Key findings from the REEF Committee’s robust public consultation provide path to a bright future for Freeport
By Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited
Dec 2, 2020 - 9:29:56 AM
Freeport, The Bahamas - With input from over 3,100 individuals across Grand Bahama to its public engagement survey, the Revitalization and Economic Expansion of Freeport (REEF) Committee shares the results of its consultation process.
Launched by the Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited (GBPA) earlier this year, REEF’s key priorities are to stimulate, activate and lead growth and change by engaging with Grand Bahamians and the Government of the Bahamas to support and implement action plans for short term stability, and medium to long-term growth, sustainability, financial health and the return of a thriving Freeport economy.
“The robustness of responses to REEF’s consultation exercise, combined with the broad representation of the REEF Committee itself, has resulted in actionable, relevant and impactful content that we can really work with,” said Robert Adams, Consultant Attorney at Delaney Partners and REEF Committee Lead. “The results are a reflection of what the people of Grand Bahama care about, are concerned about, and want to see progress on.”
The REEF Committee invited input to its public engagement survey over a 24-day period, and attracted 3,162 responses. While the full text of its report can be found at www.reef.gbpa.com, the following summarizes the key priorities:
- Support for diversifying the economy away from over-dependence on tourism, and providing enhanced opportunities for investment in agriculture, maritime and logistics, light industry, healthcare and education sectors.
- A need for measures to protect Freeport from storm surge, flooding and other impacts of hurricanes.
- Establishment of world-class healthcare facilities to address local needs and, in part, support medical tourism.
- Enable businesses through enhanced funding, training and mentoring, and provide protection from unfair competition from foreign-owned entities.
- Create significant new entrepreneurial and better-quality employment opportunities.
- Address the issue of derelict buildings in Freeport.
- Support for a ‘blue economy’, which refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.
- Support, from licensees and property owners specifically, for measures such as extending Real Property Tax (RPT) and other exemptions, and waiving work permit requirements for expatriates visiting Freeport for business.
“The thoughtful, invaluable input received from a broad spectrum of Freeport’s residents and business owners has provided the Committee with a true representation of Grand Bahamians’ perspectives,” commented Sarah St. George, GBPA’s Acting Chairman. “Over the past several weeks, members of the REEF Committee have met with the Government of The Bahamas to discuss proposed amendments to environmental regulation and enhancements to the investment policy to enable ease of doing business, among other topics. The recommendations from the public are complementary to the Government’s priorities, so we know there is significant support behind these pivotal goals.”
The 24-member strong REEF Committee now includes representation from the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) in addition to a broad swath of Freeport’s business leaders. “Critical next steps for REEF are to review and discuss the results of the public consultation exercise in detail, and draft action plans that will move us toward our goal of a stable, sustainable and financially robust island,” added Lawrence Palmer, GBCC 2nd Vice President. “As we progress, we will continue to keep the public informed. Our avenues for feedback remain open, and all input from residents is given due consideration.”
Details on the purpose and efforts of the REEF Committee, its membership and contact information, along with full public engagement survey results, can be found on the Committee’s website at www.reef.gbpa.com.
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