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A City Stuck In The Mud

On Friday, the 4th of March, exasperated residents of Grand Bahama marched from a local business in Grand, Freeport to the headquarters of the Grand Bahama Port Authority. They wanted to protest and register their concerns about a city that appears to be dying slowly on the vine and its key infrastructure seems to be falling into disrepair.

To be sure, no one really knows the real population of Grand Bahama since the passage of hurricane Dorian in 2019, which saw a mass exodus that hollowed out the city’s population which was already in decline, and deprived the city of the critical body mass needed to sustain itself.

The Grand Bahama Port Authority has oversight of the city limits of Freeport until 2054. This right was given to them by way of a legislative treaty known as The Hawksbill Creek Agreement signed 4th Aug in 1955 for a ninety-nine year lease agreement.

In recent years, the Port Authority has been in serious decline because of natural disaster hurricanes Frances, Jean, Wilma, Matthew, and the straw that broke the camel’s back, hurricane Dorian. Then, the protracted family court fight between the owners of the Port Authority was another contributing factor that caused the decline of the second City. It was at this time that the vision for the city was totally abandoned. The only persons benefiting from this deleterious fight was the lawyers. This self-inflicted wound suck the scarce resources that should have been reinvested into the upkeep and promotion of the city. Instead, the city became the victim. Along the way, the vision for the city’s foreign investors from USA was lost. The forward movement of Freeport stalled, and its reputation severely damaged.

The third and final reasoning for the decline of Freeport was an apologetic Minnis Administration, and its inability as a sovereign government with overall responsibility for the well-being of the Commonwealth; it was weak-kneed and lacking in vision. The FNM Government became complicit in the troubled city of Freeport when they were hoodwinked into the purchase of the Grand Lucaya Hotel, and the Grand Bahama International Airport which, also, represented a material change to the Hawksbill Creek agreement. The divestment of the airport and other key entities could be seen as material changes to the Hawksbill Creek Agreement. The prescribed protocols for changes in the agreement were not followed, therefore, the Hawksbill Creek Agreement was abrogated. So sanctions should have been brought to bear.

It now falls to the Davis administration’s new day government, six months into a new mandate, to untangle this web of incompetence, and misadventure using all lawful means to remedy this sad state of affairs that now exist in Freeport; a city stuck in the mud unable to move.

It is in the national interest of The Bahamas that Freeport, this gold mine, 60 nautical miles off the Florida coast flourishes and prospers once again. Using a Biblical admonition “if we stay here and do nothing, we will surely die”, the time for demonstrations and bluster has long passed. Prime Minister Davis, Immediate Action is Now required. Please Do Not Blink!

Brian Seymour