Growing Grand Bahama
At a time when the country remains in dire need of a new fiscal direction, the Government of the Bahamas continues to ignore the vast economic potential that exists in and around Grand Bahama Island; allowing it to be stifled. Add to that this administration’s neglect of government buildings and its civil servants and an overall disregard to good governance and Grand Bahama Island continues in limbo. Similarly, the Free National Movement has failed to be an acceptable alternative to the current administration. Over the past several months they have been preoccupied by an ongoing power struggle and unnecessary infighting.
Since the PLP took office in 2012, Grand Bahamians have continued to be plagued by record unemployment, the crippling cost of electricity and an overall lack of opportunity. After years of failing to cultivate a culture of cooperation with the Grand Bahama Port Authority, the government is only now – at the height of the political season – seeking to foster the kind of relationship needed to pull the island out of the economic doldrums.
With just over a year before the next general election, Grand Bahama Island is only now becoming a top priority for this Christie government, particularly as it relates to the possible extension of concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA). After months of delay, the government appointed taskforce on the issue recently issued a number of recommendations on the way forward. Sadly however, they offered no substantive changes that would benefit anyone other than the wealthy landowners within the city of Freeport who already benefit from those concessions. The recommendations offer no similar concessions to land owners in East and West Grand Bahama, nor does it allow those taxes to perhaps be paid in lieu of Value Added Tax. In that regard, the Christie administration missed an opportunity to level the economic playing field and finally give Bahamian business owners a fighting chance.
The Democratic National Alliance has long touted the idea of empowering Bahamians. This is the only way to truly reverse the trend of high unemployment. In order to comprehensively address unemployment OUR GOVERNMENT and OUR PEOPLE must move away from this idea of creating jobs and work on CREATING LONG TERM CAREERS for Bahamians and even better…BUSINESS OWNERS. By now, we all know that it is small and medium sized business which act as the economic engine of any country and it is the responsibility of a GOOD GOVERNMENT to create the kind of environment which would allow such enterprises to grow and flourish. This will mean rolling out the red carpet to local investors as we do for foreign investors.
By improving the ease of doing business, we stand to increase the number of entrepreneurs among us. Those small business owners can then in tern provide employment opportunities for other Bahamians and hopefully encourage others to take a similar route. Coupled with addressing the shortfalls in the education system the move toward creating employers rather than employees is a surefire way of stimulating the economy.
Encouraging the start of new businesses is not enough. Ensuring that those businesses are able to thrive and grow is equally important. Sadly, here on GBI more than anywhere else in the country, the exorbitant cost of electricity threatens the very viability of small and medium sized businesses. Not long ago the DNA unveiled its national energy reform plan dubbed the Clean Energy Project. The Democratic National Alliance released its plans for energy reform which we are calling the Clean Energy Project. (CEP). That initiative seeks to reduce the cost per kilowatt hour in the Bahamas to the lowest in the region.
It will also allow for the self-generation of electricity for home owners and business owners who will then be able to resell electricity to the grid and, through the use of submarine cables, secure the immediate benefits of a lower energy costs for residents in this country. The project also outlines the DNA’s commitment to the establishment of the industry of renewable energy. PUT SIMPLY: IT’S TIME TO GO GREEN! Through the use of solar, waste and wind technologies, the plan provides for the expansion of the country’s energy generating capacity which will in the long and short term provide generation to cover up to 30% of the country’s overall power consumption needs. As a country, which exists within the hurricane belt, the CEP takes such issues into consideration.
For far too long now, the magic which once made this island a gem within our archipelago has been missing. The years of neglect and mismanagement, has not however, dampened the spirit of residents on this island. Grand Bahamians remain some of the most resilient people I have ever met. YOU deserve a new start, new leadership and a new government committed to restoring the Magic that was once Freeport.