Prime Minister Christie on the Hawksbill Creek Agreement Amendment Bill

Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Perry Christie.
Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Perry Christie.

FREEPORT, The Bahamas – Statement of The Prime Minister The Rt. Honourable Perry Christie, Prime Minister of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas & Minister of Finance, Member of Parliament for Centreville:

Hawksbill Creek Grand Bahama (Deep Water Harbour And Industrial Area) (extension Of Tax Exemption Period)(2015) (amendment) Bill, 2015 —Tuesday, July 28, 2015:

In a communication to Parliament on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, I announced the extension of the Hawksbill Creek Grand Bahama (Deep Water Harbour and Industrial Area) (Extension of Tax Exemption Period) Act 1993 for a further period of six (6) months.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my government recognizes that the imminent expiration of these concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement has provided an opportunity for this administration to secure a comprehensive set of new arrangements aimed at spurring economic development in Grand Bahama, while simultaneously increasing Grand Bahama’s contribution to net fiscal receipts on a fairer and more equitable basis, having regard to interests of The Bahamas as a whole.

In this regard, the Cabinet convened earlier today at the Ministry for Grand Bahama to give thorough and comprehensive examination of the pertinent issues relative to certain tax provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement due to expire on August 4, 2015; and to engage key stakeholders in further dialogue, regarding the future sustainability of the city of Freeport’s unique economic free trade zone.

The government retained international consultants to undertake a study of the economic situation within the Port Area and also appointed the Hawksbill Creek Agreement Committee to review and make recommendations with respect to the impending expiration of the tax concessions in question, and to recommend other measures that may be taken to promote and sustain further economic activity in Grand Bahama.

The in-depth and comprehensive nature of the study and the report of the committee require further consultation and negotiations with stakeholders in Grand Bahama. I would like to reiterate that the six month extension is necessary to enable a detailed analysis and further consultation, so as to set the foundation and framework in order for Grand Bahama Island to realize its full potential, in the national interest of all Bahamians.

Understanding the challenges the island of Grand Bahama faced, prior to coming to office, my government was able to attract both local and direct foreign investments to this island, develop an aggressive capital works agenda to spur economic activity on the island and create construction and other long term sustainable jobs.

Today’s Cabinet meeting was held on Grand Bahama to give full attention to these capital works projects.

This morning we reopened the fire station in the Eight Mile Rock settlement and this afternoon we will be breaking ground on the $6.5 million dollar, state of the art fire station in Freeport. (Insert information regarding contract signing).

The high school for West Grand Bahama, the new Fishing Hole Road causeway and the Sea Wall for Smith’s Point projects are all out to tender and I look forward to be back in Grand Bahama very soon for the ground breaking ceremonies.

Consistent with our deep commitment to Grand Bahama’s economic recovery and further stimulation of its economy, my government engaged the major stakeholders including the executives of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, the Hutchinson Group of Companies, the Grand Bahama Shipyard and the Okayanos Heart Institute. These meetings were fruitful and augured well for the economic revitalization of Freeport, in particular and Grand Bahama, generally.

The Cabinet on the occasion reviewed the performance and impact of the following:

The Blue Diamond Memories Grand Bahama Beach Resort located in the Lucaya area continues to report good bookings at its hotel and on their Sunwing flights, that are currently servicing six cities in the United States this summer and will soon begin their direct flight, winter program from seven Canadian cities;

The renovations at the Lighthouse Point property in Lucaya which will soon be completed and will add another two hundred rooms (200) to its inventory;

The framing and completion of a draft Heads of Agreement for a new cruise ship port to be constructed in East Grand Bahama by Carnival Cruise Lines, who is in discussions with the Freeport Harbour Company relative to its exclusive port rights, which will affect the establishment of the new cruise port that is underway;

The cruise ship sector of the economy has been positively impacted by the re-introduction of the Grand Celebration Cruise Lines and the Balearia’s Bahama Mama Fast Ferry;

The Container Port is scheduled to undergo a $250 million expansion to its container terminal beginning in August of this year which will produce a net benefit of 600 direct and indirect jobs. Additionally, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has confirmed the creation of a maritime training school for Bahamians in Freeport and the hiring of Bahamians on board their ships, thus providing training and employment opportunities for hundreds of our unemployed youth. This underscores my government’s commitment to expand training and employment opportunities for Bahamians through private sector collaboration;

The expansion of the Deep Water Cay Resort in East Grand Bahama;

The establishment of a stem cell regime, which provided the framework for the licensing of the Okyanos Heart Institute, a state of the art stem cell research and medical therapy facility in Grand Bahama, the first of its kind in The Bahamas to be established;

In closing, I would like to now turn my attention back to the reason we are here today and to take this opportunity to express my Government’s gratitude and appreciation to the Hawksbill Creek Review Committee, who under the direction of its Chairman, Dr. Marcus Bethel, did an excellent job with the entire interviewing and public consultative process, and who provided this administration with comprehensive recommendations, which will aid in the government’s deliberations and negotiating process on the sustainability and longer term economic future of Freeport and Grand Bahama generally.