NEVER has the saying “it is now or never” felt more urgent than in the case of Freeport.
Worn down by years of unrealised potential, bludgeoned by Hurricane Dorian and paralysed by COVID-19, it is a place troubled by unemployment, with a population that has seen family members move to Nassau in search of a brighter future.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
A committee of 20 people quietly came together six months ago to take matters into their own hands.
Build on our strengths, that’s the plan. Because Freeport does have strengths – it just needs the opportunity to realise them.
Around the world, there are places that would envy Freeport’s model for the potential it offers.
The committee has looked at how to do that – building on the container port, shipyard and harbour to become “the Maritime Centre for the Americas”.
That would see improved use of marine resources, reforms in immigration, tourism, and that old bugbear of The Bahamas - the ease of doing business. Indeed, the committee wants to turn a negative into a positive and turn the island’s experience with hurricanes into a magnet to attract industries focused on climate change, weather and disasters.
The best thing about these proposals is that they come from the community rather than being imposed from above by government. Like it or not, we have seen too many times when reforms introduced by one government get tossed out by the next. Having the proposals come from Freeport means it’s not a matter of being able to claim political victories or score points.
The owners of the Grand Bahama Port Authority are behind it. Members of the community are behind it. Both major political parties have expressed support.
“I think describing it as a ‘now or never opportunity’ is a good way of putting it,” said the committee’s head, Robert Adams, who says that the revitalisation of the second city could revive The Bahamas as a whole.
Now or never. We’d best make it now. Never isn’t an option.
Vaughn Miller MP has joined the PLP. You will not be alone in saying “Who?” when you hear this news.
His time with the FNM will largely be remembered for voting against the increase in Value Added Tax then being fired from his post as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Social Services as a result. He said after that firing that he would not quit the FNM, dismissing claims he would quit to become independent or join the PLP. He subsequently quit the FNM and yesterday joined the PLP.
At times, he spoke up about the disconnect between the Minnis administration and Bahamians, although the FNM area association chairman later said Mr Miller had been absent both physically and “mentally” long before he resigned from the FNM.
Having taken to choppy waters as an independent, it now looks as if Mr Miller is leaping from the lifeboat back on to the Titanic. He joins a PLP party listless in direction and hoping to capitalise on the FNM’s handling of COVID-19.
We’re not sure what he will bring to the PLP. It’s hard to say he brought much to the FNM.