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Gilbert: Expensive power inhibitingGB’s economic growth

Unreliable and high energy costs that have mounted into the millions for local industrial companies may be the single most inhibitor to the growth of Grand Bahama’s economy, the chief executive of the Freeport Container Port(FCP)toldGuardian Businesslast week.

Expensive power has likely hampered the growth of the industrial sector on the island, said Gary Gilbert, and according to him there is no clear solution to the problem in sight.

“If you take a snapshot of the last five years and how much new industry has come here and what the power bill is, why would somebody relocate from Florida or anywhere else and come here and have a higher power bill?”he toldGuardian Businessin a recent interview.”While no taxes is a good item, you have to be able to make money… so[power]has a catastrophic effect on doing business.

“I will say the one difficult part here for bringing other industries, particularly manufacturing industries, to Grand Bahama is the fact that we have extremely expensive power and we have reliability issues. Power is the single biggest inhibitor to growth in my opinion.”

For instance, he said the FCP has over 700 acres of industrial zone land between the Freeport Harbour and the Grand Bahama International Airport that it could not entice companies to because power was too expensive and unreliable. It’s a real impediment, Gilbert argues, to operating businesses that rely on the consistency of its utilities to strengthen its productivity.

While recent developments will help to assist the growth of the transshipment industry in Grand Bahama, he said something needed to be done about the current issues. However, the no discussions are planned between the government and the Grand Bahama Port Authority on the regulation of utility rates until after the next general election, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham asserted recently.

“When we do have the discussion, we would like to put them(GBPA)on notice of a couple of things that we would like to discuss and agree with them,”he said.”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[the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority], and we would like to engage them in discussions about that when its time to talk to them.”

This means a change in rates-for the better or worse-may not come before 2012, with projected increases in crude oil prices expected to have an affect on all businesses throughout The Bahamas.

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