#Freeport, GB, December 18, 2018 – Bahamas – One of the visions of the Free National Movement Government for Grand Bahama in 2018 was to help place the island on a path of economic recovery, and then move it towards financial growth, “that was the goal of this government in Grand Bahama and we believe that significant progress has taken place – although there remains much more work to be done.
“For the most part, we believe this government has begun to move Grand Bahama to the place where we would like to see it in the future,” said Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Senator Kwasi Thompson.
The Minister’s remarks came during a year in review by the Office of the Prime Minister in Grand Bahama to members of the local media on Sunday. Minister Thompson said the year in review was a glimpse of a full year for the FNM Government, and thus it was necessary to point out some of the accomplishments for Grand Bahama in 2018.
Minister Thompson noted that Grand Bahama has played, and will continue to play a pivotal role in the overall economic resurgence of The Bahamas, and said that significance explained why the Prime Minister has taken a very personal and keen interest in Grand Bahama.
“It’s important to note that this year the tourism numbers for Grand Bahama are up,” said Minister Thompson. “According to the Ministry of Tourism and as reported by the Central Bank’s latest report, tourism stopover visitors in Grand Bahama have increased, year-over-year by 3.5 percent.
“The reason why this is significant is because last year’s numbers were a plunge of over 30 percent. What’s even more important is the Airbnb information and report, which has suggested that those numbers for the country overall has increased. But in particular for Grand Bahama, the bookings for Airbnb has increased this year for Grand Bahama by 44 percent.
“This represents the largest increase in that sector for the entire country.”
Also, this year, Minister Thompson noted that there has been a significant increase in revenue at Customs – an increase of $15 million with respect to Customs revenue in Grand Bahama.
Minister Thompson noted that the offering of free registration at Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) for all qualifying Bahamians across the county has been significant. For Grand Bahama, in particular, Minister Thompson said there has been an overall increase in enrollment by 70 percent as a result of this initiative by the government.
In the technology courses and degrees at BTVI, there has been a 97 percent increase in the Institute’s enrollment.
“So, we see that there has been a significant impact by the BTVI initiative [on the part of] the government and next year, the Prime Minister has committed that he will make the University of The Bahamas free for qualifying Bahamians as well,” added Minister Thompson.
The Minister pointed out that throughout 2018, a number of new businesses have opened in Grand Bahama by both local and foreign investors helping to stimulate the island’s economy. Those companies include GIBC (a digital company); Bahamas Zipline at Pirates Cove (a $1.4 million investment); Eco-Oil broke ground for its new offices in Grand Bahama in June 2018 (a $10 million investment); Home Fabrics of Nassau, opened a branch in Freeport (a $2 million investment); Fowlco Marine Logistics Company (a $1.4 million investment); Goombay Land Skating Rink and entertainment Centre (a $500,000 investment) was renovated and reopened; Elnet Maritime Company broke ground to construct their new offices, (a $2.5 million investment); Coral Vita broke ground for its first land-based commercial Coral Farm; and Pharmachem began work on their $180 million expansion project.
As a result of these new businesses, employment on Grand Bahama has gone up as well, as Grand Bahamians were hired to work at these new and expanding businesses. Labor on the blocks, which was a huge success in Nassau, came to Grand Bahama and saw the same success. Some 1,500 Grand Bahamians turned out and registered and there were a number of people who were able to obtain employment on the spot, and many more received appointments for job interviews, as a result of the Labor on the Blocks program.
“We held a Job Fair and some seventy Grand Bahamians were hired by Quality Services and are employed at the expansion project at Pharmachem,” said Minister Thompson. “Itelbpo’s expansion has opened the door for more Grand Bahamians to be hired, as the company moves towards its goal of hiring an additional 100 Bahamians.
“The OPM’s summer program was launched in June, which gave 500 young people job opportunities for the summer. The government’s new ICT Summer program also took effect in 2018. This program not only allowed students an opportunity to be trained at BTVI in Information, Communications and Technology courses, but a unique aspect of the program was that these students were paid a stipend to participate in the program. The program is expected to be expanded to New Providence.”
Minister Thompson pointed out that the Small Business Grant Program, which was launched by the Office of the Prime Minister, allowed 197 people to go through the Small Business Grant Program, where they obtained better business development skills. Out of that number 87 people were given Small Business Grants, to the tune of over $370,000.
Perhaps one of the biggest events to take place in Grand Bahama during 2018 was the government’s decision to purchase the Grand Lucayan Resort.
“This was an investment to preserve the jobs of the employees working at the Resort, but also as a step to continue the redevelopment of Grand Bahama’s tourism market,” said Minister Thompson.
“The government has put in place an independent board that is now managing the resort. As a result, that board has offered voluntary separation packages now in process, and negotiations between the two unions with respect to those voluntary separation packages.
“The government has approved a three million dollar renovation for the Resort. Bids are out and the Board is evaluating those bids. The government has received over 20 interests and potential offers for the purchase of the resort and we will begin to narrow that list down shortly.
“Let me stress that the government does not intend to continue to run the resort, but what we want to do is sell the resort to a qualified buyer as soon as possible.”
In November of 2018, Grand Bahama held its Second Annual Technology Summit, which brought together local, national and international experts and companies in the field of technology to exchange ideas about advancing technology around the world.
It was during that Summit that the Government of The Bahamas signed an MOU with Cisco Systems to provide further educational opportunities for Bahamians to be trained in the technology sector.
“One of the unique things that came out of this year’s Summit was the announcement by the Grand Bahama Power Company, who will be offering a GB Tech Hub special power rate particularly for those tech businesses who intend to open offices in Grand Bahama,” said Minister Thompson.
“It will also be offered to existing tech businesses who are expanding and hiring more employees. They will also be able to take advantage of this special tech hub electricity rate.”
Minister Thompson said that there were a number of other events, projects and programs that have taken place in Grand Bahama to help stimulate and move the economy forward, including the continuation of projects like the building of the junior high school in Holmes’ Rock, the building of the Seawall in Smith’s Point, and the building of the bridge at the Fishing Hole Road.
He said he is excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for Grand Bahama in 2019 and looks forward to even more new businesses, particularly in the technology sector, to be opened in Grand Bahama.
Minister Thompson said that it is his belief that the special church service, which was held on Watch Night before the start of 2018 had very positive effects on the island. The event, which gathered pastors, preachers and believers from throughout the island, was held at the Independence Park, where the New Year for Grand Bahama was ushered in.
“We believe that all of the achievements and success for Grand Bahama in 2018, is as a result of what God is doing in Grand Bahama. And there is no doubt that the church service that was held to start off the New Year had a lot to do with that success,” said Minister Thompson.
By Andrew Coakley
Photo Caption: Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Senator Kwasi Thompson, gave the media highlights of the government’s accomplishments in Grand Bahama for 2018, during a special press conference on Sunday, December 16, 2018. Minister Thompson said that while some progress has been made, there is still much more work to be done to fulfill the government’s vision for Grand Bahama.
(BIS Photo/Andrew Coakley)