Monday, September 18, 2023

Perceived Issues Which Stand Out as Having the Very Real Potential of Destroying The Bahamian Way of Life in The Bahamas

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is going along with a scheme to put the people of The Bahamas under great financial, social, physical and psychological pain...

I am proposing that if The Bahamas and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are serious about our future and the future of our children here in The Bahamas, that we begin a discussion asking the IDB and other lenders to completely forgive our existing debt...

By: Norman Trambulsy Jr 

Mangrove Cay, Andros Island, The Bahamas

Islands of The Bahamas
There are two issues which stand out as having the very real potential of destroying our entire way of life, our standard of living and our national security in The Bahamas in the very near future.  I postulate a conservative estimate of the very near future being five-15 years time.

The two existential threats which are now upon us are as follows: Our looming debt crisis and sea level rise.

Each of these threats have the potential to totally upend life as we know it here in our beautiful country.

One of the greatest criticisms I see, of this and previous Bahamian administrations is the lack of transparency, and the lack of accountability.  One flows from the other.  Without knowing what our politicians are doing, it is not possible to contribute, nor to criticise, the actions of those who represent us.  It appears this is our history and present day attitude among those at the political top.  By their own words and actions, those in Parliament seem to believe that the Bahamian public has little right to know what they do.

This seemingly valid complaint comes from watchdog groups, the press, and the public with a usual stonewalling by those in government.

The “financial experts”, those who make their living speaking on such matters, the accountants, the bankers, the Minister of Finance, know exactly what pain will be imposed on The Bahamian people in the coming years.

They know the consequences of this odious debt our country now finds itself in.  They have seen this exact same scenario play out in countries around the world.  Whether or not they were present when the government took out these loans, they must, if they are to be called financial experts, know what is coming.

Under what are loosely called Structural Adjustment Programmes, The Bahamas will be raising taxes and cutting social spending.  Who will be impacted most heavily?

What I am claiming is that The Bahamas has a whole lot of so-called “financial experts” in government, in finance, in banking, in accounting, in consulting, in business - who are refusing to tell the Bahamian people the truth about where we are headed.  If these experts have paid attention these last few decades, and they have, they know just what to expect from the experience of other countries, even more advanced than The Bahamas.

The cuts to social services and the raising of taxes will take a very heavy toll on this country.  Who will bear most of the burden and suffer the most?  The poorest among us.  And, what effects will the cuts to social services have on our small island nation and the hardscrabble Family Islands?

Perhaps these experts have entrenched interests.  Perhaps they do not believe the Bahamian public would understand.  Perhaps they are afraid of losing clients if they tell the truth.  Perhaps they believe they may be blackballed by the political class.  Or, worse, that those who speak the truth will be voted out of office if Bahamians knew how careless these politicians have been.  Careless, as in not caring about all of our people in this island nation.

“Politics is killing this country” is something I hear from many, many people here.  They are not wrong, as far as I can see.

According to Mr Hubert Edwards, now head of the Organisation for Responsible Governance, in a recent Tribune article, says “The Bahamas finds itself at a place where it has a significant concentration of external debt, maybe more than it has ever had in the history of the country..... It has suffered over the last couple of years a number of credit downgrades which effectively put it into ‘junk’ bond status.  There are elevated external pressures on The Bahamas at this time......” “At some point in time, the Government is going to have to get their fiscal house in order.”

Now, I would like to reference an article in the Tribune, by Neil Hartnell on August 25, 2023, entitled “IDB: $856m strategy for The Bahamas ‘too ambitious’”.  This article focused on the fact that for the most part, the Inter-American Development Bank and The Bahamas have failed in far too many of the projects and programmes the IDB had lent money to The Bahamas to implement.

Not only that, the actual money spent was five times what the experts originally budgeted.  Most of the blame was as follows:

- The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has admitted its last country strategy for The Bahamas was “overly ambitious and unrealistic” despite approvals for over five times the originally-forecast level of financing.

- The multilateral lender, in a report by its internal watchdog, the Office of Evaluation and Oversight, found that the 2018-2022 Bahamas’ country programme made no or little contribution to seven of the 11 strategic objectives for improving areas such as fiscal consolidation, strengthening the Government’s institutional and digital capabilities and bolstering “integrity and transparency” in the public sector.

- The country programme evaluation attributed the Government’s low implementation capacity to a lack of technical experts to design and implement financed programmes, slow decision making, low co-ordination capacity, and lack of political commitment.”

So, where did that billion dollars go?  One might ask.

Of even greater concern to me is the near term financing needs that will be necessary for our country to deal with the immediate need to mitigate sea level rise impacts.  This, the IDB makes very clear they acknowledge, along with the fact that some of our debt burden is due to the impacts of 4 hurricanes in the last 10 years.

Has anyone seen the forecasts for hurricanes in the coming years?  Such as more frequent and more intense storms?  Does anyone deny, today, that sea levels are rising and the science behind these claims?

Now, let’s be real.  There are no surprises in the idea that The Bahamas government squandered money, and failed to do the things they said they would do.  Use whatever pretty words you wish to make excuses.  Our governments have a history of failure.  Is that a fair statement?

Now, with that said, let’s ask what are the Inter-American Development Bank’s responsibilities?

The IDB is a lending institution with a mandate to help improve the lives of the people in the country they are working in.  Do they have no culpability in these failures?  And what of the consequent economic burdens on the Bahamian people because of the loans taken out in their name, who got little to nothing in return?

Did any of these IDB experts, or their Bahamian liaisons, have a reduced salary because of these failures?  So, truth be told, the only ones who have to pay the bill for these failures are the poor and working people of The Bahamas.

The exact group of people who has no say in the programmes, no say on the loans, no benefits from the failed programmes.  Sounds like a recipe for utter failure and true injustice.  How can any thinking individual think this is OK?

I would suggest that after the first round failures and the consequent poor results of the IDB’s Project Implementation Units to follow, there should have been the rethinking of the due diligence, for the sake of The Bahamas increasing debt obligations, in making sure the IDB wasn’t further burdening our country with more odious debt.

I believe that the Inter-Development Bank has also failed in a major and equal way.  As much as we have failed here in The Bahamas.  Either by accident or by design, these loans were ostensibly intended to help develop The Bahamas in a financially sustainable way.  In fact, where we are now, I believe, is in a decidedly worse place than we were before the IDB stepped in.

Now, we are taking out loans, big loans, for the sole purpose of paying the interest on the loans we’ve already taken out.  And now, at higher interest rates.  This is NOT sustainable.

The IDB experts know full well what Structural Adjustment Programmes and austerity measures will be put into place in The Bahamas if The Bahamas performs in the way they have, historically speaking.

Do they believe in miracles?

They know through experience, that with either a PLP New Day or an FNM People’s Time, the results do not change.  They say as much in their report.  We know politicians lie.  Is this wrong to say?

So, the IDB is going along with a scheme to put the people of The Bahamas under great financial, social, physical and psychological pain.  The experts at the IDB know all too well that the poorest among us will be paying the highest price for the sins of those who claimed they were representing us.

Those we voted into office.  They know full well that the austerity measures they will require the government of the The Bahamas to impose on our country will cripple our economy, and our standard of living.

Bahamians will suffer for the sins of those whom we elected to look after us, and for the sins of those we invited to our shores to help us out of this mess.  The IDB is not blameless.  They know poverty will increase in The Bahamas.

Another question I have, which I believe is pertinent, is why The Bahamas has any debt, at all?  Why does a country, that all the experts say is one of the richest in the Caribbean, not have a surplus of money?

After 50 years of independence, this is where we are as a country?  We are in so much debt that it is strangling our economy, destroying any hopes for national development, dashing the dreams of our youth and sending so many Bahamians into poverty.

Is this the best we can do?

With these thoughts, I am proposing that if The Bahamas and the IDB are serious about our future and the future of our children here in The Bahamas, that we begin a discussion asking the IDB and other lenders to completely forgive our existing debt.

Let me say it again, I believe we must ask the IDB and other lenders to completely forgive our debt.

At some point, we have to put people above money.  Given the existential economic threat posed by our indebtedness, and the all too real climate events unfolding upon us, is it really unreasonable, as decent human beings, as adherents to something called Christianity, that we ask for this debt forgiveness?

Is this asking too much of those who say they wish to help us?

The Bahamas simply cannot continue to see millions of dollars leave our shores each day solely to pay the interest on loans.  There is no way, absolutely no way, that The Bahamas can prepare itself for the expenses associated with mitigating the effects of sea level rise and future hurricanes, take care of our Bahamian people, and still make the outrageous and odious interest and principal payments coming due in the next few years to these financial institutions.

I am sick and tired of watching people all over the world suffer - terribly, innocent, hard working people, all because a handful of corrupt people couldn’t keep their hands out of the cookie jar.  It is not fair to punish a whole country for the crimes of a few politicians.  It is patently unChristian, let alone an affront to human decency to allow collective punishment, as we will soon experience, for the crimes of our ruling class.

At some point, the people of the world must stand up to the rulers.  Whether they are the rulers of their own country, or the heads of the big banks and transnational corporations.  It is way past time to truly put people’s lives and human decency first and foremost.

Debt forgiveness for The Bahamas – 2023

Saturday, September 2, 2023

The Bahamas needs long-term financial planning to address its climate vulnerability and economic dependence on tourism

“The Bahamas needs long-term financial planning to address its climate vulnerability and economic dependence on tourism,” says UN Independent Expert on foreign debt, international financial obligations and human rights

The Bahamas: UN expert calls for long-term financial planning to address climate change

Climate change The Bahamas

NASSAU (31 August 2023)- A UN expert today called on the international community to step up support for The Bahamas and small island States at high risk of natural disasters due to climate change.

“The Bahamas needs long-term financial planning to address its climate vulnerability and economic dependence on tourism,” said Attiya Waris, the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt, international financial obligations and human rights, in a statement at the end of a 10-day visit to the country.

Waris noted that The Bahamas’ high-income status limits its access to international financial institution loans and development aid.  “The reality is that they should be supported by the international community, including international financial institutions and development banks,” she said.

The expert urged The Bahamas and the international community to adopt a comparative indicator other than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, noting that the country has unique challenges that require more resources than most States, including a high cost of living and a constant risk of devastating climate-related disasters.

The Bahamas’ economy is heavily dependent on tourism, Waris said.  After five major hurricanes in the past decade, The Bahamas was most recently hit by Hurricane Dorian in 2019, which caused USD 3.4 billion in damage, nearly 25 per cent of the country’s GDP.

“The impact of Hurricane Dorian, COVID-19 and the decline in tourism was devastating for both the population and the country’s economy,” the expert said.  “The country is still repaying the debt incurred for reconstruction and will continue to do so for many years to come.”

The Independent Expert urged the Government to consider long-term economic planning that considers the consequences of climate change and explore the diversification of its economy to become less dependent on tourism, increase its food security and use local innovation.

“The collective responsibility of the international community towards climate change and its consequences should not be forgotten,” Waris said.

The expert will present her report to the Human Rights Council in March 2024.


Thursday, August 3, 2023

Bishop Walter S. Hanchell's Mistaken, Imprudent, and Apologetic Statements on LGBTQ+ Books in the Public Schools of The Bahamas

No LGBTQ+ Literature is in the Public Schools Curriculum of The Bahamas

No Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (or sometimes questioning), Intersex, Asexual, and Others (LGBTQ+) Subjects are in Bahamian Public Schools

Bishop WS Hanchell  The Bahamas
I was called by Eyewitness News this afternoon to inform me that LGBTQ+ books are in public schools and to give a statement on this.

At first I was shocked then enraged. I asked the reporter to confirm this is true before I speak to it. He advised me that the Director of Education confirmed this at a Press Conference today held at the Office of the Prime Minister. I could not believe what my ears were hearing. Of course, I immediately condemned this.

Were parents and gurdians informed of this evil ungodly influence and lifestyle now being perpetuated on our children without parental consent? Is the Bahamas still a "Christian" nation or have we sold out to the world system?

How long was this in the making to indoctrinate our children with this lifestyle that the Holy Bible condemns?

Are Bahamians bold enough to stand up and fight against this and drive this wickedness out of our schools?

Did American culture and their ungodly laws on same sex marriage and gender confusion influence the decision of our political leaders to allow this trash into our schools?

The Bahamas College of Bishops and I'm sure the wider Christian community, will not allow LGBTQ+ culture and sexual perversion to be forced on our children. This is one fight we cannot and will not lose. Whatever it takes, these books will be removed from our schools forthwith and we will NOT allow our chidren to be exposed to such unblical ungodly teachings.

We will now see who the real church is. The fakes, misguided and compromised religious community will mow be exposed.

For Christ we live and for Christ we die.

Bishop WS Hanchell
Citizens For Justice
August 3, 2023

The Apology

Today a reporter called me requesting an interview after informing me that at a meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister, the Acting Director of Education made statements to the effect that LGBTQ+ teachings were in our pubic school system. He asked for a comment and I ASKED HIM TWICE, if he was certain about this. He said he was present.

I was taken aback, shocked and angered at these revelations and gave him my views opposing such a move. The mistake I made was believing without first confirming. I made a committment years ago to only speak truth and facts in the media. There's no defence for this.

I discovered a short while later that this was not true and after hearing the actual remarks, I realized that what he told me was not exactly true and may have been taking out of context.

When I realized the mistake, I immediately deleted all of the messages and apologized for my error. I also demanded that the interview I did be pulled from being aired. It appears that the message may have gone viral and I humbly ask anybody reading it to disregard, delete and not share it.

I apologize to all concern including, the Acting Director of Education, the Minister of Education and the Government of the Bahamas. I've learned a valuable lesson. Never be quick to speak and confirm facts before commenting on any issue.


Bishop Walter S. Hanchell

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The Bahamas Lack Political Leadership

Bahamians are losing out in their country, The Bahamas

Former Minister of National Security A. Loftus Roker says that The Bahamas need to get serious about its illegal immigration crisis

‘This country lacks leadership’

Roker worried Bahamians increasingly marginalized

By Candia Dames, Executive Editor of The Nassau Guardian


A. Loftus Roker - The Bahamas
Former Minister of National Security A. Loftus Roker, who is still widely known for the tough stance he took against illegal immigration when he was minister responsible for immigration, said yesterday he remains concerned that Bahamians are losing out in their country, and lamented what he said is a lack of political leadership.

“When you have no more country, you see where you can go and claim anything,” said Roker, who was asked his views on the controversy surrounding the release of a large group of Chinese nationals found at the British Colonial Hotel without any legal status in The Bahamas earlier this year.

Minister of Immigration Keith Bell has said it was “unnecessary” to transport them to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, where individuals found to be in The Bahamas illegally are held.  According to Bell, the “irregularities” found at the work site “were expeditiously cured by the employer”.

Roker warned, “All I say is one day Bahamians will find we don’t have our own country.  That’s what I’m worried about.

“The country lacks leadership.  Imagine you had dozens of Chinese without work permits here.  How the hell did they get here? … How did we allow them to land?  We trying to fool ourselves.  We don’t have any leadership.  If you had leadership, you’d know what’s going on.  But what we are doing is keep postponing our problems.  That’s what we’re doing.”

Details surrounding how the Chinese nationals got in The Bahamas and whether they still are currently in country are unknown as Bell nor any other authority has yet to thoroughly explain the matter.

Meanwhile, it is understood that in Progressive Liberal Party circles there is widespread concern over the political impact the controversy ensnaring the immigration minister could have.

Roker wished not to comment directly on a statement made by Director of Immigration Keturah Ferguson in a correspondence to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Immigration Cecilia Strachan that “it also appears that the expatriate has more rights in The Bahamas than Bahamians”, but he said, “One thing for sure, we don’t believe in Bahamians.  Anybody else better than us.  All I’m saying is we lack leadership.”

Ferguson’s correspondence was sent a day after the Chinese were ordered released not long after the immigration exercise was conducted.

As reported in the media on Monday, Ferguson said in her correspondence that immigration officials received a directive from Bell to have the immigration officers stand down on the operation and that any breach will be remedied the following day.

Even as the firestorm over the immigration matter – including Bell’s swearing in of a family as citizens of The Bahamas during a funeral service last month – builds, Prime Minister Philip Davis has remained silent, with his office saying only that the facts are being gathered in respect of the various immigration issues at hand.

Meanwhile, a purported report to an immigration superior from the immigration officer who oversaw the January 17 exercise at the British Colonial was circulated on social media yesterday.

According to the document, only three of the 65 Chinese nationals found at the hotel were able to produce passports or identification for immigration officials, while all others claimed they had no passports in their possession and were unable to contact the people who may have them.

“On arrival at the hotel, we observed lighting and clothing hung in the windows of some of the rooms.  Shortly thereafter, we noticed an Asian male in the window of one of the rooms,” the document states.

“Based on this, we approached the security officer and advised him of our suspicions.  The officer attempted to obstruct us from entering the building and checking the status of the individual, therefore, I advised him under extreme caution that I was prepared to arrest him for obstruction and continued the execution of my duties.

“The officer then removed himself from the entrance and I instructed the officers to search the first floor of the building.”

The officer wrote, “In the initial search, the officers reported a total of 10 persons, but, after a more intense search, we were able to gather approximately 65 Chinese nationals.

“All subjects were asked to produce their passports and any other evidence of legal status.  Out of the 65 subjects, only three were able to produce passports or identification.

“All of the others claimed they had no passports in their possession and [were] unable to contact the persons who may have them.”

While he did not delve into the details emerging in relation to the various immigration controversies, Roker said yesterday there’s a need for The Bahamas to get serious about its illegal immigration crisis.


Monday, July 17, 2023

The Bahamas Support The Ministerial Declaration on Accelerating and Strengthening the Global Response to Synthetic Drugs

The Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats

Universal Synthetic Drug Threats
We the Ministers and government representatives of the undersigned States, having met virtually on 7 July 2023, affirm our shared commitment to taking concerted and sustained action at the national, regional, and international levels to effectively respond to emerging drug-related threats in an integrated and balanced manner.

We express grave concern about the public health and social harms associated with the non-medical consumption of synthetic drugs, the insufficient availability, accessibility, affordability, and quality of drug treatment, recovery, and support services, and the security challenges associated with their illicit manufacture, diversion, trafficking, and related crimes.

We reaffirm our determination to address these challenges comprehensively through evidence-based public health interventions aimed at reducing demand and at preventing and reducing synthetic drug-related harms to individuals and society, including due to overdoses, as well as by preventing and countering the illicit manufacture, diversion, and trafficking of synthetic drugs and their precursors, including trafficking via the internet.

We hereby establish a Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats to strengthen the coordinated global response to the international public health and safety challenges posed by synthetic drugs through international cooperation to drive comprehensive, balanced, evidence-based, and effective actions at the national and international levels, in accordance with applicable international law.

We are committed to jointly identifying priority lines of effort, developing forward-looking solutions, and advancing national and international actions, including the provision of training, technical assistance, and capacity building upon request, to make measurable progress toward addressing and countering this public health and security challenge, taking into account its evolving nature and long-term impact.

We are committed to sharing technical expertise, best practices, scientific evidence, and other relevant information, as appropriate and in accordance with applicable domestic law, and to taking into account, as appropriate, input from all relevant stakeholders, including international organizations, law enforcement, judicial and health-care personnel, civil society, the scientific community and academia, as well as the private sector.

We affirm that the use of certain synthetic drugs is indispensable for medical and scientific purposes, including for the relief of pain and for palliative care, and that measures to address their illicit manufacture, diversion, trafficking, and non-medical consumption should not unduly restrict their accessibility or availability for such purposes.

We take these actions while underscoring that the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988, and other relevant international instruments constitute the cornerstone of the international drug control system.

We reaffirm our unwavering commitment, including in the context of addressing synthetic drug threats, to ensuring that all aspects of demand reduction and related measures, supply reduction and related measures, and international cooperation should be addressed in full conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of States, all human rights, fundamental freedoms, the inherent dignity of all individuals and the principles of equal rights and mutual respect among states.

We are committed to contributing to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs as the policymaking body of the UN system with prime responsibility for drug control and other drug-related matters, as well as to other relevant regional and multilateral bodies and fora, while recognizing the ongoing efforts of relevant United Nations entities, in particular those of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Health Organization, as well as the treaty-mandated role of the International Narcotics Control Board.

We invite additional countries to join these efforts, recognizing these threats have a detrimental and dangerous impact for public health, safety, and security around the world, and require global response.

Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, European Union, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar,  Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan


Saturday, June 24, 2023

Factors which Justify Contribution Increases to The Bahamas National Insurance Board (NIB) Fund

Increased Contributions to the National Insurance Board Plan for Employers and Employees are Scheduled to take effect July 2024, and are Proposed to Increase every two years thereafter until the Fund reaches a Sustainable Position...

National Insurance Bahamas
NASSAU, The Bahamas – Contributors to the National Insurance Board Plan will have one year to prepare for a contribution rate increase that is scheduled for July 2024.

The rate increase will mark just the second increase -- the first was by 1 per cent in 2010 which coincided with the implementation of the permanent phase of the unemployment benefit -- in almost 50 years of the Fund’s existence.

The increase will be shared equally between employers and employees.  For example, if the rate increases by 1.5%, the employers' portion rises from 5.9% to 6.65%, and the employees' portion increases from 3.9% to 4.65%.

In the first year, paying the minimum weekly wage of $260, will increase the employers' portion from $15.34 to $17.29.  Employees' contribution payments on the minimum weekly wage will increase from $10.14 to $12.09.  For both the employer and employee, this represents a difference of $1.95 per week.

For monthly salaries on the minimum wage of $1,127.67, employers and employees will pay a difference of $8.45 per month.

“Madame Speaker, this is less than the cost of a meal at any of our fast food restaurants.  This is a small price to pay to secure our pensions for the future,” Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for National Insurance, the Hon. Myles K. LaRoda noted.

Employers' weekly payment on a ceiling of $740.00 will increase from $43.66 to $49.21.  Employees' contribution payments on the ceiling of $740.00 will increase from $28.86 to $34.41.  For both the employer and employee, this represents a difference of $5.55 per week.  For monthly salaries on the ceiling of $3,207.00, employers and employees will pay a difference of $24.05.

Addressing Parliament during his Contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate, State-Minister LaRoda said the increase was due to a number of factors.

“For some time now, there has been discussion in the public about the state of NIB.  Much of this discussion emanated from the 11th Actuarial Review conducted by the International Labor Organisation (IL O) in December 2018.  I tabled the report in these Honourable Chambers last year.

“The Report predicts that the NIB fund will be depleted by 2028 based on its current benefits package and contribution rate and considering the projected population demographics.  Key among these are: A lower fertility rate than in past decades refers to the number of children each woman has.  This rate was about two children historically and is projected to be 1.7 children for most of the period under review, and an increase in life expectancy; our people are simply living longer, and this trend continues over the projection period that the report covers (60 years).  On average, pensioners are expected to live four years longer than at present.

“What does this translate into?  Today we have approximately four contributors for each pensioner.  By 2078, it is projected that we will have 1.4 contributors for each pensioner, a sharp decline.  Looking at it another way, while persons over 65 made up approximately 8% of the population in 2020, by the end of the review period (2078), retirees are projected to make up 26% of the population.”

State-Minister LaRoda said compared with Caribbean Social Security programmes, NIB has one of the lowest rates, but offers the same, or more benefits, of those programmes with the exception of Barbados.

NIB offers a total of eleven Benefits as income replacement for those who are unable to work or have work-related injuries; provides assistance to individuals who do not have sufficient contributions to qualify for a benefit; and an unemployment benefit – a branch of national insurance now being considered for inclusion in other Caribbean countries.

Additional offerings include: Pension payments of over $26 million each month to over 44,000 pensioners; Injury Benefit to workers injured on the first day on the job who may have never paid into National Insurance; Bahamian mothers have access to Maternity Benefits for each live birth—a crucial support system for both the mother and child.

“Most countries do not provide an unemployment benefit, but their contribution rate exceeds that of NIB Bahamas,” Mr. LaRoda continued.  “Across the region, the contribution rate averages 12% (NIB is under 10), and several countries already have approved contribution rate increases in place over the next few years.”

Mr. LaRoda said of even greater significance is the sharp increase in benefit payments to NIB's contributors and dependents.  These benefits had mushroomed from $8 million in 1981, when the programme was in its infancy stage, to $354 million in 2022 as a mature scheme.

“Can you imagine the degradation and the displacement of our people that would have occurred if this $354 million were not put into our economy last year?  The Scheme serves and continues to serve its purpose as a social safety net for Bahamians from all walks of life.”

State-Minister LaRoda said over the last ten years, the average number of pensioners being paid every month has increased by over 35%.

“This,” he said, “is driving the increase in benefit expenses, coupled with the fact that each year the average benefit per recipient increases as first-time pensioners are being paid higher benefits than in prior years.  As you know, NIB adjusts the insurable wage ceiling every two years, and this translates to higher benefits for those who pay at the higher ceiling.”

State-Minister LaRoda said in the past, NIB's income exceeded its expenses resulting in the build-up of its reserves - peaking at $1.75 billion in 2016.  In 2016, the benefits expenses exceeded contribution income by $14 million; in that year, NIB reported an overall deficit of $15.8 million.  Every year since, benefits have exceeded contributions, and the difference between the two continues to grow. In 2022 the NIB's reserves stood at $1.4 billion.

The deficits recorded by NIB continue into 2023.  The budgeted deficit for this year is $97.6 million, driven mainly by benefits exceeding contributions by $86 million.

“This trend can only be sustained for a short time,” Mr. LaRoda told Parliament.

State-Minister LaRoda said the ILO Report recommended an immediate, sustained, and systematic increase in the contribution rate to secure the fund in the short term.

“This call for an increase in the rate was also anticipated from earlier actuarial reports.  It also identifies other options that can be considered for the long-term design of the plan.  At this time, it is considered to increase the Contribution Rate every two years for some time.  A staggered implementation aims to allow businesses and workers adequate time to adjust their budgets accordingly while still ensuring the system's sustainability in the future,” State-Minister LaRoda added.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

The Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA) IS NOT A CONTRACT! It is a Sovereign Grant


By Professor Gilbert Morris

Gilbert Morris
This is a draft synopsis of the rollout of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement. It will show how Freeport was at the apex of every development conversation around the globe and the most powerful men and the wealthiest corporations had interests in Freeport.
There is nothing in Hong Kong or Dubai or Estonia, that was not imagined for Freeport. It is a tragedy that successive held the holy grail of development in their hands, and still - to this day - we seem utterly ignorant concerning the true import of this beautiful piece of development poetry called: THE HAWKSBILL CREEK AGREEMENT!

Note: I have benefited in preparing this note from close analysis of the Royal Commission Report on Freeport (1971), (on which I did my undergraduate law thesis), and the marvellous history: “Grand Bahama” by Peter Barratt (which every Bahamian child should read), and the colonial archives at the Codrington Library, at All Soul’s Collage.


John Ker (1673-1726) - a Scotsman - had the idea of Nassau as a Free port, which was stolen by the Speaker of the Bahamas parliament. Governor Woodes Rodgers arrested him. The idea died.
In the same period, Sir William Pitt proposed The Bahamas and Bermuda as free ports, following a Dutch model.
In 18th C. Dominica and Jamaica were established by Britain as the first regional free ports to transship and store Spanish bounty.
South Caicos - Turks and Caicos Islands - was also a pastoral colony (free port) in the Windward Passage between the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. It was so significant that the Spanish, French, English and Portuguese agreed - copying the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis 1559 - not to raid each other after passing South Caicos.
George III King of Great Britain and Ireland and after 1801, the United Kingdom (1760-1820) ordered a free port established at Bahamas during his reign.
August 4th 1955 The Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA) was signed by The Hon. A.G.H. Gardiner-Brown, Acting Governor of The Bahamas with Mr. Wallace Groves, President of the Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited.
The HCA was modelled on Hudson Bay Company (founded in 1670) in British Canada.
NOTE: Sir Stafford Sands was without doubt a genius, and a man of stout independence of mind, who dominated his colleagues with sheer ability. He wrote the agreement -top to bottom - and understand profoundly its larger legal and economic import, which few besides Maurice O. Glinton QC, seem to understand at all.
There are several key innovations in the agreement but the most important matter to understand is: IT'S NOT A CONTRACT! It is a Sovereign Grant (As the Commission of Inquiry recognised. And that means the Licenses of Freeport constituted a Parliament, (which means local government of a 19th century sort) was implicit in the Agreement. But it also meant that the Port Authority and the Government could not alter the agreement without the consent of the Licensee; even though they did so routinely.
The Royal Commission Report on Freeport, (1971) noted:
a. The powers of the HCA were not contractual, but sovereign
b. Nowhere is the power to grant licenses expressed in the HCA
c. The Agreement could not be altered or repealed without the consent of the GBPA
The "Six Nos" of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement are central to its value, they are:
a. No income tax
b. No capital gains
c. No real estate tax
d. No property tax
e. No excise tax
f. No custom's duties
The first major deal by Wallace Grove was an OPM structure used by Aristotle Onassis and was with D.K. Ludwig and it was for shipbuilding. Ludwig dredged the Harbour in exchange for 2000 acres.
To get cash out of the deal, Ludwig sold his Harbour side land to US Steel Corporation.
In 1955, Groves next deal was with the National Container Corporation (NATCON) which was a subsidiary of Owens Illinois Corp. NATCON established an area in East Nassau known as "The Gap", for retrieval of timber for the making of cardboards.
In 1958, Groves commenced the Freeport Bunkering Company. Gulf Oil Company invested $1 million dollars into the project. Business was very slow. But in March 1960, the US government for the sake of Texan oil interests, imposed a quota on residual fuels imported to the US. The US Majors then used Freeport to Bunker and transship other fuels for US markets, as a question of type of fuels and capacity for optimum loads.
NOTE: The strategic value of Freeport based on the economics of shipping, tanker sizes and US law was Freeport's geo-strategic position at the intersection of the Northwest Providence Channel and the Gulf Stream. This gave further strategic value to the Panama Canal, resulting in trade finance savings for smaller Eastern seaboard ports that could lean on Freeport for "right sized" shipments.
In 1959, Barclays Bank and a police station were established at downtown Freeport.
By Fall of 1959, there were 6 large international companies licensed in Freeport, there were 40 miles of paved roads and the Harbour was completed. The first ship to call was: SS Samos, a Greek vessel, 7,268, 441 foot long.
By 1960, the Freeport terminal was exporting in winter months, 922,000 barrels to the US, plus an increase in the number of ships calling.
In 1960, Graduate Students arrived from Cornell University to do one of two comprehensive studies on Freeport and the impacts and future of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement. Primarily they found that of 3,340 souls, 300 were white, but they controlled nearly 70% of the total wealth of Freeport.
NOTE: The study is instructive, but only as a historical document. Their approach was a development model unsuited for an island. (Bahamian Geologist Mr. Ezekiel Hall, speak often to this question). That is, the approach to developing island cities begin not with the interior of the island, but the coasts. The coasts teaches us how to live on an island and regulates land use organically. We ought to have developed Freeport from the water’s edge backwards into the interior. The location of the downtown merely generates costs, and major inland hotels on an is colourful idiocy.
As funds came in, elements of prosperity emerged: Alfred Browning Parker, Frank Lloyd Wright architect, designed the airport terminal, the St. Paul's school, and the Carvel Club. He also designed and built homes for Ludwig, Groves and Jack Hayward, son of Sir Charles Hayward. (after Government House, these were the largest houses in the Bahamas).
1960 was the apotheosis of Freeport:
On July 1st 1960, a Supplemental Agreement was completed, which acknowledged the Port Authority's completion of its obligations under the conditions of the original agreement. Another 50,000 acres were granted to the Port Authority under the terms of the original agreement. The Supplement also required the Port to build a 200 room luxury hotel by Fall, 1963.
Clause 4 of the Supplement mentions establishment of a "municipal government" but with no stipulations.
NOTE: Recall, I argue that local government was implicit in the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.
Groves contracted Taylor International to master plan 108,332 acres for the development company.
In 1961, the Bahamas Governor arranged an 'interview' between Sir Charles Hayward of the Fifth Cleveland Companies and Wallace Groves. Hayward bought 25% of Grove's equity for $1 million pounds. A New York investment banker Charles Allen bought another 25%.
In this same period, the "three corner" negotiations took place between Groves (Port), Ludwig and US Steel for the building of a cement company. The Bahamas Cement Company was a subsidiary of US Steel.
In a codicil, the Bahamas government guaranteed US Steel 12 year monopoly on cement manufacture for the entire Bahamas. The dredging made Freeport one of the four largest manmade Harbours in the world.
Groves was negotiating at the same time with Canadian financier Louis Chesler. Together they formed the Grand Bahama Development Company. Groves (The Port) contributed 102,000 acres. Chesler contributed $12 million in cash. This land became known as "Lucaya".
Harland Bartholomew was retained to plan Lucaya.
In the same year Grand Bahama became the first option official "down range station" for Cape Canaveral.
In 1962, Groves landed shiphandler Freeport Trading Company, to support bunkering.
In the same year, James Rand - investor of the dial mechanism for telephones - and former President of Remington/Sperry arrived to live on the island in his yacht "The Galaxy". He built and donated the "Rand Memorial Hospital" and the John Harvard Library, after the founder of his Alma mater Harvard University (renamed Charles Hayward after Groves sold).
Groves initiated with his partners the Bell Channel Development, adding value to the land bank. On October 20th of that same year, China Daily newspaper, the official paper of the People's Republic at the time carried the headline: "Another Hong Kong is Born", referring to the global buzz about Freeport.
NOTE: Land purchases in Freeport acted as a hedge against inflation. From 1958 to 1974, land in Freeport essentially doubled in value every 3 years.
In 1963, the new Anglican Church opened it doors, Mackey Airlines established once a day service to Palm Beach, the Grand Bahama hotel was completed, named Lucan Beach, with a full fledged casino licensed by exemption from the prohibition on gambling (which became the subject of another Commission of Inquiry), and 2000 acres were dedicated to a wildlife sanctuary.
In 1965, the first headwinds emerged when that February the New York Times did a feature raising questions about the economic culture of Freeport, several hundred tons of oil spilled into the sea, a young politician named L.O. Pindling came to Freeport and warned that amidst prosperity, Bahamians were suffering, at the same time a ship wrecked in the 17th century, owned by the Conquerer of Mexico Hernan Cortes was found off Grand Bahamas containing $9 million dollars of silver and two in tact cannons.
Freeport was so hot as a destination that there were not enough rooms to house tourist. Groves, not one to lose a dime, leased the SS Italia, with 1400 rooms. And so it was that or a time, the largest hotel in the Americas - from Canada to Argentina - was a ship.
Additional ships were added, MV Calypso, MV Lucaya etc, and such returns were made that the revenues were used to develop 511 acres with roads and infrastructure.
In 1965, Louis Chesler sold 200,000 (at $13.00), of his shares on the open market with another 500,000 shares to be held for further sale (at $14.00). All shares were taken by London and South American insurance companies. Land sales in that year grossed $30 million.
In that same year, an amendment to the HCA was negotiated. The agreement recognized that the Port fulfilled every condition of the Supplement Agreement. Under the amendment, The Port Authority agreed to build 1000 middle income homes, together with 200 in 18 months.
The 200 home site came to be called "Hawksbill".
NOTE: I grew up there from about age 12 and attended the Mighty Hawksbill High School; then the largest in the Caribbean.
The Port agreed to build a school to accommodate 1400 students, two clinics and gave $10,000 toward town planning in Eight Mile Rock.
The Amendment did two things worthy of note:
a. Almost all of the initiatives were beyond the Port's boundaries given resonance to the notion of a Greater Freeport
b. The Amendment had to be approved by four fifths of the licensees
This then gave some credence and shape to Clause 4 of the previous Supplement concerning "municipal administration"
In 1967, an election year, the Wall St Journal and the Economist drew sharp distinctions, concerning the disproportion in the level of prosperity resulting from the Freeport experiment. Liberal minded persons believed that the people of Freeport, and not the investors alone should have been made prosperous.
By 1967, Freeport came to the notice of the District Attorney of New York who viewed the "Las Vegas" elements in Freeport as evidence of a deeper nefarious culture of criminality. This led to the 1967 Commission of Inquiry on Gambling. The commission expressed grave concerns about the number of "highly paid consultants" who were also ministers in the then UBP government.
NOTE: Make no mistake, there was an explicit criminal element to Freeport’s rise, particularly after the fall of Cuba to Fidel Castro in 1959. (America’s wealthiest and its crime families sought an outpost near the US, but beyond US law, as their private playground; first in Panama in 1903, then Cuba, then The Bahamas.
In that same year (1967), rumours began to fly about Groves selling out of Freeport. The Port sold both the supermarket and the telephone company, and there was a sense that ideas had run out.
A deal was afoot: a majority of the shares of the Grand Bahama Port Authority were to be exchanged for shares of Benguet Consolidated a Manila based gold mining company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In connection with this transaction, Groves and The Rt. Hon. L.O. Pindling, MP - Prime Minister of the Bahamas - had already staked out several stipulations:
a. Give notice to government on new licensees above a certain investment amount
b. Give notice on planning arrangements for Freeport to be coordinated inland wide
c. Give notice of any rate changes for utilities
d. Government acquired 7.5% equity in the Holding Company of the Port, amounting to 162,973 shares
e. Government requested seat on board and "open book accounting reviews
NOTE: I regard this change as both invalid and unconstitutional. The Agreement is NOT a contract, but a “Sovereign Grant”. Even with the agreement of the Principals of the Port Authority, the agreement could not - in my view - be altered without the consent of the “Parliament of Licensees”.
The Port Holding Company was now listed on the New York Stock Exchange!
The Philippine government held up the transaction for a short period because of the Bahamas government's involvement. But approved it in 1969.
In that same year, Fifth Cleveland built a 19 story building - the tallest in the Caribbean at the time - Casa Bahama.
In 1969, a Harvard Professor and tax expert Richard Musgrave produced a student for the introduction of property taxes in the family Islands. When he came to Freeport, he argued that: "time would come when Freeport would be developed to a degree that some or all of its rights, powers and obligations under the agreement would be transferred to a local authority".
In 1969, this came to a head with the "Licensee Revolt": the government attempted to impose a fee on all existing work permits. The Licensees forced the issue to Arbitration against the Port and the Government, arguing that their businesses had been disrupted without proper consultation. Sir Randolph Fawkes MP was retained as council.
Sir Lyndon O. Pindling, MP frustrated with the large white business community in Freeport, said the following: "In this city, where regrettably almost anything goes, some opportunities have come to Bahamians ...but they... nevertheless are still victims of an unbending social order, which if it now refuses to bend must be broken".
This came to legend as the "bend or break" speech.
The Port Authority paid the Arbitration fees, saying this fight was between the Licensees and the government. The government tabled amendments to the HCA. They stalled. The government asserted itself on immigration causing several businesses to go bankrupt when their owners could not return to Freeport.
NOTE: This was ultimately a question about power. Sir Lynden - feeling the pall of the British habit of high handedness - felt a need to assert that he was in charge everywhere in the Bahamas. However, such was the Sovereign Grant - a new constitutional category - that his method was the wrong approach. Something as advanced as the Hawksbill Creek Agreement required skill forensic financial engineering and masterful diplomatic aplomb.
In 1970, Benguet Consolidated reported on its financial performance. Total income from Freeport was $77 million. In order to comply with Philippine tax laws, a Panamanian corporation was formed called "Intercontinental Diversified". This company held all non-Philippine shares for operations outside the country. The separation as completed in 1972. (The Bahamas government's 7.5% was likely diluted).
By 1970, BORCO was the world's largest de-sulfurization oil refinery. It was owned by the best of brands: New England Petroleum - 65%; Standard Oil of California - 35%. In 1970, throughputs grew from 250,000 barrels to 500,000 barrels per day, one of the largest in the world. The confidence in Freeport saw the introduction of an 8 cent stamp featuring the Harbour at Freeport, with the world Development" emblazoned on it.
In 1970, The Princess Group built a 400 room hotel, together with a 12 story hotel named Crown Plaza Resort. Under this arrangement, the Port ended up with and finished the International Bazaar.
Groves - now lauded - retired in 1970. Keith Gonsalves became chairman. His achievement was a total buyback of all outstanding shares, including Chesler's and those a Benguet and Intercontinental Diversified maintained its listing accordingly.
By this time, tourists were 500,000 in arrivals with five 18 holes golf courses in operation.
In 1971, fear struck the shareholders of the Port - Intercontinental when another a Royal Commission was announced on a Review of The Hawksbill Creek Agreement. The Commission found that the government acted erroneously in curbing immigration controls unilaterally. It found that the Port needed to show greater commitment to training Bahamians. As result, the Port committed immediately to a $1 million dollar scholarship fund, with commitments of $250,000 per year for four years.
The Commission's final statement was as follows: "We hope Freeport is not destined as a foreign outpost, but as an integral part of the community, carrying the Bahamas image, maintaining Bahamian loyalties, promoting Bahamian security, and uplifting the Bahamian economy."
In December of 1973, Howard Hughes, the richest man in the world, was rumored to be a guest at the Xanadu Hotel. It turns out that he was not merely a guest, but had sealed the 12th and 13th floors; which caused some intrigue since hotels normally eliminate the 13th floor. Hughes died in 1976.
The larger and seismic shift took place in 1975: Intercontinental Diversified announced a recapitalization of its shares, in a three way deal involving the completion of the alienation of Groves' equity and the acquisition of those shares by Jack Hayward and a newcomer, Edward St. George; who become Jack's partner through one of the first ever "leveraged buyouts in financial history.
This buyout led to the delisting of the Port's shares, and the disappearance of all references to the government's fabled 7.5%.
Two further events in this earthquake were significant:
a. Edward St. George was made Chairman of Intercontinental Diversified and Jack Hayward was made Chairman of the Grand Bahama Development Company.
b. In October 1975 the Bahamas Government sponsored an economic conference, with a Plenary Session, that concluded by vote, that the government should "abolish" the Port Authority.
NOTE: Edward St. George never enjoyed the unencumbered reign as previous chairmen had. His tenure was always contested, and was a test of survival. This mean explain how after 1975, rather than Lear accomplishments, followed by extensions in and to the HCA, his tenure was a series of formal and informal capitulations, the blurred the lines of the roles of the HCA and the government, which the Royal commission said should be observed vigorously.
St. George set out on a global promotional tour over the next 3 years. He extended the airport, negotiated pre-packaged Freeport vacations, and the count of local Bahamian Licensees trebled in those three years. Crucially however, Freeport seemed to lose its identity as an industrial centre to which tourism and development were coordinated and collateral, as opposed to a disjointed nexus of industrialization and leisure tourism.
The US aided in this to ease crowding in a Florida airports by establishing pre-clearance facilities at Freeport.
Over the next 5 years, Freeport lurched from one prospect to another. However, the land generated boom stopped cold when the government in a bid to control foreign ownership of land in the Bahamas, passed the Immovable Properties (Acquisition by Foreign Persons) Act. This threw Lucaya into disarray.
Also in 1975, Freeport gained another type of notoriety: it entered the Guinness Book of World records for the largest marijuana bust in history. 40 tons of marijuana were confiscated at Freeport by Bahamas police and the DEA. It was estimated that 40% of all drugs imported to the US came through the Bahamas. The impact of drug, the riches of which were displayed openly in Freeport, infiltrating every aspect of society, was that the official US State Department view of Freeport was it was a risk to US national security.
This view was confirmed 9 years later in the Commission of Inquiry on Drugs and Corruption, which make world wide news as Mr Pindling himself was implicated.
During this period, a Pharmaceutical plant was added to Freeport's industrial base and new cruise ships were added in delivering tourists. A curious initiative was being negotiated at the same time: a $3 billion dollar coal-fired plant - then 3 times the value of Bahamian GDP - with the objective of supplying Florida with power undersea, since - again showing the geostrategic position of Freeport - Florida needed power generation but could not anticipate approvals.
It was a moment in which, the Port, the Bahamas government and the Florida government were unconcerned about the environmental impact on Freeport.
Between 1970 to 1990, Freeport's fortunes could be seen in the numbers:
a. In 1970, the Census report showed that in Freeport, by 1980 - if trends continued - Bahamians would be outnumbered by expatriates and Haitians
b. In 1970, 60% of all executive positions were held by foreigners and whites, and manpower Survey showed that Expedia tee held 64% of skilled technical positions
c. In 1970 the population of Grand Bahama increased by 43%, largely in my view from insular-island migration from Nassau, Abaco and Andros
d. In tourism, between 1960 and 1970 tourism grew from 40,000 per annum to 500,000, one of the largest increases in economic history. (The question is how were the revenues from this increase registered and apportioned?)
e. By 1979, it had fallen back to 300,000 and rose up over 550,000 again, representing 28% of gross Bahamas numbers.
f. Freeport benefited from its Port facilities in the cruise business, which would often retool and refurbish at Freeport and in those days, the average cruise stay was 5 days.
In 1987, Freeport Harbour received 1,447 cruise ships, 43 warships, and other commercial vessels equal to 11.86 million gross registered tonnage. 90,000 ton of Limerock was exported from Freeport, Grand Bahama international airport served 476,000 stopover passengers, with charters from Italy and a Germany adding to that number, placing great stress on the 300 formal and 1,400 informal rooms available in Freeport. And in 1992, Sir Freddie Laker opened the "hub system", which though it failed eventually - owing to his financial dealings outside Freeport - it paved a path for airlift development for Freeport.
The Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA) provided support services in this period and grew to become one of the most prestigious organizations in the Bahamas, proved by their partnership with the US Coast Guard.
The 1990s saw the arrival of Hutchinson Whampoa in an arrangement that annulled the management dominance of the Port Authority's chairman for the first time in its history.
During this period their were 2000 Licensees of which 550 were builder investor Licenses. Freeport had a unique feature in the ownership of duplexes, which often came with an investor builder's permit. This means that many young men could develop their properties under license and generated both an economic boomlet and a culture of financial independence, leveraging the duplex.
NOTE: During the late 1980s and 1990s, Freeport fell into a time warp: there was an attempt to revive the Free Trade Zone in the East of Freeport around the old US airbase. These plans fizzled. The Grand Bahama Poultry Company, Leader Beverages, Winn Dixie, GB Foods and Sunshine Foods, Caribbean Paints all had varying levels of success and failure. The sustainable business still seemed to be ones with direct connections to the Port Authority.
There seemed, again to be no strategy to pace the development of companies for domestic services and supply to industrialization to ensure sustainable demand through population growth. Even Groves - whose tenure was wildly successful - merely exercised the topsoil of Freeport's potential. Now that genuine financial engineering and technical economic insight was necessary, Freeport seem to stall and default to residual income from locals, the people who benefited least from Freeport's development.
50% of the Freeport Power Company was sold to an American concern; and resold to another global player in the last 8 years. The Cement Company fell in the mid-80s, revived in a new manner by Bahama Rock in a barter arrangement. BORCO stopped refining petroleum products and volatility made storage options more profitable; since storage meant more efficient recurrent revenues. Syntex - a prestigious name locally, the grantor of many scholarships for Bahamians - ceased production in 1996, taken over by a Luxembourg entity, which was in turn taken over by Allied Signal, then closed.
Additional plants were established by SmithKline which then sold to Gist Brocades then sold to UniRoyal then closed. The blame for these upheavals were and are often lain at the feet of a changing world economic picture. However, basic economic modeling and research could have forecasted the prospects for such businesses. The Port had no means for this sort of assessement in-house and seemed driven by initial license fees.
During the last decade of the 20th century, the Port built a number of schools and an impressive Court House and Police headquarters in Freeport which was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on her first visit to the island.
In 1995, Hutchinson Port Holdings (HPH) started an $80 million dollar expansion work on the Port facilities, establishing a container port within the facility. Soon ship repair facilities were added. The projection from the financial statement presented to Hutchinson's Board in that year, anticipated between 560,000 to 950 TEUs per annum.
In 1996, Polymers International invested $50 million in developing a plant to manufacture polystyrene beads.
In 1997, HPH bought 50% of the Grand Bahama Airport Company then 741 acres for an air-sea base, then purchased outright the Lucayan Beach Hotel, the Atlantik Beach Hotel and a Grand Bahama Beach Hotel. HPH also acquired the Lucayan Country Club.
HPH imploded the Atlantik Beach Hotel and spent $280 million building a new complex of resorts and corollary buildings, which seem unable to reach economic or financial health.
NOTE: Freeport is the nearest example of "unbridled capitalism" in the Western Hemisphere. Had Groves himself and those who followed him done two things in addition to all else, Freeport may have become a beacon to the world:
a. Undertaken basic research and development to attract strategic industries, capable of generating long term competitive advantages, both the complex of businesses in Freeport and the ratio of generative enterprises to services for the multipliers those enterprises generated would characterise Freeport today.
b. Had they engaged and included the local population and made Freeport dwellers the most skilled entrepreneurial labor force in the region, that labor force and their children would be the fiercest defenders of the Port against government interference and may have promoted a new type of government and governance in the world.
Since Wallace Groves, the Port Authority ceased to deal with the government at the completion of a series of successes. The Groves model was leading elegantly to a notion of a Greater Freeport, which would have made the Port a juggernaut. The St. George's era has invoked a little resentment outside the Port area, with a sort of island nationalism against the Port, rather than the hopes of being included in the HCA.
NOTE: Whilst HPH invested half a billion into Freeport, this investment nor any other has managed to put Freeport on an upswing. Hutchinson has held Freeport together, but a more comprehensive ailment restricts Freeport: Whilst the Hawksbill Creek Agreement is still a beautiful instrument, Freeport ambles between failure and its old iteration, as the future speeds past it.
Whilst there will be this or that investment from time to time; each one promoted as a “rebirth” of Freeport, it would require a stupendous vision to restore credible investor confidence and re-capture the magic that was once this city’s to refuse. In my view, it should have had an economy as large as Jamaica’s already.
A Jamaican writer, in one of the most profound statements capturing the post-colonial experience - impressed and dismayed at once at the history and prospects of Freeport - put the matter thus after seeing the prosperity in Freeport, compared to Jamaica in 1960: "this whole part of the world, particularly with its close proximity to the United States is sold...beyond any possibility of retreat, on the absolute desirability of a Western type civilization [in the hearts of the West's victims], though there may be no positive understanding of what that involves".
Any new owner of these assets and the concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement can and would be successful, if they understand, counteracted and superseded that profound truth.