Major development on the way for GB
Freeport News Reporter
Prime Minister Perry Christie hinted that a major development might be on the way to spur employment on Grand Bahama Saturday.
"The government of The Bahamas, Hutchison Whampoa, the Port Authority, we are all engaged in very complex discussions and negotiations that makes me feel very good because I am on the very edge of this wonderful precipice," he said.
Christie was speaking at the grand opening of the Circle Mall when he noted that the government is close to a new intervention in the economy of Freeport.
"The government of The Bahamas spends as much as $29 million annually, directly in trying to maintain enterprises here. It really defies the best imagination that I could have as to how you rationalize the money being used in the way that it has been used. Put very simply, to me it didn't make sense," the prime minister said. "You cannot continue to subscribe to a casino that has no impact and spending $8 million a year to do that."
He said Grand Bahama is too important to the overall success of The Bahamas to take risks through sloppy decision-making and the application of millions in taxpayer dollars, noting that the Government will have to ensure it brings the necessary focus to make the economy work.
Christie said he is hoping that the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) and Hutchison Whampoa can arrive at a resolution to matters being negotiated as soon as possible that would enable the creation of hundreds of jobs and the exponential impact that could lead to thousands more.
He said after expressing optimism for some time he has decided to speak now to give residents hope that it is happening.
"When it does it's another major impact positive, clearly signaling to the investing world that Grand Bahama is still a place where you can invest and make money," the prime minister said." It's not a question of whether we have to, it's only a question of when...how long."
He said the measure of any country is how it is able to draw on the collective wisdom of its people and requires a government to be matured to the point where it allows and facilitates the private sector to have an impact on foreign policy.
"It is for us to see that what we are doing here this afternoon as just the beginning of more that will take place this year and next year and the years after," Christie said.
He told GBPA representatives that it is critical that they understand that they will have to work with the Government to make things happen for the island and that the Government is not the only entity that has to give, but all stakeholders must contribute.
Christie said his day started in Bimini where a bust was unveiled for Martin Luther King who wrote two of his famous speeches there.
He said on Bimini the Genting Group, through a joint venture would expand that island's casino that would lead to full employment for that community when it opens in March.
"I came to Freeport during the election campaign and many people would have perhaps seen my statements and my speeches as just politics, but I've come to tell you this afternoon that this kind of happening, this kind of experience this afternoon encourages me because we are talking about currently 150 new jobs, people working here with the potential to expand," the prime minister said.
Christie said whether Circle Mall Owner Hannes Babak was liked or not, he is investing in the country.
"It must be appreciated that we have to guide ourselves in the governance of our country where we have to exercise the greatest care before we use our immigration policy to manifest views that we hold often times driven by personal animosity," the prime minister said.
Christie said during the election campaign he indicated to Grand Bahama that there was a compelling urgency to save the island that is faced with a contracting economy and the high cost of electricity that is an encumbrance to investors and people who have to pay their bills.
He said the island and the country cannot afford to pay the high cost of electricity, noting that it is why he made it a priority that is being handled under his office.
"We have received over 20 proposals, proposals which range from being able to reduce the cost of electricity through alternative energy sources, solar, rent, converting solid waste to electricity where there are existing plants in parts of the world," Christie said.
The prime minister said a team of eleven people from the Genting Group arrived in the country and he has agreed for them to conduct a study at no cost to the Government where the group believes it will be able to assist in formulating more cost effective ways of producing energy.
"We are driving this because we cannot do business in The Bahamas or have our citizens being threatened with a life of living without electricity because they can't make ends meet. That undermines our stability," Christie said.
Proprietor of the Circle Mall Hannes Babak said the island's first indoor mall was made possible only though a joint venture between him and the tenants.
"Today we are already a major employer and the whole mall gives a great opportunity to a lot of visionary young entrepreneurs to try to convert their business spirit and ideas into a store, so I am proud today that we have created a new shopping and eating atmosphere here in Freeport as it is not only an indoor mall, it's also the first and only food court in Freeport," he said.
Babak added that the Kidz World also provides an ideal atmosphere to entertain children while their parents shop.
Minister of Grand Bahama Dr. Michael who also spoke at the mall's opening noted that the for the first time residents on the island can enjoy an indoor, air-conditioned mall with more than 40 stores, eight food outlets, eight kiosks and a child care facility.
"It is my understanding that the mall is 80 percent occupied and when fully rented, 200 sustainable jobs will be created. This certainly represents the level of investor confidence in Grand Bahama's economy and the economic policies of our government," he said.
© 2012 The Freeport News