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Neil Hartnell

Stories by Neil

Price controls ‘out window’ with WTO

The Bahamas Motor Dealers Association’s (BMDA) president yesterday expressed hope that WTO membership will result in price controls “going out the window” to be scrapped. 

Bank payment charges need ‘legitimate redress’

THE Central Bank yesterday appeared to concede that fees for payment services were too high and “require legitimate redress”, a view shared by 78 per cent of Bahamians.

Pensioners left with 30% in City Markets HQ sale

* Claim trustees ‘not acting in our best interest’ * Trustees retain 27% of $3m sale to AML Foods * And lawyer paid almost one-third of proceeds

City Markets pensioners have been “kept in the dark” over the $3 million sale of the plan’s main asset, with just 30 per cent of the proceeds seemingly left for their benefit.

BPL pledges: You’ll have ‘soft landing’ on extra charge

BAHAMAS Power & Light’s (BPL) chairman yesterday pledged to make “the landing as soft as possible” for Bahamian consumers when it adds a debt servicing charge to their bills.

Title questions raised over $3m AML deal

CITY Markets pension fund trustees have no legal standing to sell the defunct supermarket chain’s former head office to AML Foods for $3 million, it was alleged yesterday.

Insurers ‘not oblivious’ to Bahamas sanctions threat

THE insurance industry “is not oblivious” to the need for the Bahamas to comply with global anti-financial crime standards and avoid sanctions, its chairman said yesterday.

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‘Get out of dark ages’, Gov’t and unions told

* Reformer urges end to worker benefits focus * Calls for more productivity ‘to lift GDP growth’ * And wants wages ‘held’ at current levels

The Department of Labour must “get out of the dark ages” and focus on improved worker productivity if the Bahamas is to enjoy higher GDP growth, a governance reformer urged yesterday. Robert Myers, a principal with the Organisation for Responsible Governance (ORG), told Tribune Business that the Labour Department and trade unions needed to stop pushing for increased worker benefits “if we are to lift ourselves out of this socio-economic recession”. Arguing that both were still “singing the same old song”, Mr Myers called for wages and benefits to be “held” at present levels until the Bahamian economy generated improved GDP growth rates.

Bahamian insurer ‘bolstered’ after hurricane losses

* Security and General in Q4 capital injection * Performance ‘marginal’, ‘below average’ * Rival Summit also gets top ratings

A MAJOR Bahamian insurer has seen its balance sheet “bolstered” by its parent as a result of recent hurricane-related losses. A. M. Best, the insurance rating agency, said Security and General Insurance Company had received a fourth quarter capital injection from its Bermuda-based owner following recent storm payouts. The rating agency, which reaffirmed the Bahamian property and casualty insurer’s creditworthiness, provided few details and its top executive, Marlon Graham, did not return Tribune Business’s voice mail message yesterday seeking comment.

Gov’t ‘won’t ruin’ economy revival with labour laws

* Minister reassures private sector on changes * No move on ‘controversial’ issues yet * Will only proceed if business/union ‘consensus’

THE Government “will not do anything to ruin” efforts to revive the Bahamian economy, a Cabinet Minister pledged yesterday, as he sought to reassure businesses over labour law reforms. Dion Foulkes, the Minister of Labour, told Tribune Business that the Minnis administration had yet to move on “contentious” election commitments to raise the 12-year redundancy pay ‘cap’ and increase the notice period for terminated employees.

AML chief: ‘Size of pie yet to be seen’

* Uncertainties over Xmas spending * Hopes December ‘uptick’ will persist  * All retailers see October/November fall-off

BISX-listed AML Foods has warned that “the size of the pie” remains unknown when it comes to Bahamian consumer spending this Christmas. Gavin Watchorn, the group’s president and chief executive, told Tribune Business that while it was “very confident” of gaining its due share, the extent of holiday expenditure was difficult to predict given continued economic uncertainty and fragile confidence.

DPM: Bahamas must ‘prove’ itself to S&P

* ‘Not at all’ upset nation still ‘junk’ * Blames former Govt’s failure to deliver * Nation has 12-24 months to execute

The Government must “prove” it can deliver on its fiscal and economic turnaround strategy, the Deputy Prime Minister admitted yesterday, after Standard & Poor’s (S&P) kept the Bahamas at ‘junk’ status. K P Turnquest told Tribune Business he was “not at all” disappointed at the outcome of S&P’s annual review of the Bahamas’ sovereign creditworthiness, despite having previously expressed optimism that the Government could make the case to be upgraded to ‘investment grade’ status.

Development Bank fund ‘sinking’: Covers 1/3 of $46m bonds

* Just 28.4% of loans ‘performing’ * Accumulated losses over $60m * Solvency deficiency at $31.31m

THE Bahamas Development Bank’s (BDB) ‘sinking fund’ covered just one-third of its $46 million outstanding bond debt at year-end 2016, with only 28.4 per cent of its loans ‘performing’. The BDB’s 2016 financial statements, tabled in the House of Assembly in Wednesday by the Prime Minister, reveal the parlous state of another state-owned enterprise (SOE) that has racked up more than $60 million in losses for the Bahamian taxpayer during its 43-year existence.

‘No cause for celebration’ over S&P breathing room

* Bahamas ‘still has to climb out of hole’ * But Chamber chief ‘fully expects’ 2018 upgrade * Many Bahamians don’t realise reform ‘gravity’

PRIVATE sector executives yesterday said the Bahamas has “no cause for celebration yet” after Standard & Poor’s (S&P) elected not to further downgrade its sovereign creditworthiness.

S&P: Gov’ts fiscal, economic reforms ‘will take time’ to work

* 1.5% average growth forecast lower than IMF’s * Grand Lucayan closure takes out 7% of rooms * Debt to rise through 2020 to 52% of GDP

THE Government’s fiscal and economic reforms will take time to “pay dividends”, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) warned yesterday, as it took a more ‘bearish’ view of the Bahamas’ growth prospects. The rating agency, in its latest Bahamas country assessment, expressed confidence that the Minnis administration’s fiscal reforms will “arrest the deterioration” in the Government’s deficit and the national debt.

Gaming Board lacks ‘oversight structure’ for numbers houses

* Minister: Changes to make regulator ‘more relevant’ * Gaming Board will ‘look very different’ in five years * ‘92,000 didn’t vote for us to maintain status quo’

RECENT downsizings are intended to make the Gaming Board “more relevant” and help it cope with the “seismic changes” created by web shops, a Cabinet minister said yesterday. Dionisio D’Aguilar, who has ministerial responsibility for gaming, told Tribune Business that the industry regulator will “look extremely different from the Gaming Board of today within five years”.

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Ex-Miss Bahamas accuses Tourism on copyright, $130k

* Khiara Sherman claims song used with no say-so * Copyright infringed in promoting Bahamas to guests * And Ministry ‘breached’ three-year employment deal

A former Miss Bahamas Universe winner-turned-songstress is suing the Ministry of Tourism for allegedly breaching a $130,000 employment contract and violating her copyright. Khiara Sherman, who once represented the Bahamas at the global pageant then-controlled by US president, Donald Trump, is claiming the Ministry failed to obtain permission to use her song, Fly Away With Me, in its multi-million dollar marketing campaigns.

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Bahamas ‘must reengineer economy faster than ever’

* QC: 2018 will ‘set economy for 20 years’ * Warns reform pace may be bewildering * Warns of tax, exchange control ‘recalibrating’

THE Bahamas faces having to “substantially reengineer its economy at a much faster pace than ever before” to escape global ‘blacklists’, a prominent QC warned yesterday. Brian Moree QC, senior partner at McKinney, Bancroft & Hughes, told Tribune Business that this nation’s response to the European Union/OECD initiatives in 2018 “will determine the future of the economy” for possibly the next 20 years.

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‘Wild Wild West’ web shop oversight hits Gaming Board

* AG: ‘Difficulty’ undermines ‘blue ribbon’ status * Gov’t ‘seconding’ anti-money launder specialists * Will ‘address forthwith’ web shop money transfers

THE Gaming Board’s “blue ribbon” reputation has been hurt by taking on regulation of the “Wild Wild West” web shop sector, the Attorney General said yesterday. Carl Bethel QC told Tribune Business that the Government was now seconding more experienced anti-money laundering regulators from other agencies to the Gaming Board in a bid to get to grips with a sector deemed “high risk”.

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Bahamas ‘shooting ourselves in foot’ on insurance regulation

* Bahamas ‘going beyond’ AML standard * AG: ‘We’ll give general insurers one year’ * Fears captive revival undermined

FEARS were raised again yesterday that the Bahamas could be “shooting ourselves in the foot” by including general and captive insurers within its anti-money laundering regime. Emmanuel Komolafe, the Bahamas Insurance Association’s (BIA) chairman, urged the Government to provide the “benchmarking” studies and data to support its decision to define both market segments as financial institutions under the Financial Transactions Reporting Act (FTRA).

Bahamas faces major tax, exchange control shake-up

The Bahamas may have to completely overhaul its corporate and taxation structure to escape European Union/OECD ‘blacklisting’ threats, the Attorney General revealed yesterday.

AG: We’ll deal with ‘major slippage’ in anti-launder regime

THE Attorney General yesterday pledged to address the Bahamas’ “significant slippage” in the battle against financial crime through roll-out of its National Risk framework before year-end.

Opposition leader in ‘total dreamland’ over Freeport

FREEPORT businesses yesterday blasted the Opposition’s leader as being “in total dreamland” over his defence of the former government’s incentive regime.

Chamber urges: ‘Tighten up and enforce’ Enterprises Bill

THE Chamber of Commerce yesterday urged the Government to “tighten up the language”, and enforce the provisions, in the Commercial Enterprises Bill to prevent potential abuses.

CIBC FirstCaribbean explores US listing

CIBC FirstCaribbean’s parent yesterday confirmed its subsidiary is exploring a US stock exchange listing, a move likely to stoke speculation of a Canadian bank withdrawal from the region.

Bahamas ‘on probation’: 17-step action plan cure

The Government has detailed a 17-step ‘action plan’ to strengthen the Bahamas’ anti-money laundering regime, with a top regulator describing this nation as “on probation” over increasing weaknesses.

Bahamians urged: Show ‘more ‘outrage’ over financial crimes

BAHAMIANS were yesterday urged to show “more outrage” over financial crime and poor business practices, a prominent cleric arguing that these had become “entrenched in our culture”.

AML Foods closes Carl’s Jr franchise

AML Foods has decided to pull the plug on its Carl’s Jr franchise and close all three outlets, Tribune Business confirmed yesterday, although no job losses will result.

‘Don’t squander’ tax reform opportunity

THE Bahamas was yesterday urged “not to squander the opportunity” presented by outside pressures to undertake comprehensive tax reform and reposition its economy.

Union chief: ‘No way’ would I breach law and Bar regulations

A trade union leader yesterday said there was “no way” he would have agreed to an illegal ‘contingency fee’ in taking on Sandals Royal Bahamian all the way to the Privy Council.

Kosoy, Sterling eye Hurricane Hole deal

David Kosoy’s Sterling Global Financial is in negotiations to acquire Paradise Island’s Hurricane Hole property from Atlantis’s owner, Tribune Business can reveal.

Income-type tax ‘likely inevitable’, warns ex-minister

A FORMER financial services minister believes it is “probably inevitable” that the Bahamas will have to introduce some form of low-rate income tax, warning: “We’re not in the clear yet.”

Enterprises Bill  compared to ‘fighting cancer with band-aid’

A well-known businessman has compared the Government’s Commercial Enterprises Bill to “fighting cancer with a band-aid”.

‘Absolutely imperative’ Baha Mar doesn’t fail

BAHA Mar’s transformation into a sustainable mega-resort is an “absolute imperative” for the Bahamas and its economy, the Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive says.

Property Fund ‘gap’ as PwC to vacate Providence House

THE BISX-listed Bahamas Property Fund is preparing for temporary vacancy at its last fully-occupied property, following a $2.206 million third quarter hit caused by a timing adjustment.

Gov’t narrows inner city taxation breaks

The Government yesterday appeared to narrow its planned VAT and inner-city ‘tax breaks’, while seeking to deliver on campaign promises of accountability, transparency and good governance.

VAT gives Bahamas unwanted world lead

Bahamian businesses have suffered the largest worldwide increase in the time they are forced to spend on tax compliance as a result of Value-Added Tax’s (VAT) implementation, a World Bank report has found.

Govt tax crackdown exposes ‘desperation’

The Christie administration’s much-trumpeted tax crackdown has exposed its “desperation” over the strained fiscal position, the Democratic National Alliance’s (DNA) leader yesterday charging: “The Government is broke.”

Tax delinquents warned to brace for ‘shock treatment’

Major tax defaulters were yesterday warned to brace for “shock treatment” from the Government’s recently-unveiled tax crackdown, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce’s (BCCEC) chairman giving his “strong support” to the initiative.

Govt told: ‘Cut inefficient taxes across the board’

The Government was yesterday urged by a leading governance reformer to reduce “inefficient taxes across the board” so that it could make room for potential Value-Added Tax (VAT) rate increases.

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Governor to ‘bridge gap’ between banks, web shops

The Central Bank’s governor has reaffirmed his commitment to “bridge the gap” between the commercial banking industry and web shop operators, and help ease his licensees’ compliance concerns.

Tax crackdown: Govt hits 6,000 businesses, 5,000 property owners

The Government last night unveiled its promised crackdown on tax defaulters, promising to first pursue the largest, wealthiest delinquents - some 6,000 businesses and 5,000 high-end property owners.

QC: Legalisation of web shops has defied the critics

The web shop industry’s legalisastion has produced the opposite effect to the predictions of many critcs, a well-known QC has argued.

Governor: Data, privacy regimes may need reform

The Bahamas may have to reform its data and confidentiality regimes to mitigate the threat posed by the loss of correspondent banking relationships to the financial sector and wider economy, the Central Bank’s governor has warned.

Freeport investment law blasted as ‘anti-business’

Freeport’s new tax incentives law was yesterday branded an “abomination” and “anti-business” by an FNM Senator, who argued that it will undermine both the city’s founding agreement and economic growth.

Govt told: ‘Stop bragging’ about $852m VAT funds

The Opposition’s finance spokesman yesterday urged the Government to “stop bragging” about its $852 million VAT revenues, as this represented monies sucked away from Bahamian consumers and businesses.

Bahamas can’t afford ‘another five years’ of secretive governance

The Bahamas cannot afford “another five-year cycle” of unaccountable government spending, a governance reformer warned yesterday, arguing that a Fiscal Responsibility Act should have “preceded” Value-Added Tax (VAT).

BOB rights offering takes Govt further down ‘wrong road’

The Government has been pushed further down “the wrong road” on Bank of the Bahamas by the recent $40 million rights offering, an outspoken shareholder said yesterday.

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‘Farcical’: Govt picks up ‘entire’ $40m BOB issue

Bank of the Bahamas’ 3,000 minority shareholders have demonstrated their “complete lack of confidence” in the bank after forcing the Government to pick up its “entire” $40 million rights offering.

Consumer chief set to investigate BPL bill spike

The Consumer Protection Commission’s chairman last night promised to investigate the “double” and “triple” energy bill increases many consumers are now experiencing as a result of Bahamas Power & Light’s (BPL) post-Matthew billing practices.

‘Light at end of tunnel’ on Govt mobile buyout

Between 40,000-50,000 Bahamians could own a stake in the second mobile operator’s majority shareholder, with efforts to buy out the Government now glimpsing “light at the end of the tunnel”.