bahamian management at BTC has a proposal for the Government for them to let go more than 300 people from BTC, because the say they are overstaffed leading into privatization – which we have not done.

We wanted to have an exclusivity period for cellular service for only two years. The PLP agreed to give it for six years for cellular and landlines – six solid years. We only wanted it for two years.

But the company said that if we are going to buy, and we are only going to have two years, we want to be able to disengage up to 30 percent of the staff as soon as we takeover, virtually.

We said we cannot have that.

So we negotiated a deal that says you can have it for three years, you offer a voluntary disengagement package so that those who have entitlement to pension and others who would like to leave can do so, and that you would not terminate anyone to downsize the company for atleast the two years.

Now in doing that, it affected the price we get paid for it, and it affected how long you are still going to pay higher than you should, because as soon as competition comes, cellular rates are going to drop right down.

We did that for the benefit of the employees of BTC. Apparently their union leadership does not appreciate that.

But we do good because that is the right thing to do, not because we expect for some people to ever appreciate what we do.

The reality is that the Union and the PLP are at one in their fight against this exercise. And you can figure out why the PLP, which agreed to sell it to a one-man show, is now opposed to selling it to a $2.5 billion company, a company that is operating in 30-odd countries in the world, that is publicly traded, and when it buys equipment for The Bahamas, can get the price it pays for equipment in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, and that has bulk purchasing capacity, management capabilities that provide opportunities not only for Bahamians to manage in The Bahamas but also elsewhere in a major company.

Why would they be together in opposition to the sale? We think we know the answer, and over time we will tell you more and more.

But the truth of the matter is that for those who are employed at BTC and elsewhere in the public sector – I wish to caution them not to follow the current plans of the president of the NCTU and BCPOU; Ms. Dobson and Mr. Evans – because when you walk off your job, if you do, there is no guarantee that you can come back to that job – no guarantee.

Jobs are scarce. Jobs are hard to find. And no one is able to stop you from cutting off your nose to spite your face; that is your face. But at the end of the day, you wont have a nose – that is the judgment you can make.

And so I’d like to say to you here in Grand Bahama that we are proceeding to do what we think is the right thing for The Bahamas to do. We are convinced that The Bahamas will be better off in what we are doing.

I don’t like to make everyday people cuss me – they may cuss me anyhow, but I don’t like to make them cuss me. And so we only seek to do this because we are absolutely convinced this is the right thing for The Bahamas to do and quite frankly, we also need the money.

We need the $200 million. We cannot continue to borrow and borrow to sustain the jobs of all those who are in the public sector; we have to sell some things to help us. And one of the things we are selling in an interest in BTC.

And when we sell it, we are also going to sell shares to you the public to make sure that you can get dividends so that 49 percent of the dividends will come to either the Government or to Bahamians individually.

Those of you who can buy shares – more profits to you the public. We’d like to have a share offering and owning society. That is why some of you in Grand Bahama own shares in the Freeport Power Company – the FNM made them do that.

Some people in The Bahamas own shares in Cable Bahamas – the FNM made that happen. And Bank of The Bahamas – the FNM did that. And soon you are going to own shares in Burns House, and the FNM is making them do that.

Our duty to you, is as far as we can, empower you – create employment, create opportunities for you to go into business and create opportunities for you to own more and more of your own economy.

There is absolutely no need for the Government to be in the telecommunications business. We intend over the next three years for 25 percent of BTC to be owned by the public. The Government will continue to own 24 percent until another point in time when decisions are taken.

We believe that we can regulate it through an independent regulator – URCA, and cause fairness and rules to apply in the operation of the telecommunications sector.

We also don’t believe that if we continue to own it, its going to be worth very much to us soon; the value will continue to go down. People are finding more and more means by which they do not have to go through a telecommunications company.

Also we will create some competition for Cable Bahamas in the service of cable. Right now they are the only game in town. Well, when Cable and Wireless comes there will be another game in town that you can get cable service from and then you can begin to decide on carriers.

Grand Bahama’s Prospects

I do want to say to Freeport that I have reasonably good reason to believe that next year is going to be a better year for you here in Grand Bahama, that we hope to come here soon to have a discussion about the concerns in Pinder’s Point and the resolution we are going to seek to put forward for what people in Pinder’s Point are experiencing and/or are legitimately concerned about.

A shift in perspective saves 24,000 wine bottles from the Grand Bahama landfill

By Cheri Wood – Grand Bahama Branch, Bahamas National Trust

Have you ever hesitated to throw something away knowing that you may find a use for it in the future? Or maybe you just occasionally wonder about things you repeatedly discard that might be valuable to someone else? For those of us that have a green conscience, thoughts like these drive us nuts. On Grand Bahama we are fortunate to have recycling programs for aluminum cans, paint, scrap metal, automotive batteries and toner cartridges, but what about all the glass? Of course the Bahamian Brewery and other locally brewed beverage companies have bottle return programs, but what about all the wine bottles?

Let’s face it, people on Grand Bahama drink alot of wine. Whether or not you are an environmentalist does not matter- if you drink wine, chances are you are throwing your empty wine bottles in the trash. This is a fact we cannot deny, and I am certainly not going to recommend anyone refrain from drinking wine.

However, if your bottles are green in color, there may be a solution. There may be someone who will recycle them for you. To date, Grand Bahama resident Fred Riger has saved over 24,000 wine bottles from the fate of our local landfill and our ocean’s floor. The number is staggering and is estimated using mathematical calculations of cubic foot volume of the crushed glass he currently has.

Mr. Riger has been crushing glass for quite some time and his reason for doing so is pretty interesting. Being an environmentalist and a scuba diver, he had been thinking about the wine bottle dilemma for years. While diving in local waters he was constantly picking up wine bottles from the ocean floor. He also couldn’t help but notice cases of bottles being discarded after parties and events. Then one day he experienced a shift in perspective.

He started viewing the bottles as beautiful glass versus just another piece of trash. An idea came to him that he could not let go, and a few years later he found himself building a house using wine bottles as one of the prominent building materials. Mr. Riger’s future home is currently under construction and he is using a mixture of crushed green glass and concrete to create a beautiful exterior finish. Once completed, his home will be a masterpiece of unique colors that glistens in the morning light and only becomes more beautiful as the natural elements of sun, wind and rain penetrate the outside walls.

The “wine bottle house” is an ongoing personal project for Mr. Riger and his wife Melinda. They have given their love, sweat and sacrifice to overcome many hurdles in keeping their dream alive. There is no estimation when their home will be finished, however every wine bottle they crush in the process contributes to the Greenification of Grand Bahama.

So why do the Rigers care about the island’s environmental sustainability? What’s in it for them? The answer is quite simple. They love Grand Bahama and want to see it preserved and protected for future generations and for all of us RIGHT NOW.

Over the years they have seen changes in our coral reefs and our surrounding waters that put the very future of our island in jeopardy. They know. They dive our waters every day that mother nature allows. The Rigers could be diving anywhere they wish and they choose here, Grand Bahama. They love the island.

Fred and Melinda share their love of the island with other divers from around the world. Their business, Grand Bahama Scuba, has brought many people from the international diving community to our island for many years. And how about the thousands of divers and tourists that UNEXSO has attracted to the island over the years as well?

These divers and eco-tourists come for one reason. The beauty of our environment and nothing more. They come to Grand Bahama for its crystal clear water, its ocean life, and all the amazing species who call our island and her surrounding waters home. Fred and Melinda as well as the entire staff at UNEXSO know this first hand. That is the visiting divers’ and eco-tourists’ perspective.

And if you don’t care about their perspective then maybe you’ll care about this one. These people will not continue to come to our island and stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants if our environment is not preserved and protected.

So if you drink wine and find yourself throwing out green wine bottles, think about recycling them. Although there is no formal recycling program or drop off point, you can contact Fred Riger at and he would be happy to let you know where you can bring them.

It should be noted that the Grand Bahama Branch of the Bahamas National Trust is currently working with Mr. Riger to establish a wine bottle collection area at the Rand Nature Centre. This process should be solidified by February of 2011 and will be publicized as soon as the Nature Centre is equipped to accept the bottles.

Mr. Riger’s ingenuity and creativity, along with his passion for keeping Grand Bahama clean, led him to seeing discarded wine bottles as something beautiful, not something to be tossed into a landfill for eternity. So maybe, just maybe, if each of us shifts our own perspective, even just a tiny bit, we can begin to see possibilities and opportunities instead of obstacles and roadblocks. Think about it in every aspect of your life-for your children, for your environment, for yourself.

Cheri Wood recently retired from Bank of America and has now permanently relocated to Grand Bahama. Her career of over 20 years in corporate America included serving in various capacities including training, marketing, sales, quality control, risk assessment, communications and operational management. While performing her regular job responsibilities, Cheri also served several years as the president of the Environmental Network for the Bank of America in the State of Rhode Island. Her experience in the environmental arena includes project management and coordination of volunteer events on local and national levels throughout the United States. Over the years she has worked closely with organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, the Rhode Island Rivers’ Council, and in 2010 Cheri was elected as secretary of the GB Branch of the Bahamas National Trust. Serving in her voluntary role with the Bahamas National Trust, Cheri is involved with increasing recycling on the island, promoting green practices with local businesses, educating the community on the importance of preserving the environment, and serving as a resource for those who wish to participate in environmental opportunities on local and international levels.