Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday two proposed projects for North Andros appear to offer little to Bahamians on the island.
Davis said there is a feeling that there is an “open season” on Andros.
“Both proposals require the utmost scrutiny and require great circumspection,” said the PLP leader during a press conference in Morgan’s Bluff, Andros.
“…We are cognizant of the need for work, jobs and development in Andros. We start, however, from the unalterable premise that the development of Andros must be driven by the philosophy of Bahamians first.
“And the people of Andros must be in the driver’s seat. Every investment must be cognizant of the need to protect the patrimony of our country for the future. As public concerns surrounding these two proposals intensify, the PLP thought it vitally important to reiterate our policy position on the future of Andros.”
A 2019 proposal by
multibillionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong created concern among some Bahamians after it was leaked last week.
The North Andros Green Free Trade Zone, a project developers say would be worth more than $200 million, would include a new shipping port, airport, healthcare research facilities and manufacturing facilities for harvested aragonite in Morgan’s Bluff.
The proposal requests 20 initial work permits and promises 10,819 new construction, manufacturing and service jobs.
Although the proposal is reportedly being updated, the version now in the public domain is attracting the attention of many Androsians and other Bahamians.
The Office of the Prime Minister said that while a draft proposal for a free trade zone on North Andros was submitted, it has not been formally analyzed or reviewed nor has a copy been submitted to the National Economic Council.
A proposed project by Bahamas Materials Company Ltd. for the mining of calcium carbonate in the same North Andros area also leaked to the public.
The Symonette Group’s chief executive, Cameron Symonette, is one of the principals behind the project.
That project has also not been approved by the government.
Davis said the projects need to be carefully scrutinized.
“A PLP government under my leadership cannot and will not support the terms and conditions of the North Andros proposal for a free trade zone currently in the public domain,” he said.
“The other proposal also requires the keenest scrutiny. Regarding the future of the port here at Morgan’s Bluff, it is the unequivocal position that this port must remain in the possession of Bahamians as a public good. We are strongly opposed to the divestment and transfer of this port into private and foreign hands.
“Furthermore, we are opposed to the ownership participation of shareholders in the Arawak Cay Port Development project in the future of this port to add to their ownership and control of local port facilities.
“On the face of it, these proposed projects raise the urgent question of the environmental sustainability of these or any other proposals given the sensitive, vulnerable and delicate ecosystems in Andros. This is the largest reserve of freshwater in the country.
“This is the largest continuous landmass in the country. For all of these reasons, there should be utmost scrutiny of any project.”