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House Communication By Minister Of Tourism The Hon. Obediah Wilchcombe On Meetings With Major Investors In London








Mr. Speaker,

Following participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, and the Climate Change Summit in Paris, attended by Heads of State from across the globe, the Prime Minister and his delegation spent two days in London last week, engaged in vital and fruitful discussions with major investor groups in The Bahamas.

We took the opportunity of holding frank, timely and encouraging discussions with principals of the Hutchison Group headquartered in Hong Kong. This huge conglomerate is among the largest and most influential investors in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The Group recently underwent a restructuring of holdings and responsibilities under two umbrella companies, Hutchison Port Holdings Ltd. of which Mr. Canning Fok is Group Managing Director, and Cheung Kong Property Holdings Ltd. of which Mr. Raymond Chow is Group Managing Director. They travelled from Hong Kong to London for the meetings and were joined by divisional senior executives based in London, Hong Kong and Freeport. Hutchison Port Holdings Ltd. has responsibility for ports and CK Infrastructure Holdings Limited has responsibility for properties, real estate and resorts. Both of these entities have considerable investments in Freeport in the port, the airport, vast real estate holdings, hotels, and the Port Group of companies.
Mr. Speaker,

With the concessions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement relating to real property tax, capital gains and income taxes expiring in February, 2016, the opportunity was taken to provide an update on the work of The Hawksbill Creek Review Committee and the steps being taken by Government regarding any proposed extension or otherwise of these particular concessions. Hutchison’s local representatives have participated fully in the Review process, and their senior executives provided useful responses and insights in relation to the concessions, the maintenance of their existing businesses, further investment, and the attraction of new investors to Grand Bahama.

At the outset of the meeting, we reiterated the terms of reference of the Hawksbill Creek Review Committee and the need for a paradigm shift in the governance of Freeport having regard to present realities, including the expectations of both the people of Grand Bahama, and investor/licensees, the inertia, division and loss of strong/visionary leadership at the Grand Bahama Port Authority. We pointed out that it was important in this context for the Government to forge a strong partnership with the Hutchison Group in arresting this situation, and in maintaining a dynamic environment in which private investments would flourish and sufficient revenues generated to adequately meet public expenditure requirements, as was not now the case. While stressing the need for greater Government involvement in governance and regulation and stronger partnership between Government and Freeport licences, we pointed to the requirement for greater efficiency and flexibility on the part of both Government and the Grand Bahama Port Authority in ensuring Freeport’s competitive edge with the rest of the world with ever changing circumstances.

Mr. Speaker, the executives of Hutchison Port Holdings and CK Property Holdings stated that they shared some of the same concerns raised by the Government. They had invested one billion dollars in Freeport and had not realized a satisfactory return on their investment. Their hotels particularly were sustaining heavy losses, nevertheless they kept meeting the shortfall and kept the hotels opened without laying off staff. Lighthouse Point hotel was being renovated for opening this winter season. They indicated that more airlift and marketing was needed to make the properties profitable, notwithstanding the major efforts being made in this regard by the Ministry of Tourism. The cost of operating Hutchison properties were also adversely affected by the high cost of labour in Freeport.

Mr. Speaker,

In committing to further investment in Grand Bahama including the Phase V expansion of the Container Port, in pursuing the development of a logistics centre and the development of their extensive real estate holdings, Hutchison Port Holdings and CK Property Holdings indicated that such further investment would require certainty on the extension of the expiring real property tax, capital gains and income concessions.
Overall productive discussions were had in relation to the following:

Early start of expansion of container port and related facilities.
Pursuing with partners the development of the Air/Sea Business Logistics centre.
Upgrade of the Grand Bahama International Airport and pursuant of a Public/Private partnership in its ownership and operator.
Agreement for Waiver of Exclusivity between Freeport Harbour Company and Government in relation to cruise ports, offshore cruise moorings in Grand Bahama.
Cruise port project for East Grand Bahama
Plans and initiatives to re-invigorate the hotel, casino, golf courses, and real estate holdings.
Timely completion of the Review of the expiring concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.
Matters relating to the revitalization of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, licensing and regulatory functions.

Mr. Speaker,

The Mediterranean Shipping Company is a major owner of cargo vessels and cruise ships headquartered in Geneva, which are also partners with Hutchison Port Holdings in the Freeport Container Port. Mr. Diego Aponte, President and CEO of MSC Shipping, Mr. Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises and Mr. Gianluca Suprani, Head of Global Port Development and Shore Activities also travelled from Geneva to London, where we held encouraging and wide ranging discussions on their present and expanding investments in The Bahamas. They were given a similar briefing as provided to Hutchison Group on the Review of the expiring concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, the need for a strong partnership between MSC and the Government in relation to the future governance, regulation and development of Freeport, the revitalization of the Grand Bahama Port Authority and the attraction of new and value added business to The Bahamas.

Mr. Speaker,

MSC confirmed their readiness to proceed with the $250 million phase V expansion of the Freeport Container Terminal in partnership with Hutchison Port Holdings. Currently they move 1 million containers a year to Freeport and with phase V expansion that number will be doubled. In addition they will proceed early in the New Year with the establishing of a Marine Training School in Freeport. They will train and recruit Bahamians to staff their cruise ships and serve as mariners on both their cargo vessels and cruise ships in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science & Technology, the Ministry of Transport & Aviation, The College of The Bahamas, and The Ministry of Labour & National Insurance, The National Training Agency and other local institutions.

We finalized our discussions on a Heads of Agreement to be executed in Nassau next week relating to an imaginative and exciting Ocean Cay Port project and the aforementioned Grand Bahama initiatives. Work on the project which will be lushly tropically landscaped, include picturesque beaches, water sports, numerous attractions, entertainment, facilities, shops etc. to be operated by Bahamians. Due care and attention will be given to preserving the marine and natural environment. MSC will position a new class of cruise ships which will call at both Ocean Cay and Nassau, catering significantly to affluent Europeans.

MSC has also shown interest in another major business opportunity in Freeport which would considerably impact the Freeport economy.

During our discussions MSC executives indicated their strong confidence in the Government and economy of The Bahamas.

Mr. Speaker,

I should like to recognise the invaluable contributions of the delegation that participated to these London meetings which involved much advance preparation. The delegation led by the Prime Minister included the Minister of Tourism, The Honourable Obediah Wilchcombe, The Attorney General & Minister of Legal Affairs, The Honourable Allyson Maynard-Gibson, The Minister for Grand Bahama, The Honourable Dr. Michael Darville, Senior Policy Advisor, Sir Baltron Bethel, Chairman Hawksbill Review Committee, Dr. Marcus Bethel, Consultant Ministry for Grand Bahama, Mr. Albert Gray. Administrative support was provided by Mrs. Candia Ferguson, Director of Investments and Ms. Kristal Bethel, Director, Office of Senior Policy Advisor.

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Bahamas News

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



#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



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



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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