Thursday, December 29, 2011. Freeport, G.B. – Good afternoon. I believe you know my colleagues who are here with me, but let me introduce them to you anyway.
We have a written statement, after which my colleagues and I are prepared to answer your questions.
We are here this afternoon to express our deep concern and absolute shock about the distressing news that some 70 employees of Hutchison Whampoa’s business operations here in Grand Bahama have been terminated, adding to this island’s already painfully high unemployment rate that is estimated to be well in excess of 20 percent. We are told that the massive downsizing exercise that has taken place affected workers here at the Container Port as well as at the airport and Hutchison’s hotel operations.
Obviously, given the state of Grand Bahama’s depressed economy, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham will use this as an excuse to ward off criticism of his FNM government’s cruel neglect of Grand Bahama over the past four-plus years, which has created an economic environment that makes it difficult for businesses to meet their responsibilities to their employees.
As a result, some of the companies in Grand Bahama that have closed under this FNM government in the last few years include: Fenestration Glass Company, the Home Center, Freeport Concrete, the Yamaha Dealership, the Bowling Alley, Stoned Crab Restaurant, three restaurants operated by Rick Hayward, the Native Hut Restaurant, Papa John Pizza, a McDonald’s franchise, and countless small shops. Many other businesses are operating with reduced staff levels. That’s how bad the situation is here in Grand Bahama as a result of the mismanagement of this country’s economy generally by Mr. Ingraham and his FNM government.
To make matters worse, the Prime Minister himself chose to personally contribute to the problems that have crippled Grand Bahama’s economy by engaging in an acrimonious dispute with Sir Jack Hayward, one of the principal owners of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), for reasons that are still unclear to residents of Grand Bahama.
This dispute escalated in December of 2009 when Mr. Ingraham, at a press conference at Sir Lynden Pindling International Airport in New Providence shortly before leaving for a climate change conference in Europe, announced that his government would not renew the work permit of Hannes Babak, the then chairman of the GBPA.
Babak had been hand-picked by Sir Jack and Lady Henrietta St. George, widow of the late Edward St. George, the other co-owner of the GBPA, to be the company’s chairman because it was believed that he was the best person to do what Edward St. George did so well, and that was encourage investors and new businesses to come to Grand Bahama.
Since then, Mr. Ingraham has chosen to ignore the fact that as a result of technological advances, we live in a shrinking world in which the decisions he makes as Prime Minister are instantly known globally by persons who are interested in doing business in The Bahamas. Therefore, in our view, his ongoing dispute with the leadership of the GBPA, even to the extent of reportedly refusing to meet with them to try and resolve their differences, will continue to do serious damage to Grand Bahama’s economy.
Fortunately, a general election will be held shortly and voters throughout The Bahamas will have the opportunity to send a strong message to Mr. Ingraham that his style of governance is not in the best interest of The Bahamas. Here in Grand Bahama, where the unemployment rate has just been drastically increased by 70, that message should be clear and unequivocal: it is time to change the direction in which this country is headed by electing a compassionate and caring PLP government under the leadership of Perry Gladstone Christie.
We are ready and prepared to restore good governance to our beloved country.