Turnquest: Grand Bahama economy turning around
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest yesterday said he believes the economy of Grand Bahama is turning around, but noted that the government must ensure that growth there is sustainable.
“Grand Bahama, I think, is working out well,” he said outside Cabinet last week.
“Of course, it can never be fast enough, and we certainly do empathize with those families that continue to struggle to try and find a living.
He added, “We have gone through two years of planting seeds. We’re beginning to see the green shoots as a result of that, and I suspect that this year we’ll start to see some real growth.
“I am hopeful that the job statistics will start to show some improvement.
“Our expectation is that that should be the case given that we’ve had GDP growth this year, given that we’ve had a number of investments that are starting to actually come out of the ground this year, and again, optimistic about other projects that are in the pipeline that we should start to see some activity [on] this year.”
Turnquest pointed to the recently announced redevelopment of the Grand Lucayan property and the development of a Carnival Cruise Line port on the island as catalysts for economic growth.
He also highlighted an increase in small businesses on the island as a positive sign.
“We are very encouraged by what we see happening,” he said.
“The minister of tourism would have indicated that tourism arrivals are up eight percent. That’s no small measure when you consider that our tourism plant itself still is very challenged. So, that’s a positive sign.
“If you look at the number of small to medium-sized business that have been opening, that is also very encouraging, and of course we know that very shortly we should start to see the tangible effects of those major investments that were announced earlier this year, that being the cruise port and the hotel sale.
“Those two will be the catalysts for the real economic turnaround that we’re hoping for. And, so, I think we’re on the right path, and I think very shortly, certainly within this calendar year, we will have reason to celebrate and for the Grand Bahamians to return home to help rebuild our island.”
However, he said that the government must ensure that economic growth on the island is sustainable.
“We do need to make sure that we make this recovery sustainable and long-term for Bahamians, and again I think our policies are certainly geared towards that in a tangible way,” he said.
Turnquest added,”What we’ve had, particularly in our Grand Bahama experience, is booms and busts.
“So, we know about this, and the way that we do that is to ensure that we empower the domestic economy so that we have local Bahamians empowered and participating in a real way in the economy.
“So, our efforts have been towards providing opportunity for small to medium sized enterprises, and for those micro enterprises that are coming on, starting up, small businesses and ensuring that they have an opportunity to have a real stake in what’s happening.
“And we’ve done that through our Small Business Development Centre.
“We’ve done that through our draft procurement legislation to ensure that Bahamians have an opportunity to have a percentage of that purchasing dollar allocated to them, and hopefully that will springboard them into being able to create and take a little bit more risk, and to push the boundaries of what traditional Bahamian businesses are all about, so that they can become self-sufficient, self-sustaining.
“We’re looking at all the foreign direct investment that we’re attracting to the country. We’ve been trying to ensure that there is a component in there that ensures that Bahamian entrepreneurs get an opportunity to provide services and goods to those entities.
“And you would have heard it in the Disney deal, and you’ve heard in the Carnival deal, and you’ll hear it in the hotel deal, where specific emphasis is put on not only ensuring that Bahamians get jobs, but they also have entrepreneurial business opportunities.
“And this is how we create the type of sustainability that we’re looking for.
“When we look at the hotel, lodging accommodation sector, we are encouraging persons to build small boutique resorts or even to build the duplexes or the triplexes or the fourplexes or whatever that they can put on these room sharing sites…so that they can participate in a more direct way in what God has given us in terms of our environment and the attractiveness of our country.”
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish