Categorized | National News

“Let Freeport Go And Grow”

Reacting to suggestions in recent days for the government to purchase The Grand Bahama Port Authority, controversial  Queens Counsel Fred Smith is calling  for the nationalization and immediate privatization  of the entity.

 Speaking on the Love 97  Radio Show “On Point”, Mr. Smith a Senior partner in the law  firm Callenders and Company said, “we need new blood, we need new money, we need new ideas and we need the government to let Freeport grow by letting it go.”

 He said “the infrastructure of Freeport is virtually collapsed and that is because the Port Group of Companies and Hutchinson Whampoa, they own most of the land and they’re not mortgaging it. They’re not leveraging it, they’re not investing in it and frankly with the restrictions by the government in real estate development and control of licensing, especially immigration, one can see why the Port Authority or Hutchinson etc, really don’t make an investment in the development and growth of Freeport.

“I’ve seen their projections, I’ve seen fabulous opportunities for investments come and go, simply because  they get mired in the quagmire of government bureaucracy.

 “There’s over control of Freeport by the government and the port authority has simply backed off and did nothing. 

“The reality is, even if we didn’t have the over control by the government, I’m not sure that the St. George and the Hayward families, I suggest and I maintain, that they do not have the professional capacity, the development wherewithal to be the vision and the growth of Freeport,” said Mr. Smith. 

He said, “ the PLP Grand Bahama  committee did not conduct a proper consultation. You may recall that one of the reasons that Mr. Carey  Leonard and I sued the government successfully,  was because they refused to share with us the Mckenzie Report and a lot of other information that they had and the sole objective of that committee was to do a report to the members of parliament to recommend basically how to take away regulatory powers from the port authority and allow essential governments to take over that’s the kiss of death of Freeport. 

“ It is the kiss of death for essential governments to own Freeport for the purpose of regulating it or developing it. Unfortunately, I was not consulted by that committee. I refused to participate,  as did many other people from Freeport unless we were provided with a lot of the necessary information which the government refused to share.  So I’m very glad that the FNM  government chose to repeal the  Grand Bahama  Incentive Act.” 

Mr. Smith says, “the  key to unlocking Freeport is letting go of the excessive immigration control and ensuring that the port group of Companies and Hutchinson develop as they’re supposed to. 

“And part of that will be to change the ownership of the port group of companies. In my view we have sufficient people from Nassau with money; and we have licensees with money. Can you imagine if the Port Authority is  made into a publicly traded company? Everybody in the Bahamas could buy into this company. Everybody in the Bahamas in particular Freeport would have a vested interest in making sure that Freeport is a success, because their dollar was invested in it, and so if the government was restricting it, you would have the thousands of Bahamian licensees telling the government to stop. 

The lawyer  said he had shared many of  his views with both the PLP and FNM MP’s over the years. “ Unfortunately most of the Cabinet Members and Parliamentarians  refuse to accept that there is recession by the politicians in the Bahamas with over- controlling everything and so the free market enterprise system doesn’t work when there is this type of control through immigration, through licensing, through permitting. 

“And they have grown up in a political environment in which they think that it is appropriate for Cabinet or a Minister to say whether I can or can’t buy a piece of land, whether I can or can’t own some shares. 

“Regulatory agencies should function on a very different transparent and accountable level than simply arbitrary decision makers in exchange control or in the International Persons’ Land Holding Act or immigration.

“We still have these very opaque, non-transparent, non-accountable ministerial decision making processes,  that have created so much red tape for Freeport it’ll never get anywhere.

“We have to let go of the control and treat it like a free port.

Taxes, regulatory investments and immigration, Freeport could boom overnight if they would just let the damn thing go,” said Mr. Smith. 

Written by Jones Bahamas

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