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Grand Bahama Minister hails 2018 progress

Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson hailed the government's progress on Grand Bahama over the last year but added that there was more to be done during a recent end-of-year press conference. Pictured: Minister Thompson adresses the media about the government’s accomplishments, during a press conference December 16, 2018. (BIS Photo/Andrew Coakley)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

One of the visions of the government for Grand Bahama in 2018 was to help place the island on a path of economic recovery, and then move it towards financial growth, “that was the goal of this government in Grand Bahama and we believe that significant progress has taken place – although there remains much more work to be done,” said Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson.

The Minister’s remarks came during a year in review by the Office of the Prime Minister in Grand Bahama to members of the local media December 16.

Minister Thompson noted that Grand Bahama has played, and will continue to play a pivotal role in the overall economic resurgence of The Bahamas, and that the Prime Minister has taken a very personal and keen interest in Grand Bahama.

“It’s important to note that this year the tourism numbers for Grand Bahama are up,” said Minister Thompson. “According to the Ministry of Tourism and as reported by The Central Bank of The Bahamas’ latest report, tourism stopover visitors in Grand Bahama have increased, year-over-year by 3.5 per cent.”

“What’s even more important is the Airbnb information and report, which has suggested that those numbers for the country overall has increased. But in particular for Grand Bahama, the bookings for Airbnb has increased this year for Grand Bahama by 44 per cent. This represents the largest increase in that sector for the entire country.”

Also, this year, Minister Thompson noted that there has been a significant increase in revenue at Customs – an increase of $15 million with respect to Customs revenue in Grand Bahama.

Minister Thompson noted that the offering of free registration at Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) for all qualifying Bahamians across the county has been significant. For Grand Bahama, in particular, Minister Thompson said there has been an overall increase in enrolment by 70 per cent as a result of this initiative by the government.

In the technology courses and degrees at BTVI, there has been a 97 per cent increase in the Institute’s enrolment.

“So, we see that there has been a significant impact by the BTVI initiative [on the part of] the government and next year, the Prime Minister has committed that he will make the University of The Bahamas free for qualifying Bahamians as well,” added Minister Thompson.

The Minister pointed out that throughout 2018, a number of new businesses have opened in Grand Bahama by both local and foreign investors helping to stimulate the island’s economy. Those companies include GIBC Digital; Bahamas Zipline at Pirates Cove (a $1.4 million investment); Eco-Oil broke ground for its new offices in Grand Bahama in June 2018 (a $10 million investment); Home Fabrics of Nassau, opened a branch in Freeport (a $2 million investment); Fowlco Marine Logistics Company (a $1.4 million investment); Goombay Land Skating Rink and entertainment Centre (a $500,000 investment) was renovated and reopened; Elnet Maritime Company broke ground to construct their new offices, (a $2.5 million investment); Coral Vita broke ground for its first land-based commercial Coral Farm; and Pharmachem began work on their $180 million expansion project.

As a result of these new businesses, employment on Grand Bahama has gone up as well, as Grand Bahamians were hired to work at these new and expanding businesses. Labor on the Blocks, which was a huge success in Nassau, came to Grand Bahama and saw the same success. Some 1,500 Grand Bahamians turned out and registered and there were a number of people who were able to obtain employment on the spot, and many more received appointments for job interviews, as a result of the Labor on the Blocks programme.

“We held a Job Fair and some seventy Grand Bahamians were hired by Quality Services and are employed at the expansion project at Pharmachem,” said Minister Thompson. “Itelbpo’s expansion has opened the door for more Grand Bahamians to be hired, as the company moves towards its goal of hiring an additional 100 Bahamians.

“The OPM’s summer programme was launched in June, which gave 500 young people job opportunities for the summer. The government’s new ICT Summer program also took effect in 2018. This program not only allowed students an opportunity to be trained at BTVI in Information, Communications and Technology courses, but a unique aspect of the program was that these students were paid a stipend to participate in the programme. The programme is expected to be expanded to New Providence.”

Minister Thompson pointed out that the Small Business Grant Programme, which was launched by the Office of the Prime Minister, allowed 197 people to go through the Small Business Grant Programme, where they obtained better business development skills. Out of that number 87 people were given Small Business Grants, to the tune of over $370,000.

Perhaps one of the biggest events to take place in Grand Bahama during 2018 was the government’s decision to purchase the Grand Lucayan Resort.

“This was an investment to preserve the jobs of the employees working at the Resort, but also as a step to continue the redevelopment of Grand Bahama’s tourism market,” said Minister Thompson.

“The government has put in place an independent board that is now managing the resort. As a result, that board has offered voluntary separation packages now in process, and negotiations between the two unions with respect to those voluntary separation packages.”

“The government has approved a three million dollar renovation for the resort. Bids are out and the board is evaluating those bids. The government has received over 20 interests and potential offers for the purchase of the resort and we will begin to narrow that list down shortly.

“Let me stress that the government does not intend to continue to run the resort, but what we want to do is sell the resort to a qualified buyer as soon as possible.”

In November of 2018, Grand Bahama held its Second Annual Technology Summit, which brought together local, national and international experts and companies in the field of technology to exchange ideas about advancing technology around the world.
It was during that Summit that the government of The Bahamas signed an MOU with Cisco Systems to provide further educational opportunities for Bahamians to be trained in the technology sector.”

“One of the unique things that came out of this year’s Summit was the announcement by the Grand Bahama Power Company, who will be offering a GB Tech Hub special power rate particularly for those tech businesses who intend to open offices in Grand Bahama,” said Minister Thompson.

“It will also be offered to existing tech businesses who are expanding and hiring more employees. They will also be able to take advantage of this special tech hub electricity rate.”

He said he is excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for Grand Bahama in 2019 and looks forward to even more new businesses, particularly in the technology sector, to be opened in Grand Bahama.

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar led a delegation to the 11th session of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s negotiating event, ICAN 2018 held in Nairobi, Kenya, 10-14 December, where he attended negotiations on air services.

Princeton architectural firm Studio Hillier, has been selected by StarPort Resorts to design Port St George, The Bahamas’ latest eco-engineered luxury resort on Long Island.

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