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‘Don’t waste billions’ on Andros as capital

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Attorney Fred Smith QC

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Freeport-based QC yesterday urged the government to “pull the trigger” on making his city The Bahamas’ future capital rather than waste “billions and billions” on moving it to Andros.

Fred Smith QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner, told Tribune Business that the country did not need to “reinvent the wheel” even though he backed calls by former attorney general, Alfred Sears QC, to move the Bahamian capital from Nassau.

Mr Sears, in a paper issued this week, had called for the creation of Capital City Investment Public Corporation to raise the financing necessary to develop a new Bahamian capital in Andros via instruments such as bonds, grants and low interest-rate loans, public-private partnerships (PPPs) and equity offerings to Bahamians.

While Mr Sears envisaged this corporation ultimately evolving into a sovereign wealth fund that would “supervise and manage the construction” of a new capital city, Mr Smith yesterday questioned why such a costly plan was necessary when much of the infrastructure required already exists in Freeport.

With Freeport’s economy “poised for resurrection” if the government shows the necessary “political will”, the Callenders & Co partner agreed with Mr Sears that Nassau - and, by extension, New Providence - was now too over-crowded to support efforts to develop The Bahamas “into the Singapore of the west”.

Pointing out that Freeport’s existing land and infrastructure can support another 250,000 persons, Mr Smith urged the Government to “stop approving new subdivisions” on New Providence and instead provide the foundation for a population shift to Grand Bahama by moving several of its ministries there.

With relocation aided by real estate prices that are 70-80 percent less than those in Nassau, he added that Freeport could also be designated as “the exclusive place” in The Bahamas for a medical marijuana industry and other sectors to provide the necessary job opportunities.

“I am thrilled that Mr Sears, who I consider to be one of the brightest and most forward-thinking minds in The Bahamas, suggests moving the capital from Nassau to the Family Islands,” Mr Smith told Tribune Business. “However, I respectfully differ as to its location. I suggest that Freeport, Grand Bahama, is economically poised to be the future capital of The Bahamas.

“It can accommodate another 250,000 persons at a minimum. It was designed for 300,000. Freeport would cost billions and billions of dollars to replicate in Andros. We don’t have that kind of money, and we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I urge the Government to give Freeport a chance so that it can help to create a future for The Bahamas.

“It has all of the features identified by Mr Sears in his description already in existence, and the reality is that in time Freeport, Grand Bahama, will outstrip every other island in The Bahamas - in particular, New Providence - as a place for economic, touristic, industrial and commercial development.”

Shifting the capital city from Nassau is a topic that has been mulled frequently before given the belief that New Providence, a seven mile by 21 mile island, is already overcrowded due to a constantly expanding population and Family Islanders migrating to it in search of work.

This, in turn, has strained New Providence’s physical infrastructure and provision of social services to breaking point in some instances, especially since Nassau’s evolution as an urban centre has largely lacked long-term planning - unlike Freeport.

While Freeport would be the obvious alternative capital, one potential obstacle may be the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s quasi-governmental authority over the Port area. It is possible the Government’s relationship with the GBPA would have to be re-worked if moving the capital evolves from concept to reality.

Mr Smith yesterday argued that “the resurrection of Freeport is a matter of pure political will”, especially given the Minnis administration’s commitment to reviving the city’s economy. However, its short-term revival depends heavily on bringing the $100m Carnival cruise port and $65m Grand Lucayan acquisition by ITM/Royal Caribbean, as well as the proposed medical school, through to fruition.

With the Government’s Grand Bahama “technology hub” ambitions likely to take time to materialise, Mr Smith said making Freeport the “new capital” could be kick-started by moving key ministries to the city.

He suggested that the ministry of agriculture and fisheries and ministry of youth, sports and culture were ripe for transfer, while the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMSA) should also relocate because Freeport was the industry’s main centre of activity.

Civil service relocation, Mr Smith added, would be eased by Freeport’s supply of land and lower real estate prices, together with the tax breaks and other incentives offered - especially for private sector businesses - under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.

“Nassau is a touristic destination,” the outspoken QC told Tribune Business. “It can remain an historic heritage site but, as The Bahamas continues to grow and develop into the Singapore of the West it can be, it will need space and physical infrastructure to grow.

“That no longer exists in Nassau. An example of that is this campaign to take away land from poor Bahamians that live in shanty towns to create more subdivisions. The Government should stop approving any more residential subdivisions in Nassau. They should do everything to promote the capital’s moving to Freeport.

“Nassau’s development capacity is over-saturated. Short of beginning to go vertical almost everywhere, it can no longer go vertical. Beach and recreational access is severely limited; there are no bike and running parks throughout New Providence, people are terrified of crime and property prices are 70-80 percent less in Freeport,” Mr Smith added.

“Freeport is already the Venice of the Caribbean. People from Nassau can come and own lots on canals and lots on golf courses. I emphasise that Freeport’s resurrection and rise to economic dominance in The Bahamas is just a matter of pure political will. Water, sanitation, waste management; everything in Freeport is already available and ready to grow, and we don’t have blackouts five times’ a day.”

Comments

DWW 3 years, 5 months ago

F R E E P O R T. as in no tax base but they want money from government. Government funding = taxpayer funding. If FPO wants investment then perhaps they should ditch the tax free model? am i crazy? anyone? no? oh?

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Hoda 3 years, 5 months ago

What taxes don't you pay in Freeport?

Every business and government entity collects VAT, stamp duty and customs duty is collected when you come through like everywhere else.

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Hoda 3 years, 5 months ago

If u referring to the bond, which allows you as a licensee of the port to import and purchase duty free goods, I would ask that you read up about it before u make sweeping statements.

Further, everyone in GB is not doing business as a licensee of the Port.

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birdiestrachan 3 years, 5 months ago

Mr:Sears is a brilliant and Visionary man who cares about and loves the Bahamas and its people which can not be said about the others.

The Port Authority sells land over and over again.and they call it none payment of service charges. even if your land is on a dirt road with no water supply..

The Bahamian people will be under the dominance of the Port Authority. and this man is the one who said the people will bow to the Port and told Winter residents Bahamians do not like them. but want their money.

He is just about ready to crown him self King of Grand Bahama.. Dear Lord please NO

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birdiestrachan 3 years, 5 months ago

The location of Andros to Nassau is also important.

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Clamshell 3 years, 5 months ago

Does Andros have electricity? If so, it could make sense. 😎

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sheeprunner12 3 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Smith ....... Does that mean that the Govt will have to buy back Freeport from the foreigners?????

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Hoda 3 years, 5 months ago

Only the port area is under the purview of the Port Authority. The government - successive governments - still responsible for the hundreds of mile and acres or under developed land, communities that fall outside the bonded area.

Say what u want about the Port, they need to do better, but it is a dramatic difference when u leave the port area and cross into areas that the govt "controls", no city planning.

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TheMadHatter 3 years, 5 months ago

Everyone knows that Abaco is literally busting at the seems with Haitians. They have filled every nook and cranny there is there and have taken every job. Perhaps Freeport's close proximity to Abaco is what he is eyeing here. I say NO NO NO. If Haitians want to expand their control beyond Abaco, let them have to find boats to sail to Andros just like they did to Abaco. Not simply be able to hop on the quick little ferry for $50 and come over to Freeport.
I support anything that Government does to stifle growth in Freeport. They have been doing an excellent job so far of keeping the economy in the garbage can in Freeport, and they should keep it up - because all that will happen is the Haitians will expand from Abaco to there, and once again - AS ALWAYS - Bahamians will not benefit one dollar from any improvement. Bahamians, always left with the short end of the stick.

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TalRussell 3 years, 5 months ago

Firstly, before spending Billions "relocating" businesses and populaces out Nassau Town to Andros or Freeport, both robust advocates Comrade King Counsels Freddy and Alfred, have go back 1996 to educate themselves on gangsters connected to Colony of Out Islands - Kelly Island (Arawak Cay) and Hog Island (Paradise Island) how lead by Sir Stafford and Pop Symonette, the same paint shop gangsters ran american investor Huntington Hatrford's off his Hog Island (Paradise Island), yes, no.......... but not before Comrade Huntington had dumped $30 million his $90 million inheritance into Hog Island, yes, no...............adjusted for inflation, $30,000,000.00 in 1966 is equal to $237,012,264.15 in 2019...................... Kelly islands has had more twists and turns than pretzel, yes, no...........and its still sitting there since 1969 "undeveloped" and still entertaining investment ideas..............

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akbar 3 years, 5 months ago

The only way this could work is by dismantling the Port Authority. You cannot have a "Republic within a Republic".

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ohdrap4 3 years, 5 months ago

The Bahamas continues to grow and develop into the Singapore of the West Freeport is already the Venice of the Caribbean.

Waiter, I will have what he is having.

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The_Oracle 3 years, 5 months ago

Digging up Pindlings "dream" is a cheap shot and obvious attempt to raise the spetcre of the dead! Internal party wrangling for position. Ain't no power broker in either party gonna move the base of power to Andros, it is part of the reason they Have always feared Freeport and still do! What an expensive joke this could be.

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bahamarich 3 years, 5 months ago

develop The Bahamas “into the Singapore of the west, OK this is absurd, the only thing that Bahamas and Singapore share is the fact that they are both islands. In Singapore they have infrastructure, no corruption, almost no crime, education levels are high and government agencies that get things accomplished in hour instead of years. We can't even keep the lights on.

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