The following statement was delivered by the Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party Philip Davis at Morgan’s Bluff, Andros on Tuesday 23 June 2020:
On the North Andros mining and land transfer proposal
For Immediate Release
23 June 2020
The media and Bahamians everywhere will well recall that on the 18th June 2020, the Progressive Liberal Party went on the record on in its opposition to the transfer of huge parcels of land and the possible foreign takeover of one of the remaining strategic deep water harbours in this region – Morgan’s Bluff right here in North Andros just a stone’s throw from the tongue of the ocean – and a proposed mining operation for aragonite.
These were the principal components of one of two proposals currently in the public domain.
That first proposal for the use of 500,000 acres of land is connected with a billionaire who is not a national of The Bahamas. The proposal is called the North Andros Green Free Trade Zone and the corporate vehicle is the Nant Group.
There is a second proposal which involves a lesser amount of land. It is driven by a group of Bahamian investors, headed by Cameron Symonette. It also involves a mining operation for aragonite and there are other developmental proposals. I have received a note from those developers and they insist that there is no connection between their proposal and the first proposal.
The problem is that in the public domain because of the coincidence of their releases in public, there is no distinction in the minds of the public in the reaction to both proposals. There is a feeling that there is open season on Andros and a land grab is in the cards. Both proposals require the utmost scrutiny and require great circumspection.
This then is a teachable moment for us and a propitious time for the Progressive Liberal Party under my administration to lay out in extenso the policy of the Progressive Liberal Party on the development of Andros.
We are cognizant of the need for work, jobs and development in Andros.
We start however from the unalterable premise that the development of Andros must be driven by the philosophy of “Bahamians first” and the people of Andros must be in the driver’s seat. Every investment must be cognizant of the need to protect the patrimony of our country for the future.
As public concerns surrounding these two competing proposals intensify, the PLP thought it vitally important to reiterate our policy position on the future of Andros and we do so again today.
These growing public concerns are the principal reasons we are here today.
A Progressive Liberal Party government under my leadership cannot and will not support the terms and conditions of the North Andros proposal for a free trade zone currently in the public domain. The other proposal also requires the most keen scrutiny.
Regarding the future of the port here at Morgan’s Bluff, it is the unequivocal position that this port must remain in the possession of Bahamians as a public good. We are strongly opposed to the divestment and transfer of this port into private and foreign hands. Furthermore, we are opposed to the ownership participation of shareholders in the Arawak Cay Port Development Project in the future of this port to add to their ownership and control of local port facilities.
On the face of it, these proposed projects raise the urgent question of the environmental sustainability of these or any other proposals, given the sensitive, vulnerable and delicate ecosystems in Andros. This is the largest reserve of fresh water in the country. This is the largest continuous land mass in the country. For all of these reasons, there should be the utmost scrutiny of any project.
The PLP is diametrically opposed to any insidious attempt at a national asset grab by FNM insiders.
We therefore urge all Bahamians of goodwill to insist that this FNM government reject these proposals in their current forms.
The PLP however strongly supports the continued aggressive and further development of Bahamas Agricultural Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) as a viable vehicle to achieving food security and import replacement for a number of local staple food items.
This is consistent with the IDB funded Andros Specific Development Plan which was commissioned by the PLP when it was last in office. The PLP fully supports the recommendations contained in that report as the most sustainable developmental model for Andros.
I wish to also note that BAMSI enjoys the endorsement and support of experts from the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Caribbean Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). It is therefore our considered view that BAMSI is the country’s most viable executing mechanism for achieving national food security, import substitution and sustainable economic empowerment for our people.
Further, the PLP proposes to bridge Andros from north to south and to ensure that all 106 miles of road are upgraded from north to south. This is in preparation for the emergence of Andros as the economic driver of our economy through agriculture and food production. This Port at Morgan’s Bluff hen becomes a key driver of the economy of Andros as it will become the trading port to the outside world.
The proximity of Andros to one of the world’s largest barrier reefs presents tremendous entrepreneurial opportunities for further development of our blue economy and the empowerment of our people.
Further, Andros is world renowned for it’s high quality fly fishing flats which again present entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians in the blue and eco tourism economies.
A PLP government will aggressively pursue PPP opportunities, synergies and sustainable strategic inter-industrial links for our people between the green and blue economies and our largest industry, tourism.
However, we stress again that the economic benefits of any and all proposals must be for Bahamians and for Androsians first.