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GB has it all – it just needs some energy

The Grand Bahama Port Authority needs to be refocused and a greater emphasis must be placed on tourism if the island’s economy is going to return to its former glory.

In this week’s edition of My Ten Cents, David Jordine, who is currently being eyed as the deputy chairman of the FNM, said all the potential is there for Grand Bahama.

All we need is the energy to push for meaningful change.

“I see the GBPA has a beautiful thing. I like the concept,” he said. “But compared to what the GPBA provided 10 or 15 years ago, we’re not seeing that same type of energy.”

According to Jordine, Grand Bahama was once the jewel of The Bahamas. In the 60s and 70s, residents were holding down two or three jobs as the island went through an economic boom. He felt the economy “has the potential to get back there”, with the infrastructure in place and waiting for the next chapter in its development.

“The infrastructure is in place, but I think the GPBA needs to be refocussed,” he explained.

Acknowledging that the global financial crisis has also played a considerable role in the island’s decline, he pointed out that Grand Bahama entered into a recession even before the rest of the world in 2008. One reason for this, he said, is the high density of international investors. He called it a “good test dummy” for what was coming down the line. What this speaks to is the need to get more locals involved in the local economy in the future as a hedge.

“We have a chance to take advantage, but I do think we’ll see investment come more to the forefront once everything begins to pick up globally. I think you will see more Bahamians getting involved in economic activity,” he told Guardian Business.

That investment could be on the horizon.

This week, Guardian Business reported on a move by Carnival Cruise Lines to bolster its number of stopovers considerably into Grand Bahama. A total of 320 stopovers will occur in Freeport in 2012, accounting to around one million tourists.

Jordine believes the island has got away from this core industry and focused too much on the industrial side.

“I think a major problem is Grand Bahama is moving away from that tourism base,” he explained. “It is very industrialized. Those large industries contribute well to the economy. But at the end of the day, our number one industry is tourism. That’s what we go, and that’s what we do best.”

Grand Bahama’s economy first took a turn for the worse when major hotels closed their doors and never reopened, such as Royal Oasis, according to Jordine.

If the tourism product can revive, that will go a long way to producing the jobs and spin-off effects for businesses, he said, and provide opportunities for entrepreneurs. Indeed, the GBPA is currently working on several seminars and meetings to bring local players together and encourage the establishment of businesses to meet the projected demand from tourists in 2012.

At the moment, he called the island “quiet”, and with the amount already invested in the island – from the marketplace, the square and the bazaar – it has the capability to reach its full potential.

With a bit of energy, Jordine believes this can happen.

“Persons are not going to spend thousands to come to an island where they are paying more than average for rates and there is nothing to do,” he said.

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