Economic recovery committe calls for dismantling of GBPA

Economic recovery committe calls for dismantling of GBPA
Aerial photo of Freeport, Grand Bahama. (FILE PHOTO)

Former counsel says GBPA not the “main culprit” of Grand Bahama’s economic woes

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government’s Economic Recovery Committee has recommended the government gradually strip the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) of its power in lieu of a local authority “comprised of current GBPA Licensees, Port Group Ltd representatives, and central/local government representatives”.

In an executive summary of the ERC’s report released yesterday, the committee recommended an assessment of “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 continued: “If it is determined that the agency is unable to fulfil its mandate, then the appropriate action on The Government’s behalf should be taken to address this issue.”

However, a former GBPA lawyer argued the authority is “far from the main culprit” as it relates to the lack of economic activity in Grand Bahama.

Carey Leonard, former GBPA in-house counsel, told Eyewitness News yesterday that based on its recommendations, the ERC did not appear to have an understanding of how the Port area operates.

The committee also recommended that governmental ownership and control over the Grand Bahama International Airport be obtained “urgently” via negotiation with the GBPA and other lawful means.

“It is clear that the committee does not have an understanding of how the economy of the Port Area is connected and appears to put all the blame on the GBPA for the lack of the economic activity,” said Leonard.

“I am on record in my criticism of the GBPA but it is far from the main culprit, Hutchison.  The Committee clearly does not understand how Hutchison operates and negotiates. The idea of taking the Airport alone (it must take the Harbour as well) again shows a lack of understanding. All in all the summary , when it comes to the Port Area, is fluff and has nothing concrete to offer.”

The ERC has also recommended the Grand Bahama Development Company Limited (DEVCO) be urged to develop and publish a Master Development (or Land Use) Plan “in order 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.”

It also recommended that legislation be passed or that the relevant legislation be gazetted to evidence that the tax concessions granted to the GBPA and its licensees, which expired on August 4, 2015, have been extended.

“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 said.