The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce’s newly-elected president hasexpressed “cautious optimism” for Grand Bahama’s economy, following the recently-completed acquisition of PharmaChem Technologies (Grand Bahama’s) net assets.
Apart from the purchase by PharmaChem Acquisition Company, Kevin D. Seymour also cited as reasons for his outlook Freeport Harbour Company’s East Harbour Expansion Project; the proposed Phase V expansion at Freeport Container Port; the pending sale of Port Lucaya Marketplace by Bourbon Street Ltd to P&H Properties; the 33 per cent increase in visitor arrivals to Grand Bahama over the last eight months; and the recent announcement by Ascot Grand Bahama of its beachfront residential/resort-styled hotel on Royal Palm Way.
Mr Seymour said these transactions, projects, promotions and proposals are clear demonstrations that interest in Grand Bahama continues to be high, notwithstanding the many challenges confronting the island’s economy.
He warned, though, that “we all have seen this movie before,” where the island is said to be poised for a strong recovery and then nothing happens.
He added that key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Grand Bahama, the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) and the island’s business owners must move speedily to ensure that the ultimate outcome of the sequel is different.
Mr Seymour, whose campaign slogan was ‘Continuation, Collaboration and Competition’, said his administration will work closely with the central government, the GBPA and business owners/licensees with a view to having the property tax and income tax exemptions under the Freeport Grand Bahama Act 1993 and the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, respectively, which are expected to end in August 2015, extended through until 2054.
He conceded that an automatic extension was not “a given”, and the negotiation will likely involve the GBPA and the Grand Bahama Development Company (DEVCO) committing to certain additional “works and undertakings”.
Mr Seymour said there must be greater collaboration between the Government, the GBPA and business owners/licensees to ensure there is a coordinated approach to investment promotion, and that promising investment proposals are translated into actual “going concerns” which employ residents of the island.
He reiterated the previous Chamber administration’s call for Freeport to be unleashed as a Free Trade Zone, so that it is able to fully leverage its geographical and infrastructural advantages.
And Mr Seymour said promoting Freeport as a Free Trade Zone, coupled with a smart Immigration policy that seeks to attract professionals such as research scientists, engineers, physicians, commercial attorneys and information technology specialists, will make the country more competitive and help increase the island’s population, creating the “critical mass” needed for small business owners to thrive.
Turning his attention to the expected implementation of Value-Added Tax (VAT) on January 1, 2015, Mr Seymour urged the Chamber’s members and other businesses to ensure their readiness assessments and registration are completed before the deadline.
He warned that delay and procrastination is not an option, as the Government will be proceeding with its implementation plans.
Mr Seymour reassured Chamber members and other business owners that the organisation will continue its lobbying efforts with Ministry of Finance and central government officials, to have services traded between GBPA licensees, which are currently targeted as as ‘VAT-able’, treated in the same manner as ‘Schedule II Goods’ under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, which are not.