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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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Minister Moxey says partnerships for development will help get Grand Bahama going again

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#TheBahamas, November 27, 2021 – One means by which Minister for Grand Bahama, Hon. Ginger Moxey plans to utilize every resource at her disposal to get things moving for Grand Bahama again, is to utilize partnerships for development.

“Success with these partnerships on our island are embedded in collaborative efforts between the ministry of Grand Bahama, other government ministries, the Grand Bahama Port Authority, the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, Hutchinson Whampoa Holdings Ltd., industry stakeholders and the business community at large,” explained Minister Moxey.

“We must unite and work together to build alliances for success with the ultimate goal of ensuring that Grand Bahama Island excels.  We are all in this together.”

The Minister’s remarks came during her keynote address at the ninth annual Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Awards Luncheon, which was held on Wednesday, November 24th, 2021 at Pelican Bay resort. The event is held to honor Grand Bahamian business owners for their commitment, achievements and dedication to the development of the second city.

Minister Moxey pointed out that this year’s event, under the theme, celebration of excellence, acknowledges and highlights businesses on Grand Bahama that have stayed the course. She added that this kind of recognition is a beacon of hope for local business owners who have faced and overcame some of the most challenging circumstances ever encountered within the island’s history.

“On November first during my contribution on the bill to thank the Governor General for his Speech from the Throne, I pledged to the nation that I would do the people’s business and utilize every resource at my disposal, to get the job done for Grand Bahama,” said Minister Moxey.

“As a Grand Bahamian and business owner, I can attest to the challenges we have faced over the past decade. The devastation of Hurricane Dorian in 2019, which was closely followed by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. It further strained our already fragile economy. Today’s administration is also well aware of the challenges that Grand Bahama has faced over the past decade. Nevertheless, we will deliver on our commitment to recover, rebuild and revolutionize our island, our economy and usher our people into the new day.

“I would like to thank all of the businesses represented today, that have kept their doors opened and our people employed. To all of the Business Excellence Award nominees, I congratulate you. Remain encouraged and know that your efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“To the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, thank you for being a staple in the business community and for celebrating excellence for the past nine years. Welcome back business excellence awards.”

 

By Andrew Coakley

Photo Caption: Minister for Grand Bahama, Ginger Moxey (right), along with President of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, Greg Laroda presents Mrs. Leslie Baptista, of Paint Fair, with the President’s Award, during the ninth annual GB Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Awards Luncheon, which was held on Wednesday, November 24th, 2021 at Pelican Bay resort.

(BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

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Caribbean Development Bank to offer solutions for TCI with Sea Defences

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, November 27, 2021 – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has committed $600,000 to investigate upgrades to sea defences in the Turks and Caicos Islands, disclosed by the Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Akierra Missick as she sought to reassure residents about the state of the defenses.

Concerns were raised by residents recently when the newly paved Front Street, Grand Turk was severely flooded because the sea wall was unable to hold back massive waves.

Minister Missick acknowledged the concerns but said that the government had been working on upgrades since August of this year. This, she said, had begun with a “holistic review of all of the island’s sea defenses.” It was revealed that this review is being done through an environmental consultancy agency.

The consultancy is set to run for 11 months.

At the end of the consultation period, the government should have what Missick described as shoreline characterization for Grand Turk and Salt Cay as well as designs for measures to break wave strength before it reaches shore and infrastructure upgrade designs for the entire coast of Grand Turk and Salt Cay.

Feasibility studies will be carried out alongside these infrastructure designs to determine their effectiveness.

Meetings between CDB and stakeholders including residents, tourism operators, engineers, coasts resource advisors, and others are set to occur over the 11 month time frame.

A coastal resource and vulnerability analysis is also set to be completed. This, Missick said, is a pre-emptive effort to prevent future problems.

Opposition leader Edwin Astwood spoke out regarding the flooding incident. He said the flooding was caused by faulty engineering of the sea wall rather than drainage along the road. In the House of Assembly on November 22, Astwood claimed the wall, which should have been built with a curve, was built flat.

Missick has not yet responded to the claims but has promised that CDB’s preliminary report should be tabled with Government by Summer 2022.

 

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Leading revenue earners need to include a boosted Financial Services Sector says Finance Minister Saunders

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, November 27, 2021 – The Turks and Caicos economy has surpassed expectations for revenue by almost $90 million dollars. Finance Minister E.Jay Saunders revealed the top four categories that spearheaded the increase, accounting for nearly 80 per cent of the revenue brought into the TCI.

The information was presented at a November 8 press conference where the Finance, Investment and Trade Minister also provided a simplified version of country finances in a Citizens’ Guide to the Budget.

Saunders said, in his presentation, that every single revenue item overachieved, pushing the original $271 million dollar budget to a projected $361 million.

The first category was Work Permits which is projected to have, a near $2 million dollar increase. Next was Accommodation Tax, which is projected to have an almost $15 million dollar increase in revenue, followed by Customs Import Duties with a projected $22 million dollar increase.  Finally, Stamp Duties rounded out the main four with a whopping $34 million projected increase.

He did warn that despite its brilliant performance, the TCI economy must diversify and do so soon. He cited supply chain issues that are currently affecting the global market saying that if even one of the major categories of revenue were to be affected it could be detrimental for the economy.

He said “Over 80% of our revenue comes from four categories…When we talk about diversifying this is one of the reasons why, because of anything happens to say, Customs Import duties it would be a disaster.”

In tandem with this call to diversify that the minister made significant mention of Financial Services as a fifth category for fiscal development. He said that despite the industry still being fairly small that “if the government can manage to grow it just a little bit it would make a huge difference.”

Cayman and the BVI were cited as examples of territories which had managed to build strong financial services sectors. He assured the press that, “The only thing we have to do is modernize our legislation and become more of a competitor…and we don’t need to increase our market share significantly to grab another 50 million dollars.”

In contrast, the biggest expenses were Salaries, Pensions, and Hospital charges with the Ministry of Health getting the bulk of the budget.

While the Finance Minister was pleased with the progress, he also expressed his determination that the TCIG be able to increase their now $360 million budget to $400 or even $500 million.

This, said Saunders, would allow the government to hit their 2040 goals to improve quality of life for TCI citizens.

 

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