Attorneys Fred Smith, QC, and Carey Leonard made an application on Wednesday to apply for a leave of judicial review and interlocutory relief concerning the amendments to the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA).
According to Smith, the proposed judicial review proceedings relate to the actions and decisions made by Prime Minister Perry Christie, along with the Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville and HCA Chairman Dr. Marcus Bethel concerning the HCA.
Smith added that their actions and decisions relate to a fundamentally “flawed” consultation exercise, initiated by the government, regarding proposals to amend certain provisions of the HCA and to increase the amount of government revenue raised from Freeport, Grand Bahama.
The consultation exercise, which is being carried out on behalf of the government by the HCA Review Committee, Smith explained, is founded upon a report commissioned by the government from the well-known management consultants, McKinsey & Co.
The consultants issued the McKinsey Report and according to the committee’s terms of reference, the report includes “a study of the economic situation within the port area, the implications of the expiring incentives, and measures which might be taken to spur economic development.”
Therefore, Smith and Leonard infer that the McKinsey Report includes factual information which will inform the committee’s deliberations on the recommendations which they will ultimately make to the government.
According to Smith, the report also includes, “specific proposals which the committee will consider before making recommendations to the government.”
However, he said the prime minister, the minister for Grand Bahama and the HCA chairman are in violation of the principles of proper and lawful consultation because they refused to make this vital report available to the public or the people which the committee is purporting to consult.
In March, Prime Minister Christie announced that a six-member committee would review the HCA.
In august of this year, certain provisions of the more than half century old HCA are due to expire, namely exemptions on business licence fees and real property tax.
Christie said the expiration of these incentives provides an opportunity for the government to secure a comprehensive set of new arrangements which can spur economic development and increase the island’s contribution to net fiscal receipts.
“Following the study of the economic situation in the port area by international consulting firm Mckinsey and Co., the government appointed the committee to meet and negotiate with representatives of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), investors, relevant public, private sector and community interests, so as to recommend to the government arrangements for securing both an economic package to promote more robust sustained growth, and a fiscal package that enhances Grand Bahama’s contribution to the government’s revenue base,” Mr. Christie said.
The committee’s main objectives are to agree with the GBPA and principal licensees on a long term economic development plan which both protect and promote the shipping, industrial, logistics, tourism, real estate and other commercial sectors as the focus for Grand Bahama.