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Reflections on Freeport, the “Magic City” as it turns sixty

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ElcottProvidenciales, 07 Aug 2015 – The vision of developer Wallace Groves that gave birth to an economic zone on Grand Bahama that would come to be called the Magic City, Freeport, the industrial capital of The Bahamas, legally enabled by the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, turned 60 this week.

The agreement between the government of The Bahamas and Wallace Groves was signed on the 4th of August 1955 and by all accounts, the Freeport experiment was a qualified success.

Built on Pine Barren, by all accounts, Freeport is a modern and well designed city. The name Freeport was derived from the guaranteed long term tax concessions and benefits for financial, commercial and industrial enterprises by port licensees within this one of a kind economic free trade zone. At that time the advantages offered were superior to any being offered in the region.

The 1955 Act specifically stated that “no real property or rates and no real property levies (whether capital or periodic) of any kind shall be levied, charged or collected by the Government within the Port Area or upon or against any land building or structure within the Port Area.”

Additionally, “no personal property taxes or rates and no capital levies and no taxes on capital gains or capital appreciation shall be levied, charged or collected by the Government. No taxes of any kind shall be levied upon or against the earnings of the Grand Bahama Port Authority or against the earnings of a Licensee in the Port Area and outside the Colony.”

The initial vision and business model called for Freeport to be a major shipping hub, taking advantage of its proximity to the North and South American shipping lanes, and an international business center. Under the 1955 Hawksbill Creek Agreement, the Grand Bahama Port Authority established the infrastructure for World Standard Services and Facilities.

The city thrived under the 1955 tax regime and business model but was subject to the radically changing social order that was sweeping across North America and the Caribbean. This social revolution engulfed The Bahamas as it came into its own by bringing all citizens on the periphery of Bahamian society well into the Bahamian mainstream, both socially and economically; this public policy remains a work in progress.

Today, Freeport continues to offer an exceptional business climate for both domestic and foreign direct investment in the aftermath of Hurricanes Frances, Jeane and Wilma one decade ago that caused extensive infrastructural damage; the legal disputes between and the deaths of both of its principals, Sir Edward Saint George and Sir Jack Hayward; the extensions of tax concessions to east and west Grand Bahama beyond the port area; and the ongoing negotiations between the government and relevant stakeholders on the future of the tax concessions enjoyed by port licensees for sixty years.

On Wednesday 29th July 2015, the Parliament of The Bahamas extended the tax provisions for another six months to allow for a more in depth analysis of the local economy and to finalize a strategic economic plan for the island going forward.

On Freeport’s sixtieth birthday, the voices of Grand Bahamians were heard on this decidedly successful commercial experiment, its growth and development over the years, and its promising future. The recurrent themes were the lack of economic activity and job opportunities, especially for our youth.

“I believe that the magic has gone out of Freeport; the drive that the movers and shakers had for Freeport died now…I guess it died with the person who was in charge and when they died the vision died as well” said one resident.

“For the last twenty years Freeport has gone totally down. Since the storms, there was no type of replenishment for Freeport” said another Freeport resident.

“Some people doing okay; some people doing bad so I guess it depends on what you into” was another observation.

“Freeport right now…the state it in, you could see it, it picking up slowly but what needs to really happen right now we need more…basically for the youth more job opportunities” was yet another view.

One lady felt strongly about opening the former Princess Towers and Princess Country Club:
“People need work. They need to do something with that big hotel down at the Bazaar, the Princess, I mean open it up or do something ‘cause people need jobs. Young people coming out of school – they need jobs.”

One observer believed the principals made a strategic error in developing Freeport. He commented on the structure and function of the Freeport model.

“The successful business model created by Wallace Groves was transformed by the Hayward/St George shareholders, who determined that assets critical to the operation of a “Freeport” were to be either partially or completely sold off to outside interests. Under new management those entities became profit centers, thereby increasing operational costs – a disincentive to potential investors; the power company, the Freeport Harbour Company, the airport company and the Grand Bahama Development Company (are just a few examples).”

The complaints about high airport landing fees, the high cost of aviation fuel and the absence of a modern airport post Hurricane Wilma have reached the highest levels of government and will no doubt figure prominently in the current negotiations.

We thank the observers for their frankness and brutal honesty.

In the end we congratulate Freeport on its sixtieth birthday and Bahamians remain optimistic and hopeful of its return to its lofty perch as the “MAGIC CITY.”

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

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Town Hall De-briefing

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#TurksandCaicos, February 21, 2024 – Acting Commissioner of Police Christopher Eyre held a meeting with Her Excellency the Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam and Member of Parliament for Grand Turk North, the Hon. Otis Morris, today (February 21st) at Police Headquarters, Airport Road, Providenciales.

The debriefing was to discuss concerns raised by residents during last evening’s Anti-Crime Town Hall meeting at the H.J Robinson High School, Grand Turk.

Commissioner Eyre expressed his deep appreciation to Her Excellency and Hon Morris for their attendance, saying that work was already underway to address the community concerns.

Commissioner Eyre said: “I acknowledge the challenges raised and wish to assure you that the Executive of the RTCIPF remains steadfast in ensuring the TCI is safe. We listened to your concerns, and I assure you that rebuilding trust and strengthening community-policing relations are top priorities.

“The RTCIPF has taken a holistic approach in the fight against crime. Increased visibility, greater stakeholder collaborations and ongoing dialogue forums to appraise you will occur. We are accountable to you.”

 

Photo Captions

Header: Town Hall Meeting Head Table (l-r) Superintendent of Prisons Michael Woodbine, HE the Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam, Deputy Commissioner Rodney Adams, Superintendent Dean Holden, ag Commissioner of Police Christopher Eyre.

1st insert: HE the Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam, MP Grand Turk North Hon Otis Morris and ag Commissioner of Police Christopher Eyre during this afternoon’s debriefing at Police Headquarters.

2nd insert: Grand Turk resident Derek Been addresses the head table during the Question and Answer segment

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Two Charged With Firearm Offences

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JERREAL MISSICK

#TurksandCaicos, February 21, 2024 – JERREAL MISSICK, 22, of Over Back, Grand Turk and SHAQUAZE FORBES, 21, also from Over Back, are expected to appear before a Magistrate charged with the following offences.

1) Gang Membership;
2) Possession of a Firearm;
3) Possession of Ammunition and
4) Discharging Firearm

Both Mr. Missick and Mr. Forbes were charged under the Anti-Gang Ordinance (2022) following an investigation into the discharging of a firearm incident that occurred on February 13th 2024, in Over Back.
The charges came after police officers consulted with the Office of the Director of Public
Prosecutions.

SHAQUAZE FORBES

Head of Crime, Safeguarding, and Public Protection Superintendent Dean Holden said: “This is another example of the Police Force’s relentless pursuit of those suspected to be involved in gang-related crime, specifically the criminal use of illegal firearms. This latest charge also demonstrates our continued use of the Anti-Gang legislation to target individuals who cause harm to our communities”.

The RTCIPF is asking the public to notify the closest police station, contact 911, the Serious Crime Unit at 231-1842,Crime Stoppers at 1-800-8477, and anonymously give any information on illegal activity.

Additionally, persons are encouraged to download the CrimeStoppers P3 app from the Google Play store or Apple Apps and share information anonymously.

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Ministry of Home Affairs, Public Safety and Utilities and Telecommunications proudly Commissions the Yellow Wing

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Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands, 21st February 2024 – The long-awaited completion and commissioning of the Yellow Wing at the Department of Correctional Services took place in Grand Turk yesterday.

The event was attended by a number of Government functionaries; including Her Excellencies, the Governor and Deputy Governor, Ms. Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam and Mrs. Anya Williams respectively, the Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Hon. Charles Washington Misick, Attorney General, Hon. Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles, as well as the Minister for Home Affairs, Public Safety and Utilities and Telecommunication’s Commission, Hon. Otis Morris.

Hon. Josephine Connolly, Minister for Tourism, Permanent Secretaries, Mrs. Bridgette Newman, Mr. James Astwood and Mr. Miquel Swann, newly appointed interim Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Eyre, Chaplains of the HoA and the Prison, along with staff of the Public Works Department, Department of Correctional Services and Olympic Construction were also in attendance.

The reconstruction of the Yellow Wing commenced in May 2020, following destruction of the building by fire in 2019.

The ceremony was chaired by Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Clyde Greene. Among the officials who brought remarks, were, the Superintendent, the Minister, the Deputy Governor, the Premier and the Governor; all of whom expressed their delight in being able to participate in and witness the commissioning.

In his remarks, the Superintendent of the Department of Correctional Services, Mr. Michael Woodbine expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Government and Ministry for the additional funding received by the Department, to assist with the resolution of a number of longstanding issues.

He went on to note, “The key function of the prison is not only to protect the public by keeping those who pose a risk out of society, but it also has a wider role to play in supporting law enforcement”

He further highlighted some of the Department’s community activities, support given in various areas and his department’s plans for the year.

The Minister for Home Affairs, Public Safety and Utilities and Telecommunication’s Commission, Hon. Otis Morris in his remarks stated, “Today marks a significant milestone, as we gather to celebrate the completion of the Yellow Wing. This project has been a collaborative effort; which demonstrated my Government’s commitment to providing a safer and more humane environment for inmates and staff alike.” 

Hon. Morris went on to note that the improvements made to the Yellow Wing would not only enhance the living conditions for inmates but would also contribute to the overall rehabilitation and well-being of those in the Department’s care.

In conclusion, he encouraged all to continue to work together to uphold the highest standards of safety, security and rehabilitation within our correctional facilities.

Following the hand-over of the keys, cutting of the ribbon and blessing of the building; attendees were treated to a Control and Restraint mock exercise to remove a non-compliant and violent person from a cell.

The team demonstrated the manner in which they calmly manage these very difficult situations, trying their best to de-escalate the person’s heightened mood and aggression. The Exercise was well received and the team was highly commended for their negotiation and team work skills.

The ceremony ended with the Vote of Thanks by the Deputy Superintendent Mr. Raymond Grant.

The Department of Correctional Services with the of support of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development will continue the upgrade of the facilities at the Department of Correctional Services with the works to the Blue and Green wings.

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