Categorized | Business, National News

GBCC Present Economic Vision Plan to Gov’t

Executives of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) formally presented the Government with a blue print for the future development of Freeport and by-extension the country for the remaining 40 years.

The report provides an extensive analysis of targeted development opportunities, with specific recommendations for structuring the economic future of Freeport and Grand Bahama Island upon expiration of key provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA) in August of next year.

The Vision 2015 document was presented to Minister Michael Darville at the Ministry of Grand Bahama on Friday.

Leveraging the expertise of members, invested as committed business owners and licensees within the Port Area, the Chamber’s Vision Paper suggests a strategy and a range of options for consideration of the government in its engagement with the Grand Bahama Port Authority and Hutchison as it negotiates the positions regarding payment of Property and other Taxes, and the economic strategy for Freeport’s overdue success as an International Trade Center beyond 2015.

While the expiration of certain property tax provisions of the HCA was initially the focus, the GBCC thought that this was a good opportunity to produce an evaluation and a set of recommendations that addresses the broader perspective of the whole agreement and the future structure for operation of the island of Grand Bahama under the HCA.

As the representative of businesses on the island, the Chamber created its Vision Paper that sought to speak to choosing a structure that would best serve the interests of all licensees, who, by their investment and commitment, have created the successes on this island so far.

The GBCC’s board of directors, led by their Ethics and Legislative Committee, produced the comprehensive document outlining what they feel is the best way forward for the island of Grand Bahama.

A full year was spent on the project and included extensive input from stakeholders on the island, from every commercial and industrial sector.

Upon completion of the document, it was reviewed informally with the Ministry for Grand Bahama, as it had invited the Chamber to put forth solutions that would take Grand Bahama out of the current economic mire and fulfill the mandate of the HCA.

President of the Chamber of Commerce Barry Malcolm, has spoken publicly several times about the importance of protecting the mandate of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and its licensees and aggressively working towards taking advantage of the many opportunities and the untapped vault of Freeport as a center for International Trade.

“At present there is not greater issue for Grand Bahama than the refinement and renegotiation of terms and the mandate of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, occasioned by the expiration of the certain provisions thereof that happens next year,” Mr. Malcom said.

“The work that has to be done and the decisions to be made by and on behalf of all stakeholders are in our opinion more important to the future of Freeport and the country than the implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT). The decisions made regarding the mandate and economic strategy for Freeport by Government, the GBPA, licensees, Hutchison and other vested stakeholders, between now and next August, will ‘set in stone’ economic possibilities for this place for the remaining years of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.”

The Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville, upon receiving the Vision Paper, assured the chamber directors that the Government was putting its full attention to the negotiations required with the Grand Bahama Port Authority to address the fears and concerns of business on the island.

The Chamber of Commerce will be also having follow-up meetings with the Grand Bahama Port Authority and its members to present the Vision Paper in full.

The Chamber’s progressive action working for the businesses in Freeport continues as they pursue, through legal action, a clarification of certain terms of the Customs Management Act that was introduced by the government in July 2013.

While the Prime Minister recently stated that he would “roll back” some of these new taxes in Freeport, the Chamber felt that it must continue to seek clarification, once and for all, that the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and its premise of creating a tax free zone, is protected for the ongoing development of the island.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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