FIXING GRAND BAHAMA
Since the havoc wrought by the passage of back to back hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, the island of Grand Bahama has struggled to regain its economic footing. The closure of one of the island’s largest employers dealt a near deadly blow to the nation’s second city. Once a bustling metropolis, the city of Freeport has become a ghost town, a shadow of its former self. Unfortunately for residents on Grand Bahama, the economic policies advanced by both the former and current administrations have done little to breathe new life into the island.
Since taking office in 2012 this PLP government has failed to deliver on any of the promises made over the course of the election campaign. More than two years into this term in office, and residents on Grand Bahama Island continue to suffer as a result of the lack of a clear and sustainable vision for the island’s development.
Grand Bahama Island and the city of Freeport has long boasted superior infrastructure, close proximity to the United States and the capacity to support both small and large scale investments. Sadly though, successive governments have failed to take advantage of the specific advantages which exist on the island. As has been the case for years, the government continues its Nassau centric approach to governance leaving Grand Bahama and other family islands to fend for themselves.
With record unemployment and skyrocketing energy costs stifling the economy, residents on Grand Bahama have proven resilient even without the benefit of good governance. Now though, the implementation of VAT threatens to curtail any minimal progress the island has made in recent times. Unlike the rest of the country, VAT will have very different implications for the city of Freeport which already enjoys certain customs discounts as a result of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement. Now, just weeks out from the January 1, 2015 implementation there has been little if any public proclamations from government officials about the differences for the nation’s second city. Instead, residents remain in the dark about the major changes which will have an immediate and long term effect on their lives moving forward.
The government’s relationship with the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) has also left much to be desired. Even now with the existence of a Ministry of Grand Bahama, entrepreneurs on Grand Bahama continue to experience unprecedented levels of red tape in their efforts to become economically independent. Rather than working to foster a mutually beneficial relationship with the principals of the GBPA the government has taken a hands-off approach to dealing with the entity which continues to exercise governmental authority within the city of Freeport. For residents in East and West Grand Bahama the lack of development is a familiar story as well.
The city once described as The Magic City has lost the vibrancy that gave it that name in the first place. Clearly Bahamians living in the nation’s second city deserve more. They deserve a government with a clear vision for the island’s future development and the will to execute those plans. They deserve a government committed to altering the island’s economic future for the better and encouraging the resurgence of Bahamian owned businesses both within the city of Freeport and on the island’s extremities as well.
The DNA is that government. The Democratic National Alliance is committed to a hands on approach to governance on Grand Bahama. The DNA understands that any plan for economic turnaround on Grand Bahama must first begin through sustained and open dialogue with the Grand Bahama Port Authority. Coupled with real steps to lower the cost of energy and a plan to get more Bahamians back to work, the magic which once gave Freeport its name can be cultivated again.