By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMAS Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation's (BCCEC) chief executive, Jeffrey Beckles, yesterday stressed that a commitment to Bahamian ownership and involvement in the Nassau cruise port redevelopment is "critical", adding Bahamians must return to the downtown district.
"Obviously a commitment to Bahamian ownership and Bahamian involvement is critical because Bahamians need to become a functional part of the economy by owning and being able to conduct business in the economy," Mr Beckles told Tribune Business
"At the end of the day, the transformation of downtown includes all of what is going to happen at the port."
He added: "The revival of Bay Street and the northern foreshore of Bay Street is key to our economic growth as well because not only will it provide for Bahamians to be involved but cause there to be a greater attraction for the city of Nassau and commerce and come alive in the downtown district.
"Right now the biggest cry is that there is no commerce downtown, Bahamians aren't involved and downtown is a place Bahamians won't go. We have to change that. We have to cause there to be a reason for Bahamians to come downtown. I think the port deal can be the indicator that the effort is underway to ensure that happens."
On Wednesday, the Minnis administration signed a Heads of Agreement for a $250m project with Global Ports Holding to redevelop and manage the Nassau Cruise Port. The project will anchor the administration's efforts to revitalise downtown Nassau.
Through its 25-year management agreement, Global Ports Holding will spearhead the development of a new terminal, a waterfront park, a harbour village, a new inner harbour, an amphitheatre, a Junkanoo museum, shops, restaurants and theatre. Construction is expected to be complete and the new facilities opened by 2022.
Under the deal, the number of berthing facilities for cruise ships will increase from six to eight, increasing the number of potential cruise passenger arrivals.
According to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis 500 jobs are expected during the construction phase of the project, with the government agreeing to an 80 percent Bahamian workforce during that stage.