Abaco Chamber chief fears port PPP costs


Tribune Business Reporter


Abaco's Chamber of Commerce president yesterday voiced concerns that outsourcing the Marsh Harbour port's redevelopment to private investors will increase the cost of living on the island.

Daphne DeGregory-Miaoulis told Tribune Business that while an upgraded commercial shopping port is essential to Abaco's economy it should not come at the expense of local businesses and residents having to pay higher fees to cover the transformation costs.

“The lack of a port is not really hindering business, but it’s definitely not making it convenient or comfortable for freight collection and everything," she said. "Also, the fact that it's really not up to international standards, we could be at risk of being shut down. I would think if we're not compliant with proper security, and that sort of thing, it could present a problem.”

The Government last year launched a formal bidding process, via a Request for Proposals (RFPs), seeking qualified companies and investor groups willing to finance the redevelopment, operation and management of both the Marsh Harbour and North Abaco ports through public-private partnership arrangements.

The Marsh Harbour port, the main gateway for seaborne freight and imports, has yet to recover from the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019. Mrs DeGregory-Miaoulis said: “I would think over four years is too long, but then there are lots of things to consider. I wouldn’t want to have to build it and make revisions because they don’t meet the standards. It’s a big, big contract."

The Abaco Chamber president said she is concerned Abaco could end up with a “frightening” PPP deal that may be too expensive for residents and businesses to maintain - especially if the investors seek to recover their costs, and generate a profit return, by raising fees and charges levied on port users.

“Abaco businesses are concerned about the rise in cost that will inevitably be pushed on us to repay the PPP," she added. “We cannot afford to absorb any further taxation of any kind. The cost of materials has already skyrocketed and the rebuild is far from over for Abaco.

“We are dependent, as are all the islands in The Bahamas, on imports. So to think that we're going to have to absorb another increase added to our already expensive cost of production and the cost of materials and supplies, that is frightening.

“So I'm hoping that this repayment schedule that is negotiated is long-term enough that they're not looking to recoup this money in any short-term period that puts a heavy burden on an already heavily-taxed situation. Any additional taxation will only “slow down an already slow rebuild process” as many Abaconians are “still struggling” post Dorian," Mrs DeGregory-Miaoulis said.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment