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Bahamas Prime Minister Appoints Committee To Review Specific Provisions Of The Hawksbill Creek Agreement

PRESS STATEMENT BY

THE RIGHT HONOUORABLE PERRY G. CHRISTIE, M.P.

PRIME MINISTER & MINISTER OF FINANCE

ON COMMITTEE TO REVIEW AND MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE EXPIRATION OF CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE HAWKSBILL CREEK AGREEMENT AND OTHER APPROPRIATE MEASURES TO PROMOTE AND SUSTAIN ECONOMIC GROWTH IN GRAND BAHAMA

MARCH 5th, 2015

As indicated in my extensive presentation this morning at the Grand Bahama Business Outlook. I have called this Press Conference to announce a timely significant intervention which my Government is making with a view to charting a path forward to positively impact economic growth in Grand Bahama within a framework suited to the present and future, that also has due regard to the provisions of The Hawksbill Creek Agreement.

Certain provisions of The Hawksbill Creek Agreement with respect to exemptions on business licence fees and real property tax are due to expire in August of this year. For some time the Grand Bahama economy, despite the broad incentives and tax concessions under the Hawksbill Creek legislation, has remained stagnant with limited exceptions, thus adversely impacting economic growth in the private sector and Government revenues. In the absence of aggressive policy interventions to jumpstart a new round of development, and enhance returns on existing investments, Grand Bahama’s economic performance could remain sub-par relative to other islands in The Bahamas. Thus the expiration of these Hawksbill Creek Agreement incentives provides an opportunity for the Government to secure a comprehensive set of new arrangements which can spur economic development and increase the Island’s contribution to net fiscal receipts. Several months ago the Government retained the international consulting firm McKinsey and Co to consult with the Grand Bahama Port Authority and other stakeholders and to undertake a study of the economic situation within the Port Area, the implications of the expiring incentives, and measures which might be taken to spur economic development. McKinsey and Company has presented its Report to the Government.

Following upon the McKinsey Report, the Government has therefore appointed a Committee to hold discussions and negotiations with representatives of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, investors, relevant public, private sector and community interests, with a view to making appropriate recommendations to the Government on arrangements for securing both an economic package to promote more robust sustained growth, and a fiscal package that enhances Grand Bahama’s contribution to the Government’s revenue base.

In this regard there are several main objectives:

(i) Agree with the Grand Bahama Port Authority and principal licensees a long term economic development plan which both protect and promote the shipping, industrial, logistics, tourism, real estate and other commercial sectors as the focus for Grand Bahama Island;

(ii) Create a framework for immediate and long-term investment promotion on the island to attract investors which can operate assets competitively at a world class standard, and effectively and efficiently utilize the land resources with proper environmental safeguards;

(iii) Ensure that the mechanisms are in place to align the Grand Bahama Port Authority’s quasi-regulatory authority with the policies of the Government and that a regulatory framework exists in keeping with present and changing international business best practices.

(iv) Agree a suitable framework for property tax and business license that would note impede economic growth, and contribute along with other suitable measures to the enhancement of the Government’s revenue base.

The Committee will report to a Ministerial sub-committee chaired by the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. It is expected to conclude its work before the real property tax and business license exemptions expire in August 2015. The Committee is comprised of the following persons:

Dr. Marcus Bethel, Chairman
Sir Baltron Bethel
Mr. James Smith
Mr. Kevin Seymour, President Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce
Mr. Maurice Moore
Ms. Cassietta McIntosh

The Committee will carry out its duties in collaboration with and the support of the consulting firm of McKinsey and Company. It will be assisted by a technical team from the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Attorney General. The Ministry for Grand Bahama would coordinate administrative support.

My Government looks forward to the full cooperation of all concerned parties in facilitating the Committee’s work, and to a successful outcome of this important exercise.

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