Today the Prime Minister tabled in the House of Assembly the executed Memorandum of Understanding for the Arawak Cay Port which was executed on May 10, 2010. The MOU details the agreement between the Government of the Bahamas and the APD, Ltd. The Progressive Liberal Party believes there are a number of unconscionable provisions in the MOU that not only support a special interest group, but would put the economic advancement of the Bahamas at risk. First and foremost, this is effectively a 90 year agreement with 20 independent companies. The PLP feels that given the need for the advancement of the country, any agreement for 90 years is not in the Bahamas’ best interest.
The Board of Directors of APD, Ltd., the company that will operate the Port, advances control to a special interest group, while effectively removing the Bahamian public from any decision making. In any quasi public, private endeavor, where the Bahamian public has a right to ownership, in this case 20% of the shares, the Bahamian public should be the watchdogs, have a say in the operations. The Arawak Cay Port has a Board of Directors in which the private 40% shareholder group controls the majority of the seats (4 of 7), as well as the post of Chairman. The Government of the Bahamas, has the right to appoint 3 members of the Board of Directors. The Bahamian public, who has the right to own 20% of the Company, has no right to appoint any members of the Board of Directors. The Progressive Liberal Party believes the Bahamian people have a right to have a say in the operations of the Port, that it is a slap in the face not to allow a Board of Director position for the Bahamian public who will own 20% of the Company. The PLP believes the private shareholder group should have 3 seats on the Board of Directors, the Government should have 3 seats on the Board of Directors, and the Bahamian public who owns shares should have the right to appoint 1 seat on the Board of Directors.
The MOU creates a business venture for a small group of companies that cannot fail, and will make the wealthy even richer. The private ownership group, by controlling the Board of Directors, has the ability to guarantee themselves at least a 10% profit on the Port activities. The private ownership group has a no lose proposition. Not only can they guarantee themselves a profit, there is a guarantee that they will be the exclusive operators of any port facility in Nassau. For 20 years the Arawak Cay Port is to be the sole port and terminal in New Providence and Paradise Island, and this exclusive operations also extend 20 miles from the shoreline of New Providence. This exclusivity ignores the economic expansion and increased trade policies of the Bahamas in the future. The Progressive Liberal Party does not agree with the grant to the Arawak Cay Port 20 years of non-competition. The PLP believes this does not encompass a policy of building and growing the economy of the Bahamas, restricts competition and economic opportunities to Bahamians. In a time where we are discussing policies about liberalizing certain industries, the Government of the Bahamas is doing just the opposite to satisfy a few private companies when it comes to the Port and the promotion of trade as an economic policy.
The Progressive Liberal Party takes exception to the clauses in the MOU that obligates the Government, in the event it decides it is in the best interest for Bahamians to move the Port, to reimburse the Port Company for not only all costs of moving the Port, but for the value of all buildings and improvements to the Port. The Progressive Liberal Party finds these provisions contrary to the best interest of Bahamians. A Government has the responsibility of doing what is in the best interest for its citizens. If it is in the best interest of Bahamians that the Port be moved to a different location, a Government should not be penalized disproportionately for making that decision. The PLP believes that any Government that contracts itself against doing what is in the best interest of its citizens, is not a Government for the masses, but only a Government for the few.