By YOURI KEMP
GRAND Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) licensees are “reluctant” to see the Government take over responsibility for Freeport’s governance, the island’s Chamber of Commerce president says.
James Carey, speaking after this newspaper reported that the Davis administration is exploring its options for causing change at the GBPA, which could include a return of the latter’s quasi-governmental and regulatory functions to Nassau, said licensees he had spoken to instead want the Port Authority to become more active.
“Right now, the licensees don’t have a definitive position because everything is still up in the air,” Mr Carey said. “I shouldn’t call this a consensus, but some of the licensees I have spoken with, generally they give the consensus that while they want things to happen and want the GBPA to be more proactive in making things happen, there’s a reluctance for the government to take over.”
Rupert Hayward, grandson of former GBPA co-chair, Sir Jack Hayward, subsequently pledged “an ambitious masterplan for change” to create “thousand of jobs” in Freeport as he backed efforts “to reimagine and revolutionise” Freeport’s quasi-governmental authority.
“I like how he (Mr Hayward) is affable to working with the Government, but he is not suggesting giving up the GBPA,” Mr Carey said. “I didn’t read into it that he is giving up the GBPA, through sale or through any other way. Essentially he is saying to the government to ‘let’s work together’.”
“I can’t imagine that he is bluffing unless this thing has been happening in the background for quite a while,” the GB Chamber chief added of Mr Hayward’s “master plan”. “I can’t imagine a plan of any consequence being put together so quickly. Because there is going to be a hell of a lot that has to be put into it, from legalities to all of the niceties, because there is a lot of stuff that has to be done. So I can’t imagine anything being put together so quickly.”
While providing no specifics, Mr Hayward told this newspaper he has already submitted “a new partnership” proposal that “can attract billions of dollars in investment [and] create thousands of jobs” for Freeport and the wider Grand Bahama to the Davis administration.
The Government is presently examining whether change at the GBPA is best achieved through either a private buyer acquiring the Hayward and St George families’ ownership interests, the Government doing itself or the regulatory and quasi-governmental powers being devolved back to Nassau.
Mr Hayward’s statement indicated he is seeking to restructure the GBPA and its relationship with the Government such that the latter has more say over Freeport’s running and future through “a true Public-Private Partnership” that represents the interests of all parties including city residents and GBPA licensees.
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