Prime Minister Philip 'Brave' Davis delivers the Budget communication in the House of Assembly.
Photo: Moise Amisial
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis said his administration would take decisive action on the Grand Bahama Port Authority, declaring that the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, once key to Grand Bahama’s prosperity, no longer works.
His frank remarks attracted the attention of many yesterday as he delivered his budget communication in the House of Assembly.
Mr Davis noted that while some islands showed economic growth this fiscal year, Grand Bahama continued to decline.
“Grand Bahama contributes 12 per cent of the overall GDP of The Bahamas, yet its economy declined by 9 per cent compared to the previous year,” he said.
“There was a silver lining as the tourism sector witnessed a slight increase in 2022, which was evident in the growth of the accommodation and food service industries. Unfortunately, the statistics show a prolonged decline in the Grand Bahamian economy.”
He continued: “The evidence confirms the view of my government that the Hawksbill Creek economic model, which was meant to attract foreign direct investment, does not work. Furthermore, in our view, the governance model of the Grand Bahama Port Authority must change in order to realise the promise, growth and prosperity which we all desire.”
“Additionally, the government of The Bahamas has serious concerns regarding the compliance of the GBPA and its related companies with the terms and conditions of the Hawksbill Creek Act, and its subsequent amendments.”
Mr Davis’ comments echo those of several Cabinet ministers who say new ownership and vision at the GBPA is critical to Freeport’s future.
Grand Bahama Minister Ginger Moxey told reporters earlier this month that the island needs a Port Authority that is “progressive” and “makes things happen”.
Meanwhile, in a recent voice note, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said Grand Bahama was dying and that it was up to the government to help save the island.
“The owners of the city have sold-off assets, failed in their commitments to being fresh investment in, failed in their obligations to bring essential infrastructure and build the city,” he said.
Arguing that only the government can reverse this trend, Mr Mitchell said: “It points to only one direction to solve it. New investment must be found and only the government can do so.”
While acknowledging that past administrations have tried to address concerns about the GBPA, Mr Davis said yesterday: “The issue is clearly systematic and fundamental.”
“We believe the time has come for decisive action. In due course, we will make a separate, detailed announcement.”
Free National Movement leader Michael Pintard said the FNM is also concerned about the quality of the GBPA’s performance and that of its related companies.
However, he said the FNM would not support the Davis administration taking over the port. He said the administration must consult widely before taking significant action on the GBPA.
“We want to make sure that all of us are at the table determining the way forward for GBPA and Freeport,” he said. “The Davis-led administration is not one of those considerations as the group to take control of GBPA and related companies.”