Highlighting $1.5 billion in investments slated for Grand Bahama, as well as challenges that have set back the business and investment climate on the island, the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) last week said it agreed with Prime Minister Philip Davis that decisive action is needed.
Last week, as he delivered the 2023/2024 budget communication in the House of Assembly, Prime Minister Philip Davis said the time had come for “decisive action”, as his administration had serious concerns regarding the compliance of the GBPA and its related companies with the terms and conditions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, adding that the governance model of the port needs to be changed.
He made the comments after revealing a nine percent drop in Grand Bahama’s economy in 2022, which was a rebound year for The Bahamas, during which there was overall economic growth of 14.4 percent.
In a statement released on Thursday, the GBPA stood behind its contribution to Grand Bahama’s development over the past seven decades, saying any decisive action requires collaboration and partnership between the government and the port in the best interests of Grand Bahamians.
“GBPA agrees that ‘decisive action’ is required to continue to achieve the promise of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement. That decisive action should include extending the real property tax exemption to all licensees, eliminating the growing uncertainty surrounding Freeport’s investment and business climate,” the port said.
“Additionally, there is an urgent need to promulgate the new Freeport by-laws that have been awaiting adoption for years, and also the repeal of Section 68 of the EPPA, which subjects licensees and prospective investors to duplication of costly exercises and government delays. Imperative action should be taken to implement recommendations tabled by GBPA’s REEF Committee and the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce regarding the ease of doing business in Freeport.”
Noting that Grand Bahama remains one of the hardest hit islands in the country from successive natural disasters over the past 20 years – including hurricanes Jean, Francis, Wilma, Matthew, and Dorian – as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, the GBPA said Freeport’s economic struggles must be viewed in that context.
“The green shoots of recovery are emerging and our plans for the city – including more than $1.5 billion of new investment for the island – are well underway. These initiatives include the new Carnival Cruise Port, the Royal Caribbean, ITM and MSC cruise port; a $250 million, world-class hotel, residential and luxury resort under the Weller and Six Senses brand; the Lucayas Solar Power 9.5 MW facility currently under construction, Xquisite Yachts Catamaran Center, and planned expansions at both the Western Atlantic University School of Medicine, EY [Ernst & Young], plus other projects such as the major $500 million GB Shipyard expansion,” the GBPA said.
“Our ongoing promotion of Freeport as a premier destination for business investment demonstrates GBPA’s commitment. This includes ensuring that Freeport has the necessary infrastructure it needs to support a growing economy to attract and retain new businesses. Multimillion-dollar investments by GBPA in roadworks and beautification of our city, including demolishing derelict and unsafe building structures, have been completed, while we recognize there is still much work to do.”
However, Progressive Liberal Party Chairman (PLP) Fred Mitchell, in a Labour Day voice message on Friday that was shared on social media, said the GBPA cannot take credit for those investments.
“The Grand Bahama Port Authority gave a list in their press release of investments which they say shows that they are fulfilling their obligations in investment and in repairing infrastructure. But I say to them with the greatest respect, that what they have listed has nothing to do with them at all, not the efforts of the Grand Bahama Port Authority. And it only goes down on their count because they are the overlords of the city, but it’s not anything that they did,” he said.
“The government brought those investments to Grand Bahama. They abandoned the hotel, they abandoned the airport. That is the Grand Bahama Port Authority. As for infrastructure, why is the bridge to East End still half finished and appears can’t be finished? Why? What a time, what a shame.”