Hawksbill Creek Agreement Review Committee chairman addresses concerns with business community
By Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce
Feb 29, 2016 - 3:25:16 PM
Chairman of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement Review Committee (HCARC) Dr Marcus Bethel brought remarks to the GB Chamber and addressed some of the organisation's concerns regarding the Hawksbill Creek Agreement's expiring concessions. (Photo: Keen i Media Ltd.)
Freeport, Bahamas - Chairman of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement Review Committee (HCARC) Dr Marcus Bethel suggested the government would make a determination on the Hawksbill Creek Agreement's expiring tax concessions within the next three months.
Dr Bethel made the claim while fielding questions from local business owners at the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce's (GBCC) monthly meeting on Wednesday, February 24 at the Pelican Bay Hotel in Freeport.
"Indications I have are that this current extension of three months is going to be the final extension," Dr Bethel said. "The government is concluding a number of negotiations locally and abroad with major stakeholders... to bring a resolution to a number of issues which, with the utilisation of the data provided by the review committee, would then facilitate their policy determination."
Prior to the three-month extension enacted on February 4, the government allowed the Hawksbill Creek Agreement's concessions to persist for a six-month period as it continued negotiations with key stakeholders on the best way forward for Grand Bahama.
The tax concessions in discussion prohibit real property tax/property levy; personal property tax and capital levies or capital gains/appreciation; and taxation on the earnings the Grand Bahama Port Authority and its licencees.
The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, February 24 at The Pelican Bay Hotel in Freeport. (Photo: Keen i Media Ltd.)
Among the 12 recommendations the HCARC made to the government was the suggestion that these expiring concessions be extended for 20 years while the government and Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) collaborate to restructure the governance of Grand Bahama - particularly the Port area - and secure major investors for the island.
During his address, Dr Bethel detailed each of these recommendations, noting that the data was compiled after a three-month period involving extensive research, four town meetings and consultations with 120 representatives from the business and civic communities. He explained that the report was designed to facilitate economic growth and the overall improvement in the quality of life in Grand Bahama.
"At this time the economy is really sluggish, some say 'moribund', and what is necessary is that the necessary organisational infrastructure be put in place to move things forward," Dr Bethel said. "The whole purpose of all that is to ensure that there is employment of Bahamians; that there are opportunities for Bahamians to get into entrepreneurial activities and of course for all the licencees to prosper."
Also included in the HCARC report are: recommendations that a one-year period be permitted to secure an international investor capable of acquiring majority ownership of the GBPA; that a government-appointed director sit on the GBPA board to establish the government as an advisor in decisions regarding Grand Bahama's economic future; and that the GBPA maintains transparency through the provision of information on revenue and expenses for municipal services.
Dr Bethel stressed that Grand Bahama's economic success is dependent on the cooperation of the government and the GBPA. "There is a need for changes in the way the Port area is run given the ongoing changes within the ownership of the Grand Bahama Port Authority," the HCARC chairman said. "Of course, the government has equal responsibility to ensure that the carpet is made red for both foreign investors and domestic investors, meaning Bahamians."
GB Chamber President Kevin D Seymour, who also serves as a member of the HCARC, said he is satisfied the committee has compiled a list of "transformational" recommendations that will change the trajectory of the island. He added that Dr Bethel's presentation provided insight for local business owners who expressed concern regarding the future of governance in Freeport.
Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) President Kevin D. Seymour (left) presents Dr Marcus Bethel with a plaque in appreciation of his presentation on the Hawksbill Creek Agreement Review Committee's recommendations during the GBCC's monthly meeting. (Photo: Keen i Media Ltd.)
"The GBCC is the voice of business so anything that affects business certainly would be articulated through the Chamber of Commerce. This is a clear example - a major initiative that is expected to impact Grand Bahama for at least the next 20 years. This was an effective collaboration between the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, government as well as non-governmental organisations."
For more than 35 years, the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce has existed to sustain, promote and support business development in an effort to encourage growth and expansion in the Grand Bahama economy and within a healthy and clean community environment. It is a voluntary organisation of individuals and businesses that band together to advance the commercial, financial, industrial, civic, interests of the local business community.
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