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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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 Medical Council of Jamaica Announces more CME hours for Doctors



KINGSTON, September 19, 2023 (JIS) – Medical doctors will be required to complete two additional hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME) specifically dedicated to mental health and wellness in order to renew their practising certificates come January 2024.

The Medical Council of Jamaica (MCJ) noted that this critical update forms part of its commitment to advancing the healthcare system and ensuring doctors are well-equipped to meet the prevailing mental health demands.

“This increase moves the total required CME hours from 20 to 22, enhancing doctors’ ability to address the mental health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The decision to introduce these additional CME hours is driven by the Medical Council of Jamaica’s commitment to prioritise the well-being of both patients and healthcare professionals,” the MCJ stated.

The Council reasoned that COVID-19 has highlighted the pressing need for mental health support, with healthcare workers facing unprecedented challenges, experiencing increased stress and witnessing the emotional toll the pandemic has taken on patients.

To support doctors in meeting the new CME requirement, MCJ Registrar, Professor Howard Spencer, shared that the Council will provide access to a range of accredited providers and resources offering relevant mental health and wellness courses.

“The Medical Council of Jamaica encourages all doctors to proactively engage in these additional CME hours well in advance of the renewal deadline in early 2024, to ensure a seamless continuation of their practice,” he emphasised.

The Council added that the focus on mental health and wellness will empower doctors with the knowledge and skills to provide comprehensive and compassionate care to patients experiencing challenges in this area.

Commenting on the new requirement, Consultant Psychiatrist and Public Health Specialist, Dr. Earl Wright, underscored that the additional CME hours are a win-win for doctors.

“It’s not only enhancing the doctors’ care of the patient but doctors need to take care of themselves also. This will help to prevent doctor burnout. Doctors are sometimes under severe stress for long periods of time. So enhancing the doctors’ ability to take care of themselves, they’re also enhancing their ability to take care of all their patients,” he remarked.

For more information about the new CME requirement, visit

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Prime Minister Holness opens Maypen to Williamsfield Leg of Southern Coastal Highway



#Kingston, September 19, 2023 – The May Pen to Williamsfield leg of the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP) was officially opened by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, on Thursday (September 14).

The thoroughfare, which represents part A of the SCHIP, now significantly reduced travel time between the parishes of Clarendon and Manchester and will offer a multitude of economic and social benefits to users.

Speaking during the segment’s opening ceremony, Prime Minister Holness hailed the development as “a step in improving the general quality of life for all Jamaicans”.

“[It is] a step in improving the productivity of all Jamaicans. You can easily measure the productivity gained of this road by the productivity lost in traffic, discomfort and the aggression it creates in driving on some of the other bad roads,” he said.

Mr. Holness noted that some of the anticipated benefits of the new roadway include connecting workers to jobs, improving the response time of the security forces, and improving and lowering the cost for delivering agricultural outputs to market.

“In so many ways, building your infrastructure improves well-being,” he emphasised.

The Prime Minister also announced that the highway’s usage will be at no cost to motorists until the end of the calendar year, on December 31, 2023. After this period, toll rates will be applied.

Mr. Holness further pointed out that the scope of work for the highway included a new four-lane bridge across the Rio Minho to increase the area’s resilience to weather events.

The project also features a two-year defects liability phase, the Prime Minister said, while noting that, “during this phase, the contractor will have to fix any project-related defects”.

The project was funded by a loan from the Government of the People’s Republic of China, with the contractors being China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).

It was implemented by the National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC), under the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

For his part, NROCC Managing Director, Stephen Edwards, described the highway’s opening as “a momentous occasion in infrastructure development in Jamaica”.

Dubbing the project as a “giant leap forward for the parishes of Clarendon and Manchester and for all Jamaicans”, Mr. Edwards informed that the contract’s implementation commenced in 2019.

He detailed that the development features a 23-kilometre four-lane highway with adiamond interchange and Florida-T at May Pen, a separated interchange at Toll Gate, an interchange at Melrose, four bridges, 17 concrete box crossings, upgrading of approximately five kilometres of roadway along the Melrose Bypass to a four-lane dual carriageway, a police post at Toll Gate, safety fences, concrete median barriers, and the installation and expansion of fibre optics.

“We believe… we have delivered a modern highway that the people of Jamaica can be proud of,” Mr. Edwards added.

Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, Hon. Daryl Vaz, in his remarks, said the highway’s opening is “a pivotal junction in our nation’s transportation history”.

“This remarkable highway will undoubtedly reshape this side of the island and its network and elevate collective journeys towards progress. This occasion is also a testament to the dedication in providing safer roads and enhanced connectivity for all Jamaicans,” Mr. Vaz stated.

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Everald Warmington, also spoke highly of the road development.

He expressed that the new leg of the country’s highway network represents “more than just concrete, steel and asphalt”.

“It signifies development, connectivity, and the promise of a brighter future for all those who traverse the south coast of this country,” Mr. Warmington said.

He added that a well-planned, efficient transportation network is the backbone of any thriving nation, as it connects people, fosters economic growth and enhances the quality of life for citizens.

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Multi Pronged  Approach in St. Ann to Tackle Dengue



Montego Bay September 19 (JIS) – The St. Ann Health Department has adopted a multipronged approach in the fight against dengue fever as the parish reports an increase in suspected cases of the mosquito-borne disease.

Addressing the monthly meeting of the St Ann Municipal Corporation on September 14, Medical Officer of Health for St. Ann, Dr. Tamika Henry, said although the country is not currently in outbreak mode, the parish is on high alert due to the endemic nature of dengue in Jamaica.

She explained that the multipronged strategy includes surveillance, case management, health education, human resource reinforcement, larvicidal and adulticidal activities, source reduction, external stakeholder engagement, and continuous monitoring and evaluation.

Active and passive surveillance methods are being employed to detect suspected cases early. This involves healthcare personnel actively searching for symptoms at hospitals and health centres, ensuring prompt intervention when necessary.

“We have a nurse that is stationed at the hospital; she’s our hospital active surveillance nurse. She goes from ward to ward, as well as in the outpatient department, accident and emergency, looking to see if there’s anybody who matches the case definition for dengue because, of course, we want to pick up things very early,” Dr. Henry said.

She noted that the health department has bolstered its human resources, employing 26 permanent vector control workers across its five health districts.

To manage the situation effectively, high-risk communities have been identified and targeted for intervention by workers, including larvicidal activities aimed at mosquito breeding sites.

Dr. Henry outlined that health education and promotion efforts are widespread, involving various public health nurses, public health inspectors and community health aides.

“We have public health nurses going out. Public health inspectors are in their zonal areas on a day-to-day basis; they, too, do health education. We have our Community Health Aides, who have been doing house-to-house visits, reminding persons about searching and destroying,” she said.

Dr. Henry noted that the Ministry of Education and Youth is also engaged, with dengue lesson plans being implemented in schools.

“One of our age groups of concern is five to 14. So, we engage with them [Ministry] and they have again rolled out their dengue lesson plan in the schools, and the children are doing their search-and-destroy activity during their activity session,” she added.

Since the start of 2023, St. Ann has received 17 notifications of suspected dengue cases. One case has been confirmed that involves a 13-year-old male who presented with fever, headache, eye pain, and nausea.

Dr. Henry disclosed that nearly half of these cases, approximately 48 per cent, match the case definition for dengue, a significant increase compared to 2022.

In 2022, the parish had 10 reported cases with only one being confirmed as dengue fever.

“More males are being reported than females in 2023, and we recognise that there are two particular age groups of concern – 5 to 14 age group, that is our primary school going up to our high school, as well as our 24 to 44 age group,” Dr. Henry shared.

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