GB licensees, Central Govt. at crossroads

One of the mandates the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) is to adhere to, as spelled out in the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, signed in 1955, is the responsibility for business licenses in the City of Freeport.


This situation that was clear-cut once ago, has become, in recent times, sort of convoluted.


Last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie’s communication to the House of Assembly regarding the regulations that must be followed in order for GBPA licensees to receive concessions, added even more confusion.


GBPA licensees, according to the government, must now fill out detailed application forms that could be extremely challenging to the average licensee. It is the understanding here that very soon, the Ministry for Grand Bahama, intends, on behalf of the Government of The Bahamas to exact certain fees in addition to the completed forms in order for business licensees in Grand Bahama to be compliant. No doubt, the Minister for Grand Bahama, Dr. Michael Darville will lead related interactions with the GBPA and its licensees.


This directive by the government seems to be quite overbearing and complicated. To some of the small businesspersons, the process will amount to torture for them. What will be the time frame to submit the applications for concessions?


Christie informed of the requirements.


“The application form also requires applicants to submit key documents prior to approval. These include evidence of the current number of employees, evidence of Value Added Tax (VAT) compliance, evidence that the investment is sufficiently financed, an economic impact assessment, an environmental management plan, if requested by the board; and a site plan of the development.”


That’s an incredibly tall order.


It seems to us that many of the business licensees in Grand Bahama are already at a distinct disadvantage. There are those for sure, who have the wherewithal to easily address the complicated application form and will meet the deadline put in place. Most likely it is the Ministry of Grand Bahama that will address the time frame for the applications.


We wonder about the jurisdiction of the government, considering the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, to deal directly with licensees in this manner. It is of concern also that the process seems almost inhumane, when one thinks of the limitations of many businesspersons in Grand Bahama.


Today, with many businesspersons in Grand Bahama still reeling in the aftermath of the storm Hurricane Matthew, flexibility should be afforded.


A meaningful grace period should be extended to GB businesspersons by the government, through the Ministry of Grand Bahama.


To emphasize the complexity of the situation, we wish to point out a particular matter of confusion that licensees are asked to digest.


In the Official Gazette of The Bahamas, the Application of Act says:


“This Act shall apply to a licensee who—


a. Owns less than five acres of undeveloped land in the Port Area;


b.  Being a non-Bahamian, owns five acres or more of undeveloped land in the Port Area, whether contiguous or otherwise; or


c. Owns developed land and carries on or intends to carry on business within the Port Area whether or not the licensee is the beneficial owner of the property.”


This begs one very important question.


What about licensees (Bahamian) who own five acres or more in the Port Area? The above section of the Act does not speak to them.


Since, it seems that the Ministry for Grand Bahama is carrying this ball, licensees should ask for full explanations that pertain to the application for concessions.


Indeed, a lot more needs to be explained.


Published  Thursday, February 16, 2017 


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