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Press Release From GBPA Re Interim Extension Of HCA Expiring Provisions Under Clause 2 Sub-clause (6), (7), (8)

Please note, a copy of the Prime Minister's Address is Attached Below.

The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) and its licencees are most appreciative of the decision of the Government to extend those concessions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement which are due to expire on August 4, 2015 for a further six months.

GBPA asserted on behalf of its licensees that removal of the uncertainty concerning the Government’s position on the expiring concession is vital to collective efforts to attract new investors and the expansion plans of existing investors in the Port Area.

GBPA President Ian Rolle said: “We are also pleased that the Prime Minister, in his remarks to the House of Assembly, has confirmed that the tax concessions in question are of great importance to the further economic development of the City of Freeport, and the entire Island of Grand Bahama”.

Sarah St George GBPA Vice Chairman hailed this as a very positive development and indicative of the goodwill built between all parties during the consultation process with Government and the Special Committee under Dr Marcus Bethel over the last months. She said, “We thank the Prime Minister and his Government for this interim extension and, as so aptly put, for their recognition of the importance of the adoption of new measures aimed at accelerating, broadening and sustaining economic development in Freeport and Grand Bahama generally”. 

The Grand Bahama Port Authority reiterated that the company agrees entirely with the Prime Minister that further detailed analysis and dialogue are required with the Government regarding immediate and long-term planning and indicated willingness on GBPA’s part to do all within their power to expedite this process.


House Communication By

The Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie

Prime Minister

And Member For Centreville

The Hawksbill Creek (Grand Bahama Deepwater Harbour And Industrial Area) Act

Dated: July 22nd, 2015


Mr. Speaker:

The Hawksbill Creek Grand Bahama (Deep Water Harbour and Industrial Area) (Extension of Tax Exemption Period) Act, 1993 extended for a further period of 22 years certain tax concessions originally granted under the 1955 Hawksbill Creek Agreement. These extended concessions are now set to expire on August 4th, 2015 – just a few days from now.

In the interests of clarity, the tax concessions are available to licencees in the Port Area of Grand Bahama – better known as Freeport, and include the following:

  •  i.  Firstly, no real property tax or real property levy;
  • ii.  Secondly, no personal property tax and no capital levies or taxes on capital gains or capital appreciation; and
  • iii. Thirdly, No taxes of any kind on the earnings of the Port Authority or the earnings of its licensees.

The imminent expiration of these concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement has provided an opportunity for the Government to secure a comprehensive set of new arrangements aimed at spurring economic development in Grand Bahamas while at the same time increasing Grand Bahama’s contribution to net fiscal receipts on a fairer and more equitable basis having regard to interests of The Bahamas as a whole.

Accordingly, and with that aim in mind, the Government retained international consultants to undertake a study of the economic situation within the Port Area; the implications of renewing expiring incentives of the kind in question; and the adoption of new measures aimed at accelerating, broadening and sustaining economic development in Freeport and Grand Bahama generally; and to consult with the Grand Bahama Port Authority and other stakeholders,

Additionally, the Government appointed a Committee to review and make recommendations with respect to the impending expiration of the tax concessions in question under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, and to recommend other measures that might be taken to promote and sustain economic growth in Grand Bahama.

The study by the consultants and the Committee’s report are currently under consideration by the Cabinet.

Mr. Speaker:

The tax concessions in question are of great importance to the further economic development of the City of Freeport, and the entire Island of Grand Bahama.

Due to the in depth and comprehensive nature of the study and the report of the Committee, which would also require further consultation and negotiations with stakeholders and the Grand Bahama community, more time is clearly needed to complete this vital exercise.

In due course, following the completion of Cabinet’s deliberations, Parliament will be provided with the information contained in the study and the Committee’s report. The context for that, of course, will be the bills that shall have to be tabled by the Government to give legislative effect to any change in the tax relief provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.  

In the meantime, however, to emphasize the thoroughness of the review that was carried out, the Committee met with over 100 stakeholders including civil society, manufacturers, developers, tourism operators, professionals, and present and former Parliamentarians drawn from both sides of the parliamentary divide.  In addition, the Committee hosted public meetings with the community.

Clearly, there is still a great deal for the Government to digest and consider before settling the longer way forward based on the study by the consultants and, more especially, the report from the Committee.

In the meantime, however, and at least for the short term, it is vitally important that we maintain the status quo as it relates to the tax concessions in question. This will require a short extension of six (6) months to the existing 1993 Hawksbill Creek Grand Bahama (Deep Water Harbour and Industrial Area) (Extension of Tax Exemption Period) Act which, as I pointed out at the beginning of this Communication, is due to expire on August 4th, 2015. 

Accordingly, I shall be introducing the Hawksbill Creek Grand Bahama (Deep Water Harbour and Industrial Area) (Extension of Tax Exemption Period) (Amendment) Bill, 2015 in order to effect the 6 months extension.

This extension is necessary to enable full analysis and further consultation, if necessary, so as to set the foundation and framework for the accomplishment of Grand Bahama’s full potential in the national interest for the benefit of all Bahamians.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, allow me to express my Government’s thanks and appreciation to Dr. Marcus Bethel, the Chairman of the Committee, and the other hard working members of the Committee, namely:

  • Sir Baltron Bethel, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Prime Minister
  • Mr. James Smith, Consultant, Ministry of Finance
  • Mr. Maurice Moore, Former Ambassador, Cabinet Minister & Member of Parliament
  • Mr. Kevin D. Seymour, CA, President Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce
  • Ms. Cassietta McIntosh, Attorney-at-Law

The Committee did a great job and one for which the Government is most thankful. It will certainly be of enormous value to the Cabinet as it proceeds to complete its deliberations on the longer term economic future of Freeport and Grand Bahama generally.

Perry G. Christie, M.P.

Prime Minister

July 22nd, 2015

ABOUT GBPA


The Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA) gave GBPA responsibility for the development, administration and management, and provision of services within an area called the 'Port Area' (230 sq. miles). GBPA was mandated by this Agreement to build a deep water harbour, an industrial community and required infrastructure for the City.

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PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE


GBPA has achieved an astonishing amount since its inception in 1955.  When first created it was a Grand Bahamian business conglomerate charged not only with land and commercial development but also with all the regulatory and administrative functions of the Freeport/Lucaya.

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THE WAY FORWARD


Firstly, I wish to thank Joan Albury and the Counsellors for this platform enabling us to share with the Grand Bahama community, the outlook for our island! 2015 marks the 60th year of the birth of Freeport and the Hawksbill Creek Agreement; 60 years of a partnership between The Government of The Bahamas and The Grand Bahama Port Authority. I'm here to raise hopes for 2015 and to lay a few popular myths to rest - For those who don't know me, I am Sarah St George.

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