|Authored by:||Eric Rose|
|Source:||Bahamas Information Services|
|Date:||May 9, 2016|
NASSAU, The Bahamas — Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie said in the House of Assembly, on May 9, 2016, that because of the changes contemplated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the Government entered into with pertinent Grand Bahama private sector stakeholders, all involved can “get beyond many of the issues that have held Freeport back,” and fulfill the promise that Freeport holds to become “an important engine for growth and prosperity in The Bahamas.””Freeport is a globally strategic asset, with tremendous infrastructure and geographic significance that can support growth for years to come,” Prime Minister Christie said. “With the right focus and a refreshed partnership with key private sector players, we can and will make Freeport into a vibrant integrated logistics hub, second to none in the region.”Prime Minister Christie was presenting his Communication on the Review Of Expiring Concessions Contained In The Hawksbill Creek Grand Bahama (Deep Water Harbour And Industrial Area) Extension Of Tax Exemption Act, 1993.
The MOU the Government entered into is with the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) Limited and key entities controlled by GBPA, Hutchison Ports, CK Property Holdings Ltd. and the Port Group — namely GBPA, Freeport Harbour Company Ltd., Grand Bahama Development Company Ltd., and Freeport Industrial & Commercial Ltd.
The Government also executed a Waiver of Exclusivity Agreement with Freeport Harbour Company Ltd. with respect to the operation of cruise ports on Grand Bahama.
Prime Minister Christie stated that the Government will “dramatically” expand and diversify the tourism offering allowing visitors from around the world to experience and enjoy the natural beauty and features of Grand Bahama Island.
He added that they will also create an integrated public/private approach to attracting the next generation of industries and anchor investors to continue the momentum of growth, creating new and different employment opportunities for Freeport.
“We are competing in an increasingly global economy, and this Memorandum Of Understanding charts a path for us to create a new vision for Freeport as a special investment zone, as well as mechanisms for the Government to deliver our part in creating an investor-friendly environment,” Prime Minister Christie pointed out.
He also said that the negotiations of this MOU were complex, involving multiple counterparties, but the result is a comprehensive approach to development that includes short-term stimuli in the form of specific investments, as well as longer-term investments in the governance and infrastructure of Freeport.
Most immediately, Prime Minister Christie continued, provisions of the agreement will result in “significant new investment projects” that will retain and expand key industries in Grand Bahama.
“There is now a clear path to the expansion of the Freeport Container Port through Phase V and Phase VI, expecting to commence in the second half of this year, 2016,” Prime Minister Christie said.
“In addition, the Memorandum Of Understanding provides for expanded cruise operations in Grand Bahama. When coupled with ongoing discussions with MSC (the Mediterranean Shipping Company) to consider home porting, a container port repair facility, a logistics center, creating a maritime training center, and opening up employment for large numbers of Bahamians on their ships, Grand Bahama is poised for significant expansion as a hub for cruise operations,” Prime Minister Christie said.
“Additionally the Memorandum Of Understanding contains an overall public/private sector partnership commitment to recruitment and training of Bahamians to meet present and future diverse manpower skills.”
He noted that beyond specific short-term investments, the Government has secured “historic” commitments to change the governance paradigm in Grand Bahama, and a mechanism to enhance transparency into the GBPAâ€™s financial affairs.
The MOU provides a mechanism for the Government to play a “meaningful” role in steering and overseeing critical infrastructure and development via seats on the Boards of the GBPA and land development companies, Prime Minister Christie added.
“It also provides the licensees the opportunity to participate in governance by nominating a member to the Grand Bahama Port Authority Board,” Prime Minister Christie said. “We have also come to agreement, in principle, to align the regulatory functions of the Grand Bahama Port Authority with the national regulatory framework and policies of The Bahamas Government, and to establish a process for licensee appeals.”
“These changes will allow increased public understanding and dialogue about the inner workings of Freeport that have long been opaque and inaccessible to Freeport stakeholders,” he added. “The changes will also help to mitigate conflicts associated with Grand Bahama Port Authority and its affiliates operating simultaneously as licensor giving the licenses, as licensee receiving the licenses, and regulator.”