Grand Bahama's economy in shambles
The pre-Xmas show led by none other than Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and other executives of his Free National Movement (FNM) government was an all out effort to convince the Grand Bahama public that under their watch, the economy is doing well and any shortfall with the economy must be the blame of the former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government who had been out of office now for almost four years.
Statements made by Prime Minister Ingraham and others at this staged event clearly are an indictment that this FNM government is completely out of touch as to what is truly happening here on Grand Bahama. Surely, they do not feel the pain of Grand Bahamians nor do they hear the cry for help.
They have no idea of the pains and struggles that have become the daily challenge to make ends meet for most Grand Bahamians. Just look at the few homes that displayed Xmas lights and decorations this past holiday season. Grand Bahama which once was the "Magic City" of Freeport can now shamefully boast the highest national unemployment in the nation and record foreclosures.
This has resulted in the exodus of persons out of Grand Bahama and is reflected in the 2010 Census report which registered just a slight increase in population from 2000 to 2010.
This is a disgrace as Grand Bahama out of its unconditional loyalty to the FNM has been nicknamed "FNM country!" Anyone here on Grand Bahama could have easily informed Prime Minister Ingraham and his group that this is the worst economy in living memory that Grand Bahamians have ever seen.
The Grand Bahama economy is in shambles!
Businesses are closing left and right and there doesn't seem to be any assistance forthcoming from this FNM government to help alleviate the situation. Yes the FNM government did provide limited assistance for some persons by implementing the Unem-ployment Benefit Scheme. However, that money could have been better used to help small businesses in these tough times. This would help keep people employed and the economy going.
The sad reality is the fact that since coming to office, this FNM has done very little, if anything at all, to boost the economy of Grand Bahama or assisted the small businesses that would have carried the economy through the recession. During this current tenure, the only thing that the FNM can boast about is construction of the Government Complex, ironically a building that will serve the purpose of extracting revenue from the public for the government.
Another fact of interest regarding this building is that it will be housing a number of governmental agencies, some of whom are paying rent to private business people. The loss of this income to them may make it more difficult to meet their obligations such as mortgage, service fees, etc. With the exception of providing a few jobs, what other benefit will the Govern-ment Complex provide to the Grand Bahama community?
The dispute between the shareholders at the Grand Bahama Port Authority undoubtedly has contributed to the adverse business atmosphere here on Grand Bahama.
When those directly charged with the responsibility of administering are in turmoil, how can anything be accomplished? Any reasonable person would assume that a prudent government would have seized this opportunity and restructured the defects in the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA), in order to make it more relevant for Grand Bahama businesses of today.
At one point Prime Minister Ingraham had even threatened to put Freeport directly under the administration of The Bahamas Government.
Amidst this chaos, it would have been a perfect opportunity as those persons operating under the HCA would be able to participate and have some influence as to how Freeport is administered. Instead of taking action, Prime Minister chose to ignore this crisis situation by stating that he will not negotiate with the Port at this time, even though there are parts of the HCA that is due to expire in 2015, just a few years away. Clearly, the people of Freeport are being held hostage!
Ironically, Sir Jack Hayward, who is the major shareholder in the GBPA has put the blame for the downturn of the Grand Bahama economy squarely at the foot of Prime Minister Ingraham and his FNM government.
With a number of major projects in the pipeline that could help bring some relief to Grand Bahama, Sir Jack has accused the FNM government of dragging their feet or otherwise shown very little interest in assisting Grand Bahama. The cruise port promised for William's/Russell Town some time ago, when this writer stated that this project was simply a pie in the sky has so far turned out to be just that, a pie in the sky.
However, Sir Jack's main beef with Prime Minister Ingraham has been the manner in which the work permit for one of his key players, Hanis Babak was handled.
In full contradiction of statements previously made by the FNM in the 2007 General Election that were solely designed to discredit the way in which the former PLP government had handled the Grand Bahama economy, Finance Minister Zhivargo Laing rebutted Sir Jack using the same explanations that the PLP had used in 2007 to explain the difficulties with the Grand Bahama economy.
Disasters such as hurricanes, 911 and the recession as stated by the PLP in 2007 were the same reasons given by the FNM. This explanation was not accepted by the FNM in 2007 and they asked Grand Bahama to "trust" them to fix the economy.
Another insult to investors on Grand Bahama by Prime Minister Ingraham was the way he mentioned the name of Bobby Ginn, an investor developing a mega project in West End, that was approved under the previous PLP government.
Prime Minister Ingraham stated to the effect that "Bobby Ginn does not own Ginn ... and that he just had a meeting with the owners!" He is mischievously implying that Bobby Ginn was a flam and should not be trusted especially, since this was a PLP deal.
What Prime Minister Ingra-ham should have stated was that at one point Bobby Ginn was the owner. However, the reality of foreclosures in this recession, equity in real estate is a dynamic thing and at a given point in time, there could be different owners in a property. Not to give the full story is a deception.
Regrettably, by lowering the image of Bobby Ginn and his deals under the PLP, the Prime Minister is attempting to deceive the Bahamian public.
Despite it all, Grand Bahama has still been good to The Bahamas. During the heat of the FNM convention, the Prime Minister when referring to the sale of South Riding Point Holdings and the recovery of some $68 million in Stamp Duty announced that "we got da money!"
This money was used to pay Bahamas government bills anything from Nurses Health Insurance to Customs overtime. The bottom line is that hardly any of it trickled back to Grand Bahama. Now, apparently, BORCO will be sold again and is expected to bring in $100 million into the Treasury.
The fact is that very little of this will be spent to improve Grand Bahama whose economy will continue to be challenged.
Finally, there can't be any hope for optimism as far as Grand Bahama tourism is concerned. With more hotel rooms closed than are open, one would naturally expect a caring government to do more to promote tourism.
Yes, there are a couple more cruise ships coming in, but that makes very little difference to the bottom line as Grand Bahama tourism remains in a state of acute depression. A shocking reminder of reality came about a week ago, when this writer was flying from Charlotte, N.C., the hub for U.S.Air, to Freeport.
In the past, U.S.Air was the leading carrier that used to provide the bulk of air arrivals to Grand Bahama. In a little tiny commuter jet, there were barely 15 passengers on the plane going to Freeport. One would have thought that with all of the bad weather in the northeast United States in recent weeks, there would be masses of snow birds travelling south to Grand Bahama.
They were travelling alright but not to Grand Bahama as flights going to other destinations such as Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Provo, etc were large jets almost filled to capacity.
Man is Grand Bahama economy in deep trouble or what? This FNM government just doesn't get this point.
Dr. Leatendore Percentie
© 2011 The Freeport News