EDITOR, The Tribune
Traditionally, successive governments have been known to be Nassau-centric. Both the Progressive Liberal Party and Free National Movement governments have wooed hundreds of deep pocket investors to New Providence throughout the decades with the aim of creating much-needed jobs for that island’s massive population. The presence of multi-billion dollar investments of Atlantis on Paradise Island and Baha Mar on Cable Beach are a testament of the central government’s commitment to keeping Nassau’s economy buoyant. To paraphrase the late Sir Randol Fawkes in The Faith That Moved the Mountain, money, like blood, is currency; it has to flow in order for the economy to be healthy and robust. There’s always some ongoing investments in Nassau.
New Providence’s current population stands at 249,000. The Bahamas’ overall population is 350,000. With over 70 percent of the national population, it is understandable why governments have placed an inordinate amount of attention on the capital. With New Providence having an area of only 80 square miles, it has become grossly over-populated and overcrowded, due to the continued influx of Family Islanders in search of jobs, especially Grand Bahamians. An economically revitalised Freeport can help to reduce crowding in Nassau. However, it would appear that certain Nassauvians have no desire to see the Minnis administration turn around Freeport’s moribund economy, based on their misgivings about the potential sale of the Grand Lucayan Resort to the ITM Group and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
These Nassauvians want the FNM to scrap this potential massive investment, arguing that it will hurt Nassau’s tourism industry if Royal Caribbean has its very own port in Freeport. But with a rapidly expanding cruise industry, Royal Caribbean, Carnvial, Norwegian, Disney and other cruise lines will be looking for more attractive ports of call, especially with a reported 90 new ships currently under construction. There’s enough cruise business to go around. Prince George Wharf on any given day has between five and seven ships, much to the benefit of Bay Street retailers, restaurateurs, hair braiders, seafood and straw vendors.
The fears of these cynical Nassauvians are misplaced. Interestingly, most of the criticism that the Minnis administration received over its decision to purchase the Grand Lucayan Resort from Hutchison Whampoa came out of Nassau, which is indeed telling. Again, it gives the impression that Nassauvians are relishing in the demise of Freeport and the economic hardship of Freeporters. Those in opposition to the government’s purchase of the resort have yet to come up with an alternative suggestion that would benefit Grand Bahamians. In all likelihood, they wanted the government to stand on the sidelines as Hutchison Whampoa shut down the resort, resulting in further hardship for thousands of Bahamians. These Nassauvians would be the very ones on the campaign trail in 2022 saying Minnis did nothing to help Freeport. Freeporters are tired of being pawns in senseless political games. They simply want Grand Bahama to be grand again.
In mid-2018, Nassauvian Facebookers were making fun of Grand Bahamians not being able to find work in Freeport. That particular dialogue among Nassauvians was very insensitive towards struggling Grand Bahamians. New Providence is not The Bahamas. The central government has another 699 islands and cays in this archipelago to look after. Nassauvians must stop seeing themselves as the centre of the universe.
It is past time we have a government which is genuinely committed to fixing Freeport.
The Minnis administration must ignore the cries of these selfish Nassauvians who want to see the continued demise of Freeport, as if their bread is being buttered by the continued economic malaise of the Second City.
February 21, 2019