Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper pledged that a PLP government would take action to boost the economy of Grand Bahama, declaring that the party would be “a government of doing rather than just talking” if elected.
“The experiment of Freeport never came to the boom that’s been anticipated,” said Cooper while appearing as a guest on “On the Record” on Our TV with Jerome Sawyer recently.
“We’ve been waiting for this boom to come for decades and the people of Grand Bahama are disillusioned.
“I believe there can be more promotions done, there has to be more promotional efforts done, whether it’s the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) [or] whether it’s through the government.”
He added, “Freeport has a lot that’s going for it, but leadership is required.
“There’s a question as to whether the current shareholders of the Grand Bahama Port Authority have the capacity to move Freeport along. That question needs to be addressed.
“The government must have a candid discussion with them as to whether they have the capacity and the will to continue on or whether it’s a discussion for change in ownership. The bottom line is, though, that the status quo cannot continue.”
Grand Bahama has struggled with economic challenges for a number of years.
The island never quite recovered since the back-to-back storms of 2004. Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne left a trail of destruction resulting in the closure of the Royal Oasis resort in Freeport.
Prior to Hurricane Dorian – the most powerful storm on record to hit The Bahamas – some Grand Bahamians were still struggling from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
That storm resulted in the closure of the Grand Lucayan resort, which the government purchased for $65 million from Hutchison Whampoa last year.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis recently revealed that a heads of agreement signing for the sale of the resort will take place on March 2.
He has projected that thousands of jobs will result from the sale.
But Cooper highlighted the need for plans to be executed to bring about change.
When pressed on whether a PLP government would actually improve economic conditions on Grand Bahama, Cooper said: “You have my commitment in doing so.
“There are enough studies, there are enough examinations in the Hawksbill agreement. The previous government had a committee, McKinsey, an international firm, to study.
“There was a bipartisan approach to moving Grand Bahama along and now I believe it’s about the execution of those plans, and certainly we will be a government of execution, a government of doing rather than just talking.”
He added, “The people of Grand Bahama are catching eternal hell.
“The economy was moving very slowly even before the hurricane, so therefore the government must do everything in its power to get the gateways open, to get the public infrastructure going, to get the economy moving again.”