The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) is uniquely positioned in the overall structure of The Bahamas. It is the only private group that has autonomy in a sector of The Bahamas.
Bahamian Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe does not hold back on his distaste for the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, an arrangement that gives the GBPA quasi government status for the free port city that came to be known simply as Freeport. Wilchcombe clearly is of the view that the HCA fosters a climate whereby there “are groups making tons of money” while comparable benefits do not go to the government, under the system.
Marco City Member of Parliament Greg Moss “does not see the sense in giving a tax break to a foreigner for an island that doesn’t have any money to develop its own infrastructure.” If a majority of the Bahamas Legislature, back in 1955, had the mindset of the aforementioned present-day politicians, there never would have been a Hawksbill Creek Agreement.
Nevertheless, the HCA is a reality. So, are the terms reached with that early era legislative group, and subsequent governments led by Sir Lynden Pindling, Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie.
It is what it is.
The legislators, who came to the historic agreement with pioneer investor Wallace Groves, never envisioned what the investment has evolved to. They probably felt that another investor would pay a tidy fee for the opportunity to boost the infrastructure of a barren section of the country, become disillusioned and leave.
Wallace Groves stuck in there though. A magical city emerged and ultimately became one of the touristic wonders of this part of the world. The truth be told, the GBPA has contributed greatly to economic stability in Grand Bahama and the country. Successive central administrations recognized as much. Sir Lynden with his “bend or break” speech only wanted equal opportunities across the board for native Bahamians.
There was though, always full understanding that the HCA made the GBPA primarily responsible for the economic development of Freeport. Accordingly, the GBPA should be in the mix of all discussions regarding development by new and old investors.
Somehow it seems that this central administration is slipping away from the long-standing culture. Sure, there are the occasions when the government invites representation by the GBPA during discussions with proposed investors such as Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) etc. However, there are other times that the government goes lone wolf and appears to want to take the credit for all that looks good while being satisfied for fingers to be pointed at the GBPA regarding situations that are not particularly of the liking of Grand Bahamians.
As an example, we refer to the recent infrastructure of running water in East End Grand Bahama. The ceremony took pace and it was as if the project was totally that of the central government.
Who provided the main source of the water and other expertise for the project?
It was the GBPA of course.
The point being made is that there is little confidence in this country today, that our government leaders alone can make the right decisions for us. They should always seek to partner with others, of acknowledged capacity. In the case of Grand Bahama, the GBPA, particularly because of the HCA, should be involved with producing all frameworks for progress in Freeport and the wider island.
The GBPA is a presence.
For the sake of uplifting Grand Bahama, all central administrations should seek to adhere to ways to maximize this situation.
Published Friday, February 17, 2017