Speaker Biographies

Zhivargo Laing

laing motiveAt two years of age, Zhivargo Sean Laing, the son of a straw vendor in The Bahamas, Naomi Seymour and a former hotel worker, the late Cedric Laing, was stricken with Scarlet Fever and the Chicken Pox; it was almost certain that he would die. However, as he has demonstrated ever since, he is a fighter and has lived to lead a productive and impressive life.

Born on September 7, 1967 in the capital city of Nassau, Zhivargo received his early education at the Lewis Yard Primary School on the island of Grand Bahama where he grew up. He subsequently attended Hawksbill High School on the island where the early recognition of his leadership skills led to his being elected Headboy of the school by his teachers. He also received numerous subject awards, was chosen a prestigious student by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and was his nation’s first male representative to the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Foundation’s International Youth Leadership Seminar in the United States of America. Laing was also a student-athlete, serving as a key member of his school’s long distance track and softball teams.

Following his completion of high school, Laing attended his nation’s principal tertiary institution, The College of The Bahamas, on a Pilot Club of Freeport Scholarship. He obtained an Associate Degree in Chemistry with Biology from the College. At the College of The Bahamas his leadership abilities continued to develop and to bring him recognition, as such he was elected President of the College’s student union and the student’s representative on the College Council.

Zhivargo went on to complete studies leading to a Bachelor of Arts Degree in economics from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario Canada. His education at Western was funded by the Tomlinson Foundation Scholarship. While at the University of Western, Laing became a strident advocate for human equality, serving as the Vice President of the Academic Coalition for Equality, a student organization formed to fight against racist research pursued by one of the school’s professors.

Upon completion of his university studies, Laing served for a short time as an accounts clerk, then as a manager of a small grocery store and for several years as the business administrator, youth director and lay minister of one of the largest churches on the island of Grand Bahama, Calvary Temple Assemblies of God. While at Calvary Temple, Zhivargo blazed a prominent trail in youth work and leadership, becoming one of the most sought after youth speakers in his nation. His rise to national prominence would bring him before his country’s national leaders and would eventually lead to his appointment to a major committee appointed to consult on matters related to youth challenges in the nation.

In 1992, following a historic election that led to a change of government, in which many believe that he played a prominent role as a youth leader, Laing took up a position in the Prime Minister’s Office as an investment officer in The Bahamas Investment Authority. His keen research ability, diligence in work and gifted communication skills brought him more firmly to the notice of the Prime Minister. While at the Bahamas Investment Authority, Zhivargo received training in foreign direct investment promotion in Taiwan and Japan.

In 1995, he would be transferred to the foreign service of The Bahamas to take up a post as a diplomatic officer in The Bahamas Embassy in Washington, D.C. He would also serve as an alternate representative of The Bahamas to the Organization of American States. While in Washington, D.C., Laing also undertook graduate studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. toward a Masters Degree in Business Administration. While in Washington, he was recruited by the Prime Minister of The Bahamas to contest the General Elections of 1997, which he did, and won a seat in the Parliament. He was elected to the House of Assembly as the FNM representative for the Fort Charlotte Constituency and was the youngest person elected in that year. He was also appointed at various times Minister of State in Youth, Sports and Culture, Minister of State in Education and Minister of Economic Development. To this day, he remains the youngest person in his nation’s history to be appointed to the Cabinet, having been so appointed at 29 years old.

In 2002, Laing returned to private life and established a successful firm known as Professional Life Development Systems, providing business consulting, motivation and human resource training services. During that time, he also authored three books: “College, Career and Money – A Guide for Teens and Young Adults”, “A Trust Out of this World” and “Who Moved My Conch – Understanding How Free Trade will affect the Bahamian Economy”. He wrote a weekly Column “Straight Up Talk” for one of the prominent dailies in The Bahamas, the Tribune and was host of “Public Affairs Corner”, a radio talk show on Mix 105.9 FM.

He was subsequently elected to the House of Assembly in May 2007 as the Member of Parliament for the Marco City Constituency and appointed Minister of State for Finance. As Minister of State for Finance he had responsibility for the Treasury Department, Customs Department, Department of Statistics, National Insurance Board, the Financial Services Sector, International Trade Matters, relations with the Central Bank of The Bahamas, and Information Technology Department. He was The Bahamas’ governor or alternate on the Board of Governors of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Inter-American Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank and led The Bahamas’ delegation to many of the meetings of these critical multilateral institutions. As deputy to the Minister of Finance at one of the worse recessionary periods since the Great Depression, Laing was a key player in charting the country’s course during that very difficult period. His leadership led to the implementation of 24/7 E-Government in The Bahamas, the modernization of a number of business and financial legislation in the country and the implementation of a number of prominent employment and entrepreneurial programmes.

Today, Zhivargo Laing is the Chief Executive Officer of the LAING CONSULTING AND RESEARCH GROUP, a business consulting, market research, training and public relations firm. He is married to the former Zsa Zsa Monique LaRoda and they have three sons, Zhivargo II, Zhimaal and Zavier and one daughter Za’riah. A man of faith, Laing believes that success in life is a matter of “Purpose, Prudence and Persistence“.

Bevan Springer

Bevan-WebBevan is an award-winning journalist and seasoned public relations professional. He has worked as the North American correspondent of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union and contributed for media houses such as the Caribbean Media Corporation, the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, and Saint Lucia’s Radio 100.

He is well known to the Caribbean Diaspora in the New York tri-state area, having hosted several radio programmes, including the weekly five-hour, radio show, “The Caribbean in Five” on 1190 AM WLIB in New York.

A weekly columnist with New York’s renowned Amsterdam News, Bevan’s international reach includes contributions to the Trinidad Guardian, BBC World Service, New York Daily News, 1600 AM WWRL, UN Radio, and WNBC-TV in New York.

As former North American editor of the Barbados Advocate, Bevan spent several years covering the United Nations where he served as editor of The Islander publication, covering the 1994 Barbados Small Islands Conference, the 1995 Copenhagen Social Summit and the 1995 Women’s Conference in Beijing.

For the past decade, he has produced the popular Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx), designed to improve the quality of media coverage of sustainable tourism in the Caribbean.

A former national tennis player of Barbados, Bevan has worked as a sports reporter with the Barbados Nation and Barbados Advocate newspapers.

He is a member of New York’s Christian Cultural Center, SAG-AFTRA, National Association of Black Journalists and United Nations Correspondents Association. He is an alumnus of Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific in British Columbia, Canada – a member of the United World Colleges’ (UWC) network, and sits on the Leadership Council for the International Institute for Tourism Studies and the Masters of Tourism Administration Program at The George Washington University School of Business.

Recipient of a diploma in public relations from the University of the West Indies and a guest lecturer in public relations at New York University, Bevan has received awards from New York’s City Council, the Council of Barbadian Organizations in New York, BWIA West Indies Airways and the Caribbean Hotel Association. In the summer of 2010, he was conferred with honorary Jamaican citizenship by the Jamaica Consulate in New York, and in June this year, he received the 2012 The Marcella Martinez Award for strengthening the marketing programmes of Caribbean destinations.