The Economic Recovery Committee’s (ERC) executive summary report reserved a section for recommendations related to Grand Bahama, suggesting the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) be audited to determine if it is fulfilling its mandate and then gradually “devolve” its power.
The ERC report notes Grand Bahama’s importance in the country’s growth and development, but laments the island’s stunted growth and development.
The ERC noted in its assessment that addressing the island’s negative growth and development will require “bold and transformative thinking”.
“The island’s economy has experienced contractions and sluggish growth, which has in turn led to pronounced depopulation and brain drain,” the ERC report states.
The report therefore recommends the GBPA audit and eventual diminishment.
“Assess the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s suitability to carry out its developmental and promotional mandates, including a review of the entity’s financials,” the report states.
“If it is determined that the agency is unable to fulfill its mandate, then appropriate action on the government’s behalf should be taken to address this issue.
“Gradually devolve the rights, powers and obligations presently held by the Grand Bahama Port Authority to a local authority comprised of current GBPA licensees, Port Group Ltd. representatives and central/local government representatives.”
As was suggested by GBPA’s own economic committee, called the Revitalization and Expansion of the Economy of Freeport (REEF) committee, the ERC report contends that government should “urgently” take ownership of the Grand Bahama International Airport through “negotiation with the GBPA and other lawful means”.
The government has pledged to acquire the airport and is currently in negotiations with the GBPA and Hutchison Port Holdings.
The ERC has also called on the Grand Bahama Development Company Limited (DEVCO) to develop and publish a “master development plan” or land use plan, “to ensure that the land granted by the colonial government is being developed in alignment with the provisions set out in the Hawksbill Creek Agreement”.
The ERC has also called on the government to pass legislation or gazette the legislation that would reveal the tax concessions granted to the GBPA and its licensees.
“The lack of formal legislation evidencing the extension of tax exemptions is creating uncertainty among licensees and prospective licensees of the GBPA and may serve as a hindrance to future investment,” the ERC report states.