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Post Office Collapse 'Killing Our Economy'

By NEIL HARTNELL

and NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporters

Businesses yesterday blasted the "really disgraceful" collapse of The Bahamas' postal system for "killing our economy", with some revealing they only received February's mail yesterday.

Anthony Howorth, a well-known financial services provider, told Tribune Business that high net worth foreign clients and their intermediaries likely viewed The Bahamas as "a third world country" because their mailings and requests received no reply for three months.

And Edison Sumner, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) chief executive, disclosed that he knew of Bahamian businesses who had purchased Florida mail boxes and were travelling to the US on a weekly basis as a costly, time-consuming alternative to beating the postal shutdown.

Their renewed concerns came as Kingsley Ferguson, the Bahamas Public Service Union's (BPSU) president, yesterday confirmed that The Bahamas' postal service has effectively come to a "halt" over the unhealthy, unsafe conditions at the main Post Office building on East Hill Street.

Responding to claims by some businesses that post office workers have gone on strike, Mr Ferguson denied this but said staff had been directed to work from substations - a situation he described as virtually useless because everything relied on the headquarters building.

Revealing the extent of his frustration, Mr Howorth described the situation - which has been known for months - as getting worse rather than better based on the ordeal he suffered.

"I was eventually able to get my mail yesterday from the back room where it was put with the parcel collection entries," he told Tribune Business. "Some of it was dated from April, and some of it was dated from February.

"It's really disgraceful. I can't understand why the business people on this island accept that we have a Post Office that doesn't work at all. It's terrible. I'm getting letters requesting documents to be signed by my clients dated February, from Switzerland, for example. They must think that we're a third world country that doesn't reply until three months later."

Mr Howorth said he had personally witnessed persons queuing for an hour outside the Post Office until it opened at 11am, hoping cheques and other payments had arrived in the mail or that they could access the Post Office's savings bank.

Pointing out that Bahamian taxpayers were paying for a service that was not being provided, he added: "It's not good enough. I don't understand why the Chamber of Commerce is putting up with it and the public is not complaining about it."

Mr Howorth suggested there were numerous unused, empty buildings in the downtown Nassau area that could be used for a makeshift Post Office rather than wait for it to be relocated to the former Phil's Food Services building on Gladstone Road.

Acknowledging that many businesses, and individual Bahamians, had turned to e-mail and the Internet as alternatives to the postal system when conducting business, he argued that the latter was still needed to receive bank statements and billings, plus send invoices.

"It's really killing our economy," Mr Howorth told Tribune Business. "There were people up there expecting shipments of product to put in their stores, and one lady said she can't rely on the post.

"She was trying to pick up a parcel, they couldn't find it, and she said it would have to be re-sent through FedEx and cost her a lot more. The cost and ease of business is getting worse and worse."

Priscilla Hudson, a financial services worker, told Tribune Business: "We have not received any mail for my own post office box or my job, an offshore bank. I inquired about it because it was very unusual and concerning for a business, in particular, not to have one piece of mail posted. I also followed up because we have invoices due. I have been very cornered about this. There are people expecting very important mail to be delivered."

She added: "When I inquired about what was happening I was told about the condition of the Post Office building, and that the mail sits in the main building and no one is coming to sort the mail out because there is an ongoing strike. As long as that dispute is not solved there will be no mail deliveries, I was told.

"I have not seen anything recently to make the public aware of this situation. We have bills to pay individually, and I am sure businesses are being affected. I understand the reasons for the strike and the fact that the building has issues, but how can customers not get regular mail delivered? Today, everything affects the bottom line. This issue has to be resolved."

Mr Sumner acknowledged that the postal system breakdown was "still a concern, still an issue that persists", although the Chamber had not received "as many complaints in recent times".

Calling for the Government to address the situation "immediately", Mr Sumner said the postal system needed to operate more efficiently - possibly through a public-private partnership (PPP) where a private company took over responsibility for the Post Office's operations and management.

He revealed that former minister of transport, Frankie Campbell, had given a presentation to the recent National Chambers of Commerce conclave and reassured that the Government was "working towards correcting the postal system in the country".

There has been little tangible sign of this yet, and Mr Sumner acknowledged that it was disrupting commerce in the Bahamas despite the shift to electronic communications alternatives.

"There's still a heavy reliance on having the hand delivery of mail, which is causing people to look at alternative means," he told Tribune Business. "People are setting up mail boxes in Florida, and they are flying over there once a week to bring mail back into the country.

"It's far from ideal, but when you have a company to run you cannot wait on the mail. There's payments caught up in the mail, important documents caught up in the mail, so companies are only doing what is necessary."

Mr Sumner said the impact in the Family Islands was far worse, and he argued that the Government could not wait on the move to the Phil's Food Services property as this was a long-term fix.

He suggested attention needed to be paid on fixing the flaws at the main Post Office building, adding: "When I was there several weeks ago, paying for my box and an existing service, I could not stay in there for more than 15 minutes. It was hot, humid and there was an awful scent."

The BPSU's Mr Ferguson told Tribune Business: "The workers are not on strike, but it was the decision of the minister to move persons from the general Post Office because of the working environment. They have now been directed to work from the substations.

"However, nothing can be done without the inclusion of the general post office because that is where everything is disseminated from. The workers are just there. The general Post Office is closed, Cable Beach is closed and South Beach is in a terrible condition, although persons are there. We are trying to get the situation there rectified because they are without water and air-conditioning, and the number of persons there have now increased. That's where we are now."

Mr Ferguson added: "The postal service has basically come to a standstill. No Family Islands can receive any mail because it's normally disseminated from the general Post Office. The actual savings bank that assists persons in the Family Islands to receive funding has been closed as well.

"The workers just show up to work. We have been trying to get a response from the minister on what will happen moving forward, and how quickly we can have it resolved, so persons can really get back to work. The minister was unable to give us a definitive response."

The Tribune reported back in May that the government had taken legal possession of the old Phil's Food Services building on Gladstone Road, which was to be renovated for the General Post Office's relocation.

"My understanding is they have taken possession of that building, but since that time someone has vandalised the building and whatever the cost to refurbish it for the Post Office has now been increased," said Mr Ferguson.

Comments

OMG 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Has always been a disgrace from the stealing of magazines to the incredibly long delivery times ,if you get it at all.

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John 2 months, 2 weeks ago

five to six months delay in delivery and for such a long period...totally unacceptable!

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Clamshell 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Hey, no problem ... I read here in The Tribune the other day that we’re gonna become the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean. Just because we can’t deliver a simple letter is no reason to doubt that, I guess.

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hj 2 months, 2 weeks ago

@clamshell : lol you are so right, they can't even deliver a letter on time (if it is delivered at all)
and yet they are talking about developing high tech industries.

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SP 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Pindling, Ingraham, and Christie strike again!

Tourism, banking, development, education, infrastructure, health, and now "mail" joins the list of abject failures by these three stooges.

Thank GOD Junkanoo is in the heart of the people, or they would have totally destroyed that too!

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Clamshell 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Yes, as long as there is Junkanoo we have nothing to worry about. Yes, of course. (Bang a gong.)

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Gotoutintime 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Things will have to improve before we can claim even to be third world--Right now we're in the dinosaur age!

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Clamshell 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The U.S., which is 1,000 times larger than the Bahamas, has had uninterrupted postal service since 1775. Average delivery time to your home — not to a postal box, but your home — is 2-3 days. Overnight delivery can be arranged for a few dollars.

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 2 weeks ago

This country needs a better PO system ........ Hopefully the Phil's bldg will allow for more efficient sorting and distribution to the satellite POs ....... including a new downtown Nassau PO

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 2 weeks ago

If The Tribune bothered to investigate who owns the very costly major private postal services that have been set up in our country over the last decade or so, then they would understand and fully appreciate why the government has been so reluctant to address this most important and pressing matter that continues to take a very serious toll on the well being of our economy.

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Clamshell 2 months, 2 weeks ago

It’s pretty optimistic to use the words “Tribune” and “investigate” in the same sentence, bro.

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DWW 2 months, 1 week ago

they say neccesity is the mother of invention. or is it the other way round

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jackbnimble 2 months, 2 weeks ago

It's borderline ridiculous. I ordered something from the UK in October and didn't get it until May this year and it was an important documents!

They have got to fix this.

I agree, it's killing the economy.

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Porcupine 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Yes, this is a total embarrassment and certainly ranks among the many failures of this country. "Mr Sumner acknowledged that the postal system breakdown was "still a concern, still an issue that persists", although the Chamber had not received "as many complaints in recent times". Mr. Sumner, some people actually have jobs in this country and have figured out that the many hours wasted complaining to people who don't give a shit, refuse to call you back, and almost never even acknowledge your complaint, will make no difference at all. If I got paid for every hour that I spend in The Bahamas just trying to get people to do the job they are paid to do, I would be rich. Worse yet, it seems as if my time is valueless to this country. Personally, I would fire more than half of every group of employees I come in contact with here. I feel bad saying this, but it is entirely true.

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BahamaLlama 2 months, 2 weeks ago

There's no organised democracy i can think of which would allow the lack of an addressing system, total collapse of a postal system, and the deliberate obstruction of home delivery services (such as Amazon), and attempt to boast it plans to be a Silicon Valley, a renewable energy market, and a financial services powerhouse - but can't fix up putting a letter through a door.

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Clamshell 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I read the other day that Amazon delivers to homes in small villages in the Himalayas. Takes 5-7 days. My wife asked, “If they can deliver to the Himalayas, why can’t they deliver in the Bahamas?” I replied, “Good question. Simple answer ... because it’s the Bahamas.”

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ohdrap4 2 months, 2 weeks ago

simple, the amazon products arrive in a distribution center in the himalayas, and THEIR LOCAL POSTAL SERVICE PICKS IT UP FROM THERE AND DELIVERS.

actually i have ordered from countries in that region in the past three months. the seller creates an electronic ticket for dhl to pick it up, DHL brings it to new jersey and passes it on to USPS and informs me of the the new tracking number. USPS delivers to the courier in florida.the whole process is 5-7 days.

If you order with a bahamas address, DHL and/or FEDEx will charge you some ridiculous brokerage fee,more than you would pay the courier.

If they delivered in care of the bahamas postal service, after traveling for 3 days they would take weeks to send you the notice.

back in the early 90s, a relative decided to surprise me wtih a telegram on my birthday. i received it 3 weeks later. lol,

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Clamshell 2 months, 2 weeks ago

My experience is on Eleuthera. DHL and FedEx attempted to deliver there some years back, but the system collapsed. Boxes would arrive at the airport and the contractor who was supposed to deliver them failed to do so. The packages just sat in a big box in the airport lobby and people just came and grabbed their box.

The service finally ended, do not know if it has been revived. One alternative was to have your package shipped to a customs broker, who would collect it for you — and charge a fee. You had to go to their offices to get it, it was not delivered to you.

As for the postal service, we quit using it entirely some 15 years ago when we were receiving Christmas cards in May, and magazines I’d ordered never got to me at all.

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concernedcitizen 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I don,t know why anyone w high net worth clients or someone ordering something they need /want would send it through our post office ,,are you brain dead !!To Mr Howorth if yor clients are that high end and that's how you make a living for goodness sake ,,Fed ex , DHL etc etc ..I,m just an average joe and I have not used our post office in 20 years ,,why would anyone in their right mind send or have sent to them anything of value or that requires haste through our post office ,,Why even waste the ink having an article about it

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 2 weeks ago

We cannot expect better of our Government services ....... if we remain so negative, without offering solutions ...... No solutions, no future.

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banker 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The solutions of how to properly run a post office has been known since 1635 when King Charles I made the British postal service available to the public.

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bcitizen 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Exactly banker. This is not some new found technology we are trying to perfect.

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concernedcitizen 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I prefer to live in reality , I have giving up believing we will change the culture of people that got their job through their MP and are therefore entitled and bold about their lack of discipline on the job or ethics .Feel free to do what you please I prefer to ship through private companies .Sometimes I believe we survive despite ourselves b/c of our natural beauty and our proximity to a large lucrative tourist market .I had out guest yesterday that told me we don,t seem as friendly /welcoming as we did when they were here 5 years ago .I thought oh brother ..The Island I,m on is booming and although some of us do very well there is a segment of us that don,t want to work in a busy shop /restaurant ,,they want to be paid to serve a few people and cut up and play w their friends on the job

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hrysippus 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Once again this country is haunted by the stupid and self-serving decisions of past elected state officials. What was the first corruption scandal under the crooked pindling government? Yep, the pvc pipes scandal involving a sitting plp cabinet minister and the lousily done construction of the first plp infrastructure project, building the General Post Office. The Post Office Department was almost wholly staffed with plp party supporters. A recipe for the current disaster we call a postal service. As you sow, so shall you reap. KJV.

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bcitizen 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Do not fear! We are going digital with digital banking, digital id cards, digital everything! We just cant keep the water on perfected over 2000 years ago, cant deliver a paper letter been going on for thousands of years, cant keep the phones working just over 130 years and electricity. BUT We going DIGITAL with a government still working on a paper and cash base system holding the private sector back. Cant take checks, credit cards, or most anything else. What a joke this all it. The Bahamas mail service should be shut down. It is a totally useless service costing us a ton of money for nothing. Just outsource it to a private company.

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DWW 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Just shut it down and tell the world the Bahamas does not have postal. It would be the only real solution. My daughter wanted to start penpals in us, UK, maybe europe. She sent 2 out and NO idea if they made it or the other person sent one back. So sad. So sad.

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CatIslandBoy 2 months, 2 weeks ago

This is so sad. I truly believe that this "nation" should get on it's knees and crawl back to Britain, confessing the error of our ways, and beg the queen's forgiveness. We have squandered so many opportunities to be a great nation, instead enriching a few while sending the masses deeper into abject poverty. May God have mercy on our souls!

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DWW 2 months, 2 weeks ago

It's not rocket science. But it does have an annual gov't budget of $10,000,000.00.

It is about time some fire is lit on this. But then we Bahamians have become complacent with the f'ed postal system since 1972. Lol estd 1972.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 2 weeks ago

And in case we may have forgotten, responsibility for our general postal system fell within the portfolio of Glenys Hanna-Martin who was one of the more incompetent cabinet ministers in the last corrupt Christie-led PLP government. As the daughter of A. D. Hanna, Glenys Hanna-Martin owes her station in Bahamian politics to nepotism alone - she is the daughter of A.D. Hanna. Just about anyone will tell you that she is nothing but an undisciplined and loathsome loud mouth with a most annoying chronic cough. Her constituents need to wake up to the fact that they will remain amongst the poorest of all Bahamians if they keep voting for her in general elections. She has hoodwinked her constituents into thinking she is fighting for their causes and rights when in reality she has all along been holding them back.

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 2 weeks ago

It passed from Clueless Glenys to Creole Frankie ............ SMDH

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Alex_Charles 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I can relate. I tried to get a postcard from google to tag my business online. Never got the postcard because the postal system was and still is utter garbage juice. had to find 'other' means of getting that sorted out. GARBAGE I SAY!

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Greentea 2 months, 1 week ago

this is an utter disgrace. the postal service has been bad for a long time- but to come to a complete halt? what kind of country is this? we f up the most obvious things mostly because eadership in this country is pure ass.

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Emac 2 months, 1 week ago

Well, to be quite honest, the whole world is moving towards digital communications. Companies in the Bahamas need to get on board and start using email as the main source of communication for christ sake! However, the emphasis should be on prompt mail delivery for packages and stuff like that. But there is absolutely no reason why everyone should NOT be receiving bills, quotes, or any other letter type format via email.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 1 week ago

More than half of our society falls within one or more of the following categories:

1) Computer/hand held device illiterate, including many of the elderly.

2) Unable to afford computer/hand held device and internet/data service.

3) Suffer from a disability that results in 1 or 2 above.

These unfortunate people need a reliable general post office and our government is treating them in a most inhumane and cruel way. They are wrongfully being subjected to late payment charges and re-connection fees because they are not receiving their monthly paper bills from the likes of BEC, BTC, Cable Bahamas, etc. on a timely basis, if at all. Truly sad.

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bcitizen 2 months, 1 week ago

This does not apply to the Bahamas. I am above average computer literate person. I can do networking, basic programing, web page building, build computers from scratch etc. I also have been waiting 8 years for RBC to setup my online banking (I finally close my account). I have also been waiting for 6 years to be able to log into my online BTC account to pay my bill. I gave up trying to get either of them to work. As for where I work I have been waiting 3 years for a credit card machine from FCIB. It also took 2 months to have online banking setup. I also have been using a sim card for internet for over a year since BTC cannot fix my DSL line. So this mantra about everyone should be online and digital in this country is a joke.

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Emac 2 months, 1 week ago

Yes the Bahamas is one of the most backward countries when it comes to digital communications. But I guess I was dreaming for a moment. Maybe next 100 years, when the world has floating cars!

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truetruebahamian 2 months, 1 week ago

That is if you have internet capability and whether or not you own or wish to invest in a computer. I would prefer to see our postal system up and working in short order and in sterling condition.

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ohdrap4 2 months, 1 week ago

yes.I have been knocked out of btc online without explanation. water and sewage has signed me up and dropped me out of their system multiple times. BEC too, after several years my online account is finally working.

This is all made possible because many in the population are not computer literate and many in the workforce are not computer literate.

At work,I take cover and think twice about walking through certain rooms because they will call you to --help them-- ttranslation: do their work for them.

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bogart 2 months, 1 week ago

...A large part of the problen seems to be dat aggrieved...Bahamians goes after the easiest targets to vent dere frustrations ....dey blames da bank tellers fer being slow or not enuff...deys blames da electricity workers who shows uo after knock off time....deys blames da electricity wire fer not being grounded....dey blames da hospital fer being nasty...blames da hospital fer not having nuff beds....blames da clinic fet being too large fer the settlement....blames da pot hole werkers holes not fixed ..blames da Post Office fer crappy service......DESE PROBLEMS ARE DA FAULT OF DERE MINISTERS OF DESE VARIOUS SECTONS WITH LOUSY PERPETUAL PROBLEMS....blame whichinever Minister been dere fer years an years....watchin these buildings fall apart....not da pore struggling workers or tellers who puts up wid da daily crap of not getting da job done well enuff...dese people done aint paid well enuff muchless to put up wid all the complaonts...nasty comments.?suk teets......true there are exceptions....

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jamaicaproud 2 months, 1 week ago

Its the "Jumaicans" and Haitians fault. aint it?

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