FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - “I am optimistic for the future of Grand Bahama, even in the face of the recent announcement on the increase of Value Added Tax,” said Minister for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator Kwasi Thompson.
“This was necessary to avoid downgrading, necessary to avoid mass firing of employees and necessary to avoid the devaluation of our dollar. After years of kicking these problems down the road and trying to borrow our way out of trouble, it was time to make the hard, but necessary decisions.”
Minister Thompson was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Bahamahost graduation, which was held on Thursday, May 31, 2018, at Calvary Temple Church. Some 280 people made up this year’s graduating class, one of the biggest classes in the programme’s history in Grand Bahama.
Minister Thompson told the graduates and their guests that he chose to be optimistic about the future of Grand Bahama, even in light of some of the challenges it presently faces. Such optimism, he said, lies in the fact that there has been an increase in foreign direct, and domestic, interests over the past year in Grand Bahama.
“I’m optimistic by the re-opening of the Goombay Land Amusement Park, where there is expected to be some 20 people hired; I’m optimistic about Grand Bahama because we have seen the local investment by Fowlco, a Bahamian Marine logistics company that has hired 17 people.
“I’m optimistic about Grand Bahama because we have seen the expansion of companies like Omni Financial that has hired some 10 people; companies like Carnival Corporation, Ocean Medallion that have trained and hired Bahamians to create and to configure cutting edge technology for Carnival Cruise Line; I’m optimistic because we have seen companies like the Wind River Tobacco company invest in Grand Bahama and hire 20 Grand Bahamians.
“I’m optimistic about a major fabric company out of Nassau that will be opening doors here in Grand Bahama in a few months and who will be hiring Grand Bahamians to work; I’m optimistic because a Bahamian-owned food store is embarking upon a multi-million dollar expansion here in Grand Bahama, and construction has already begun.
“I’m optimistic about Grand Bahama because once stalled major projects have been restarted, like the Seaward Fishing Village and the PharmaChem expansion project. I’m optimistic about Grand Bahama because more such projects are coming on stream and are expected to once again boost the economy of Grand Bahama.”
Minister Thompson said that he is very optimistic about the future of tourism in Grand Bahama, particularly as the Government moves closer to closing the deal on the Grand Lucayan Resort and as plans go into effect to begin renovation on the property.
He said that the former Ginn Project has also been revived and the new owners have committed to hiring 200 people in their first year of operation. The Grand Bahama Minister said that there are some other projects scheduled to come on stream in Grand Bahama, but because they are still in the early stages, he was not at liberty to disclose the details of those projects as yet.
“But if you sat where I sit, you too would be optimistic about what is going to happen in Grand Bahama,” added Minister Thompson. “Even in the face of an increase in VAT, I’m still very optimistic in the future of this island.”
When the announcement that Value Added Taxes was increasing from 7.5 percent to 12 percent was made by the Minister of Finance, the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest, during his recent Budget Communication, a firestorm of social media posts reflected Bahamians’ feelings about the proposed increase. However, Minister Thompson said he believes that in the end Bahamians would see why it was necessary for the Government to take the position it took on VAT.
“But even in the face of all of that, there are reasons in the recent budget to be optimistic,” added Minister Thompson.
“We’ve made it easier for Bahamians to do business, finding an easier way for Bahamians to start and renew their businesses; we have reduced duty on small vehicles; we have taken Value Added Taxes off breadbasket items and off medication; we have taken the duty off clothes and shoes for those businesses that sell those items and we have allowed for building supplies to be imported duty free, something which many Grand Bahamians are still in need of, as they continue to repair their homes from previous storms.”
A programme to be launched by the government that Minister Thompson is excited about is the new BTVI Scholarship initiative, which he says will help young people obtain the special training needed to take advantage of the expanding job market, particularly in technology subjects. This programme, which is meant to be a transition from the 32-week job training program, will pay students to attend school and graduate with a degree.
“So, no matter what is going on or how things may appear, I choose to be optimistic about the future of Grand Bahama,” said Minister Thompson. “So I encourage you new Bahamahost graduates to join in this optimism, even as you celebrate the completion of this program.
“I want to commend you for your dedication and hard work that has brought you to this point – the graduation. It is an important milestone for you tonight. You have completed the training program and are now equipped with a unique skill set to approach the workforce and to help you ultimately succeed.
“Remember, successful people are optimistic people. They are not complainers. They are too busy solving the problem the rest of us are complaining about. So I challenge you to be more focused on finding a solution, than you are on a problem. When you are challenged, do not get bitter, get better. Nothing worth having ever comes easy; if it came easy, everyone would have it and everyone would do it.
“I congratulate you for being a part of the solution. I particularly congratulate those who already are and who will become entrepreneurs. We must support you, as your success will drive our economy.”