Grand Bahama News

Eyeing a way forward for GBPA

Reaction to PM’s statement on putting GB on right track

Grand Bahamians, particularly those in the business sector, are reacting to Prime Minister Philip Davis’ recent statement suggesting looming changes for the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) to get the island “on the right track”.

The prime minister was quoted in The Tribune on January 25 saying, “Grand Bahama over the years has failed to live up to its true promise and potential, and we are in discussions with the Port Authority for the purposes of identifying a path towards putting Grand Bahama on the right track to enable it to fulfill its full potential and promise.”

The St. Georges and Hayward families own the GBPA.

There has been a cry in some circles locally for a change in the top ranks of the Port Authority, especially after the 2004 death of Edward St. George.

The prime minister’s recent comment has renewed discussion on the GBPA’s future.

“I think it is very important that change happens in the Port Authority,” said attorney Terence Gape, senior partner at Dupuch & Turnquest.

“As we all know, since the death of Edward St. George, there has been no movement on the investment side in Freeport and the Port Group, the Port Authority family [has] mainly been acting as city managers and/or caretakers of the status quo.

“I do know that the prime minister is very keen on effecting a change in the Port Authority, which will be very advantageous to Freeport reaching its potential.”

A grand vision was mapped out for the development and economic sustainability of Freeport almost 70 years ago through the establishment of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA).

The 99-year agreement gave the GBPA exclusive rights to develop some 50,000 acres of land and administer and collect the license fees associated with a duty-free port.

The original agreement, which expires in 2054, remains in place; however, in 2016, a number of tax concessions originally granted under the 1995 act were extended for a further 22 years.

President of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) James Carey noted the prime minister’s comment lacked specifics.

“What is it pointing to? What image are we trying to create for our island?” he asked.

“Are we just getting a change or do we have an objective at the end of the day?”

Carey, who is seeking a meeting with the prime minister, added, “We need a master plan for our island.”

“If the prime minister said change the structure at the Port Authority, what’s the purpose, what are we achieving? He also alluded to the fact that the GBPA is not doing as much as it ought to be doing. Where do we go with this?” he questioned.

“So, the objective needs to be stated and everything we do has to be geared toward that. It has to come to a dialogue with the government and the Port Authority.”

In March 2022, businessman and activist Darren Cooper led a march against the Port with more than 100 protesters voicing their frustration over what they said was the GBPA’s “lack of vision” for Grand Bahama.

The protesters, mainly Port business licensees, demanded GBPA executives place more focus on getting Grand Bahama’s economy going again and called for a meeting with top executives.

Two weeks later, the GBPA’s executive team, including President Ian Rolle, Acting Chairman Sarah St. George and Executive Director Rupert Hayward, met with Cooper and 17 members of the group.

Reacting to the prime minister’s statement, Cooper said he is in favor of giving the Hayward family and a new private partner the opportunity of returning the island to its glory days and the robust economy experienced before.

“We are aware that the St. Georges have carried the responsibility for the majority of the decisions made in the GBPA, and the Haywards have not,” Cooper said.

“And so, I am one of those Grand Bahamians that probably would take a risk on giving the Haywards an opportunity because some of the Haywards’ children and grandchildren are Bahamians, and I think their level of interest and focus might be more than the St. Georges.”

Hayward, who is the grandson of the late Sir Jack Hayward, former co-chairman of the company, played an integral role in Coral Vita, the world’s first land-based commercial coral farm for reef restoration, opening on Grand Bahama.   

He was also instrumental in securing the multimillion-dollar Six Senses luxury resort project to Grand Bahama and through his Blue Action Lab is involved in projects aimed at finding solutions to a range of climate change issues, ranging from the restoration of ocean ecosystems to food security.

“I believe we need young minds, we need great inventions, we need great opportunities to be able to rebound and take this island where it needs to go,” said Cooper.

“There is no way Grand Bahama should be in the state that it is in; lack of investments and developments, just a bunch of empty promises that we continue to wait time and time to see.

“And so, yes, some decisions need to be made and they need to be made very fast.”

Hayward, meanwhile, hopes to see a transformation of Freeport.

“I believe the transformation of Freeport and Grand Bahama, created by a new partnership already proposed to the government, is an opportunity that can attract billions of dollars in investment, create thousands of jobs, and deliver the expertise and infrastructure for The Bahamas to build a truly climate-resilient future,” he said.

“As Bahamians and long-term stakeholders in Grand Bahama, the Haywards also want to see substantive change.”

Hayward said that since being reincluded as beneficial owners of GBPA in 2020, the family has been instrumental in securing multi-million-dollar investments to the island.

“We want to form a deep partnership with the government to reimagine and revolutionize the GBPA, so that it is once again a true public-private partnership and a world-class organization that represents the interests of all stakeholders and that Grand Bahamians and indeed, all Bahamians, can be proud of,” he said.

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button