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Smith: Time to be less timid over Grand Bahama plans

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Fred Smith

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

PROMINENT attorney and activist Fred Smith yesterday berated the government for its "timid, tepid" performance in Grand Bahama, warning policymakers residents would not tolerate "same old, same old".

Mr Smith, a business owner and Grand Bahama resident, said the island's depressed economy would only benefit from aggressive and dramatic upheaval of existing policy, and gave his full support for fully liberalised immigration and investment incentives.

Mr Smith said: "The prime minister needs to administer a dose of economic insulin into the veins of Freeport's economy intravenously. He needs to do something to jumpstart this economy, not follow in the PLP's footsteps. Repealing the Grand Bahama Incentives Act and extending the expired tax provisions is nothing new, and it's nothing different.

"We need to go back to basics in Freeport with an extremely liberalised immigration and investment scenario," he said.

"Freeport currently has infrastructure in place for hundreds of thousands of people, we need huge immigration in Freeport, both domestic and international and in fact the government should consider doing a citizenship lottery like they have in US and try to promote large scale foreign immigration to Freeport, which is what created Freeport in the first place."

Mr Smith stressed the government's new Commercial Enterprises Act did not go far enough to significantly impact Grand Bahama's stalled economy, and argued the island's future was not simply tied to the resurrection of a "failed hotel".

The government recently announced a letter of intent (LOI) has been signed between the owners of the Grand Lucayan hotel strip in Grand Bahama, Hutchinson Whampoa, and the Toronto-based Wynn Group.

Mr Smith said: "As a liscencee and resident of Freeport I am disappointed in the lacklustre performance of the government in resurrecting the Grand Bahama economy, it is regrettable that both the PLP and the FNM governments continue to be outmaneuvered in business negotiations by Hutcheson and the Grand Bahama Port Authority group who leverage their private financial losses onto the Bahamian taxpayer's back.

"Basically, hiving off to the government a hotel that has failed due to Hutchison's dismal investment performance, yet retaining all the benefits given to Hutchison (Whampoa), the harbour company, the airport and DEVCO in the 20-year tax exemption. So effectively the Bahamian taxpayer is paying for the hundreds of millions of Hutcheson losses at the hotel."

The Grand Lucayan closed last October after Hurricane Matthew and deprived Grand Bahama of 59 per cent of its room inventory and at least 1,000 jobs.

"Although it is important for the hotel to reopen," Mr Smith said, "it is not the future of resurrecting the GB economy. This government has been given a hyper majority and they should make dramatic changes in the investment environment in Freeport as opposed to taking tentative, half-hearted, half measures which will only continue to cause Freeport and Grand Bahama to limp along like an economic zombie.

"It is time for them to open wide the immigration doors, and make the Grand Bahama Port Authority the quick efficient and effective one-stop shop investment authority.

"I keep telling the government to get out of this daily minutia of interfering and running business in Freeport," Mr Smith continued, "that is the business of the Port Authority under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement. They should completely liberalise the exchange control, no more investment board approvals or review of applications. The government should only hold the authority accountable for promotion, infrastructure development, and domestic investment.

"But right now, the FNM is following in the same failed footsteps of the PLP for many past administrations. Doing the same old, same old like the PLP is not going to cut it for Freeporters."

Comments

TalRussell 6 years, 6 months ago

Comrade I don't think Prime Minister Minnis is aware this man's broad range talent, likewise fails see KP's complete lack talent to execute much when it comes representing the best interests Freeport.
The PM might want to appoint King's Counsel Freddy to the Senate, and then as Chief Minister Freeport, Freedy talking smart and in guarded principal, I does agree with kick starting Freeport with a massive designer immigration explosion, and the sooner the PM appoints the KC, the better shot success will Freeport have.

Gotoutintime 6 years, 6 months ago

Fred---You'd better turn back the clock to 1967!!

TalRussell 6 years, 6 months ago

Comrade GotOutInTime. turn the clock back in time 1700's for the real perspective on what would eventually become Freeport. Most mistakenly believe and the government have long promoted Freeport to the word to be the capital of Grand Bahama - when it's West End..... and being to date since no Bahamaland governing administration have ever certified Freeport as the capital.... and since West End has always been the capital, so it remains to this day. Maybe it's time pump fresh capital into the capital of West End?

Gotoutintime 6 years, 6 months ago

Sorry Tal, the 1700's were a bit before my time so I will bow to your superior knowledge. I do know that as a result of been a resident of Freeport during the early 1960's anyone who wanted a job was free to pick and chose. Regretfully this is not the case today.

TalRussell 6 years, 6 months ago

Comrade GotOutInTime, 1960's the period when Marco City school was private and segregated with students of the white workers out Freeport.

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