FREEPORT – State Minister for Finance the Hon. Zhivargo Laing said Monday that given the current economic situation facing Grand Bahama, a united Grand Bahama Port Authority is crucial.
Mr. Laing, a featured speaker at the 11th Annual Grand Bahama Business Outlook held at the Our Lucaya Resort, addressed participants on the topic: Grand Bahama’s Economy – Possibilities Beyond the Crisis.
“No one can blame the Grand Bahama Port Authority for the current economic woes we are facing,” Mr. Laing said, “however in the best of times a united, focused, proactive, productive and considerate Port Authority is important to the success of this island. In a crisis such as we face, such a Port is crucial.
“If we are to promote the necessary international and domestic investment needed to make this island proper again, the Grand Bahama Port Authority must come to the table as a whole entity with dedicated resolve. In that vein, its leadership must be more about the islands progress that its own,” he stated.
Mr. Laing pointed out that while the downturn in the national economy and in a larger way the US economy began around 2006/2007, Grand Bahama’s economic misfortunes began much earlier.
He said that in his view, Grand Bahama is “now into its seventh year of economic recession and in its fifth year of economic crisis.”
The State Minister emphasized that the hurricanes of 2004 had a devastating effect on Grand Bahama’s economy, having forced the closure of the Royal Oasis and other business, resulting in hundreds of residents losing their jobs.
Minister Laing pointed out that The Bahamian economy cannot return to good health without the economic fortunes of the global economy, and in particular the US economy, returning to good health.
“The reality is that the global economy is in a tailspin and no one is certain when this tailspin will end. Indeed, no one knows just how severe this tailspin will be.”
He advised meantime that the industrial sectors of Grand Bahama, which largely cater to an international clientele, were not so badly affected by the downturn.
Focusing on the economic possibilities beyond the crisis, Mr. Laing pointed to the Ross University Freeport Academic Facility and the Fenestration Glass Services Company as investments that point the way to the economic prospects of Grand Bahama.
“The fact is that this island is ideally suited for an offshore education industry and further medium to high technology manufacturing. It is also highly suited for offshore medical services and offshore finance,” he stated.
Highlighting other developments Mr. Laing said, “Even as we speak, the Grand Bahama Shipyard has ordered and secured another dry dock, making a total of three. This means that it now has the capacity to service even more ships therefore creating more business and economic opportunities.
“As we speak, the $900 million acquisition of BORCO by Vopak has been completed and the company is undertaking almost a quarter of a billion dollar upgrade to its newly acquired oil storage facilities. Vopak is a huge company and it is only to be seen what business opportunities will ultimately emerge from its investment here in Freeport,” he said.
Regarding Government initiatives, Minister Laing reemphasized the implementation of policies and measures to reposition the economy for sustainable and strong growth, noting that the Government will continue to shore up its social safety net in order to soften, to the extent possible, the impact upon citizens affected by the crisis.
Mr. Laing said another of its broad objectives is to support the economy through a capital investment stimulus package which spans several fiscal periods.
Minister of State for Finance the Hon. Zhivargo Laing addresses the 11th Annual Grand Bahama Business Outlook held at the Our Lucaya Resort on Monday, February 23, 2009. (BIS Photo/Vandyke Hepburn)