GB does not need any charity from Nassau

Dear Editor,

A prominent solicitor who responded to the remarks of the financial secretary in the Ministry of Finance in The Tribune Business spoke for most Grand Bahamians when he essentially said that New Providence was not sustaining Grand Bahama in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019.

He countered that it was the other way around, with the majority of civil servants residing in New Providence. These civil servants’ salaries are partially funded by Grand Bahamian taxpayers.

I would go even further by stating that Grand Bahama does not need any charity from New Providence.

According to The Tribune, Simon Wilson said that “New Providence and other islands cannot ‘cross-subsidize’ these concessions forever.”

Wilson’s statement was in regards to the expiration of the Special Economic Recovery Zone (SERZ) implemented by the Free National Movement administration.

Grand Bahamians and Abaconians seeking further concessions will now have their applications vetted on a case by case basis.

Wilson was absolutely correct when he alleged that the SERZ orders were abused by unscrupulous individuals seeking to evade taxes.

In fact, hundreds of New Providence residents benefited directly, by having their unscrupulous Grand Bahamian families bring in vehicles, appliances, building supplies and other expensive wares from abroad without having to pay duty and value-added tax.

I know. I saw many SUV trucks which were allegedly shipped in from the United States, and were headed for New Providence for the folks “who cannot continue to cross-subsidize these concessions forever”.

In this regard, the Progressive Liberal Party administration should not be faulted for seeking to put an end to this abuse. This is where I stand in solidarity with Wilson and his government bosses.

Where we part ways is him inadvertently giving the impression that New Providence has been sustaining Grand Bahama economically via the Dorian related tax concessions.

At least, this is how Grand Bahamians have interpreted Wilson.

Wilson’s estimation that the state has forfeited $150 million over the past three years in tax concessions to Grand Bahama and Abaco is a drop in the bucket, when you factor in the billions of dollars in damage sustained by the two northern islands.

Grand Bahama is home to Buckeye Bahamas (BORCO), Polymers International Limited, Martin Marietta – Bahama Rock, Grand Bahama Shipyard Limited, Freeport Container Port Limited, Bradford Marine, Emera’s Grand Bahama Power Company and Equinor South Riding Point.

Combined, these lucrative corporations dump tens of millions into the Public Treasury via taxes, whether directly or indirectly, through the enviable salaries of their Bahamian employees.

On an annual basis, the state probably collects hundreds of millions of dollars from Grand Bahama alone.

It is the presence of the foregoing industrial organizations on Grand Bahama which have prevented it from completely collapsing financially, after the closure of the Royal Oasis Resort and Casino in 2004 and the rapid deterioration of the tourism sector on the island.

New Providence’s continued economic growth coincides with Grand Bahama’s abysmal economy, which is ironclad evidence that the former’s success has no financial bearing on the latter.

To underscore this point, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, internationally based NGOs such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse, World Central Kitchen and American and Canadian donors that came to the aid of desperate Grand Bahamians and Abaconians.

Had Grand Bahamians been left to depend on the Bahamian government and Nassau, many of them would’ve starved to death.

Those who were gravely ill would’ve probably died had it not been for Samaritan’s Purse.

Had it not been for Emera, most of Grand Bahama would’ve been without electricity well into 2020.

The scope of rebuilding the power grid in a timely manner was well beyond the expertise of Bahamas Power and Light.

Yes, help came from New Providence via NEMA, but it was infinitesimal when compared to what international donors contributed.

Moreover, whatever help came from Nassau via the state was slow in coming, with many frustrated Grand Bahamians encountering red tape.

I am grateful for the small bag of groceries we received from the state weeks after Dorian landed.

I don’t blame Wilson for attempting to get a handle of the many abuses that allegedly occurred under the SERZ orders, but I sincerely believe that his “cross-subsidize” claims have over exaggerated Nassau’s assistance to Grand Bahama.

Once again, I want to reiterate to the good people of New Providence that it was the foreign NGOs that came to the rescue of Grand Bahama in a tangible manner.

Whatever assistance that came out of New Providence was minuscule at best.

— Kevin Evans

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