The ease of doing business must be carefully examined in order for the government to attract foreign investors to operate and conduct business in the technology fields, particularly on Grand Bahama (GB), said Senator Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State for GB in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Thompson made this statement during his contribution to the debate of the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Amendment Bill, 2018 in the Senate recently.
One such area, he shared, must be addressed is that of the cost of electricity on Grand Bahama.
Thompson suggested that an alternative – solar energy – through the Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC) would and should be a viable option.
“Madam President, one of the things that the government has embarked on is a mission to make Grand Bahama a technology hub. One of the things that is vitally important for us to make Grand Bahama this technology hub, is to make sure that we are able to provide electricity at a commercially reasonable cost.
“It does not make sense for us to have this thrust on bringing in all of these technology companies which are going to be doing a number of things. Some may be doing light manufacturing, others may have their data centers, while some may be involved in the nano-technology industry. It does not make sense to market and to bring in all of these companies if we cannot provide electricity at a commercially viable cost for them,” Thompson stated.
He noted that following the highly successful Grand Bahama Technology Summit that was held late last year, a Steering Committee was formulated shortly thereafter, geared towards offering recommendations to enhance and develop the industry here on the island.
Thompson said that while the recommendations received were vast, one of the suggestions outlined by the committee was addressing the high cost of electricity on the island.
“We have continued this thrust to make Grand Bahama a technology hub. We have had our technology summit in November of last year. After the summit we indicated that within a 30-day period we wanted to announce our Grand Bahama Tech Steering Committee. In December, within that 30-day period, we were able to appoint the Technology Steering Committee. We also said that we wanted that Steering Committee to provide its recommendations in the month of January.
“I am happy to say that the Steering Committee has met, on a number of occasions. They have completed all of their recommendations and they have been able to present those recommendations to the government,” The GB Minister of State added.
“The government, now, is reviewing all of the recommendations. I will say that the recommendations were extensive. They made recommendations from education, what we need to do with power, what needs to be done with exchange control, ease of doing business and how the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) works. They recommended how we should market, who we should be marketing to, recommended different conferences that we need to start to target,” revealed the Senator.
“It was a very extensive group of recommendations that the government is now considering … on how we move forward. Pieces of legislation that we need to change, we are also looking at those recommendations as well.”
Thompson said that one of the things the government must encourage GBPC to do is provide rates that will allow those companies to provide the greatest opportunities for Bahamian employment.
He disclosed that government has been in talks with GBPC executives, “but we must continue to encourage them to be able to provide power, especially to these large companies, that will be providing employment for Bahamians; we must be able to encourage them to provide rates for these companies that will allow those companies to provide the greatest opportunities for Bahamian employment.
“Again, it does not make sense to invite companies to come or invite companies to revitalize Grand Bahama, when one of the biggest costs that might be unsustainable is the cost of electricity. One thing that they must realize and we are encouraging them to do is, if the more companies that come in and they provide those companies with a reasonable rate of power, then the more business and customers they would have.
“The more customers they have the more profit they will be able to make, but if they keep their rate at one, that is not sustainable for these companies to come in then no one will win,” stated Thompson.
He added that discussions between the government and the power company will continue and they believe that talks are fruitful, in terms of them being prepared to look at different rates and different arrangements.
“We believe that this does not just benefit the large companies that come in. If we are able to get larger companies to come in and we are able to get more persons on the grid; the more people on the grid that you get, the lower cost of electricity is going to be for all of us.
“This isn’t just a thrust to provide a lower cost of electricity for large businesses, it is a thrust to allow us to have more people on the grid so that the cost of electricity will go down for everyone, particularly those residents who live in Grand Bahama.
“Madam President, we commend the government for moving forward with respect to these pieces of legislation. They are important, they, I believe, will continue the overall plan that the government has to reduce the cost of electricity. That is a huge item for us and also to encourage solarization, to encourage renewable energy and to encourage us to continue to move forward in that direction. I support the pieces of legislation,” said Thompson.