0

Freeport Suffers ‘12 Years Of Ineptitude’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Freeport’s economic malaise is today blamed on 12 years of “ineptitude and gross mismanagement” by the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) and its affiliates, a well-known attorney bemoaning its owners’ failure to reinvest despite extracting $300 million from the city.

Terence Gape, a Freeport-based Dupuch & Turnquest partner for more than 40 years, writes in Tribune Business today (see Page 3B) that the GBPA’s two shareholder families - not the Government - are responsible for the city’s ongoing “economic crisis”.

Backing the approach adopted by the Christie administration and its Hawksbill Creek Agreement Review Committee, Mr Gape said the latter’s 12 recommendations were in line with “the majority of Grand Bahama public opinion”.

While agreeing with his fellow attorneys, the Callenders & Co duo of Carey Leonard and Fred Smith QC, that the Hawksbill Creek Agreement’s integrity should be preserved, Mr Gape argues that it would be a mistake to maintain Freeport’s ‘status quo’ via a blanket renewal of the expiring tax incentives.

He instead proposes that only Freeport’s large industrial sector be given an instant 20-year renewal, in order to facilitate ‘pipeline’ projects such as PharmaChem’s $100 million expansion and the proposed Phase V at the Freeport Container Port.

Arguing that Freeport’s economy was “moribund” despite the real property tax, capital gains and income tax breaks having been in place for the past 30 years, Mr Gape said calls for their renewal merited deeper consideration by the Government.

“Carey [Leonard] and others seem to be developing an argument that the tax exemptions not being immediately renewed, and somehow an immediate resurgence of the Freeport economy not happening, is the fault of the Government,” Mr Gape writes on Page 3B.

“I would point out that this present deplorable condition of the Freeport/Grand Bahama economy is NOT the fault of the Government, and the Committee is quite right that there is a need for significant changes to take place before these exemptions should be universally granted.”

He added: “It must also be agreed that because of the ineptitude and/or gross mismanagement by the families [Haywards and St Georges] and DevCo (families and Hutchison) over the past 12 years, in particular, Freeport’s economy remains in crisis.

“The Families have taken over $300 million out of Freeport and the Bahamas since 1993 and have not re-invested in Freeport. Never had a plan.”

Mr Gape argues that a ‘blanket renewal’ of the expiring investment incentives would merely preserve this “status quo”, and that the Government needs to use them to force ownership and management changes at the GBPA and Grand Bahama Development Company’s (DevCo).

DevCo is 50/50 owned by the GBPA’s Port Group Ltd affiliate and Hutchison Whampoa, with the latter holding management rights over a company that owns some 70,000 acres.

Mr Gape, though, argues that DevCo’s “present ownership and direction cannot stand”, given the 16-year inertia that has seen minimal real estate-related development in Freeport.

Comments

sheeprunner12 6 years, 2 months ago

So what Uncle Tom (Ian Rolle) has to say about that????????

0

Economist 6 years, 2 months ago

What would you expect an Uncle Tom to say?

Nothing has happened since he has been president. His actions, or should one say, his failure to act at all, says it all.

He is a good part of the problem.

0

The_Oracle 6 years, 2 months ago

To say that Government has had no role in the decay of Freeport is disingenuous, Their latest "push" is no exception. Both political parties have had their way with the Port Authority ownership, all the while undermining the agreement itself, to the detriment of Bahamian licensees more so than Foreign licensees. Foreign licensees just leave when it is no longer viable to be there. That something needs to happen is obvious, that Government intervention could be beneficial is ludicrous. Much complicity within the legal fraternity, political fraternity was fine when both groups were making money was no problem, have things dried up sufficiently for them to now grumble?

0

sheeprunner12 6 years, 2 months ago

GBPA has out-lived its usefulness ......... the guys with the original vision are dead, the old social regime (black vs. white) is now grey, and the central government needs more revenue .......its time to tear up the Hawksbill Creek Agreement

0

dfitzerl 6 years, 2 months ago

HCA cannot be legally torn up. Nor do we wish to tear it up. The free trade zone that it created is a real asset to the economy of the entire Bahamas if managed productively. The issue is not the Agreement. The issue is its governance.

If you don't believe me, ask the east and south Asian countries that modelled their economies after it and surpassed us in development.

0

birdiestrachan 6 years, 2 months ago

It is good to see that Mr: Gape will come forward and write the truth. It must have taken much courage. Because there are to many who refuse to speak the truth about GBPA. and to many who are willing to believe the lies.

0

The_Oracle 6 years, 2 months ago

Courage? More like fiscal strangulation. He was fine with all the shenanigans of the last 30 plus years as the money was rolling in, now that the lawyers feel the pinch they weigh in? A bit late and he is still a dollar short!

0

Sign in to comment