McAlpine urges caution on zoning


PINERIDGE MP Rev Frederick McAlpine.


Tribune Freeport Reporter


PINERIDGE MP Frederick McAlpine urged the government to proceed with caution and due diligence regarding specified zoning for commercial enterprises, particularly in the Family Islands.

During debate on the Commercial Enterprise Bill in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, he said the legislation does not require any consultation with the public and the proposed board on zoning.

Tensions between Rev McAlpine and members of his own party flared at one point during his speech. He expressed concern about the extent to which foreigners in Grand Bahama appear to be better off than Bahamians.

As members of his party began to mumble from their chairs, Rev McAlpine said the people of Grand Bahama were listening to their reaction to him.

“When I stand up in here and I speak boldly and proclaim, then y’all say I on the other side. I’m speaking my conscience.”

As chatter from his colleagues continued, he sat down until the room quieted.

“We can sing together but we cannot all speak together,” he said when he resumed speaking. “If I’m going to be distracted I would prefer to be distracted by the opposition, but not my colleagues.”

Supporting the bill in the end, Rev McAlpine said the legislation is not the best but the government “needs to do something,” adding that it will be a stimulus for the economy.

“People should have a right to know what industry or enterprise is coming in their area or proximity of their locality,” Rev McAlpine said earlier during his contribution.

“If there is no consultation with the public and the board on such matters it therefore leads one to believe that the zoning will be left up to the political directorates,” the outspoken Free National Movement MP said.

He is concerned that if such decision is influenced by a politician, there is a temptation for corruption.

“A more transparent process will ensure the long-term intent of this provision to be achieved,” he said.

While the bill also states that the minister of finance after consulting with the minister of financial services may prescribe such economic incentives as may be required to give effect to such Specified Commercial Enterprise Zone, Rev McAlpine said the bill speaks of very little or no measures as to how these incentives are to be met and no mechanisms put in place for oversight.

“It’s important that the board sees to it that while we are accommodating to our foreign investors and those bringing folks along, in many instances to oversee, build, work and help in establishing their business, Bahamians must be afforded an opportunity to be trained, developed and employed in the various enterprise establishments,” he said.

The MP stressed the government should see to it that specific training is facilitated for companies in a time frame for which Bahamians should be promoted to some positions in the company.

Rev McAlpine said these companies must go beyond just being a source for collecting revenue, taxes, etc, for the Consolidated Fund, and that Bahamians must feel some residual benefit.

The MP believes that the Facilitation Unit, which is to help expedite the work permits granted under the new legislation, also needs to be thorough about vetting individuals coming in the country.

“We want to know who’s coming into our country and their history is very prevalent as it relates to character, morals and source of funding,” the MP said.

“We must also ensure that those coming to do business in the country are above board in their dealings especially when it comes to Bahamian shareholders.”

The Pineridge MP also stated that many people in Grand Bahama are calling for assistance from the FNM government to deal with the Bahamian shareholders who feel that they are being taken advantage of as it relates to their shares in the Grand Bahama Power Company.

“They describe it as a hostile takeover. They want their dividends in a timely fashion and they wish to keep their shares in the company that they have invested in,” he said.

“They describe our government’s silence on this matter as deafening, please see what can be done to ensure that our people receive equity, fair play and financial justice in this matter.”


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