EDITOR, The Tribune.
Your editorial on Wednesday the 4th December is apropos. Even before Dorian, we had the launch of our Tech Hub in Freeport and I had hoped that we might have opened our eyes beyond our shores, but clearly we hadn’t, and if Freeport has not borne the fruit that we had hoped for, maybe now is a good time to look around and see what the competition is doing. The Cayman Islands, or at least its main benefactor Kenneth Dart, very likely took the original concept of Freeport Bahamas, and created, among other ventures “Cayman Enterprise City” (CEC), a city within a city “. Sound familiar? Tenants of CEC, in addition to getting various levels of office accommodation and services, had a given level of work permits thrown in FREE. I don’t know what the numbers are now but several years ago, I recall that one could get shared office accommodation and three work permits for about 12,000.00 Cayman dollars. By contrast, under our competitive offering in the tech hub, work permits would be available for professional/technical people from upwards of 12,000.00 per person. The bottom line is that no one is going to set up their tech, or medical business, in Freeport and pay a thirty-six thousand dollar premium for work permits, over a similar option in Grand Cayman where the permits are included in the rent? Not to mention other competitive imbalances, such as value added tax and high import duties.
I think that sometimes our Government feels that we exist in a vacuum, and for some things that is true, (Real Estate, Legal, Retail and Wholesale), so we only have to be competitive locally. Although our closed shop Legal Profession keeps our financial services business far behind that of the Cayman Islands.
Perhaps the best plan for Grand Bahama now is to revisit some of the elements of the original Hawksbill Creek Agreement and see what kind of economic activity might flow from another fifty years of that. Sadly, Ken Dart came to Nassau, under the previous Government, and was so unimpressed, or disgusted, that he turned around and left. Maybe some humble diplomacy could entice him back but if not maybe there are others with similar big dreams out there. The old adage is as true today as a hundred years ago “you have to spend money to make money” and for a Government, giving up on some tax revenue is the equivalent of spending money.
BRUCE G RAINE
December 8, 2019.