FNM Prevented Major PLP Port Scandal

Arawak Cay Port Development

The recent relocation of the container port to Arawak Cay has been widely reported as a landmark achievement for the shipping industry in the Bahamas. In a panicked reaction to this FNM government milestone, the opposition Leader Perry Christie, at a recent rally, made untrue and hypocritical claims about the project, namely that the FNM has conspired to give special interests and insiders a monopoly control of the port. The facts point to the exact opposite: the FNM delivered a port at a lower cost and has regular Bahamians as significant stakeholders.

From the Tribune, April 30 2012:

“What we have here,” declared Mr Christie, “is one of the biggest scandals in Bahamian history.” However, from what we know about the relocation of the port to Arawak Cay rather than to Clifton as planned by the PLP, the fact is that one of the ‘biggest scandals in Bahamian history’ has been avoided.

The Arawak port cost in the region of $80 million, while the Christie administration’s Clifton project was estimated at $300 million. And so to start with the Ingraham administration has saved the country ‘a couple of pretty pennies.

Government entered into a public/private joint venture in the Arawak Port Development with government contributing the land and with the private sector—among the traditional owners of the cargo port—providing the financing required for the construction. The private sector companies own 40 percent of the new port, the government an equal 40 percent and the public 20 percent, which the Prime Minister hopes will increase as government, sometime in the future, makes a part of its 40 percent available to Bahamians.

Prime Minister Ingraham  even made it possible for government employees to purchase shares in ADP by way of salary advances repayable to the Treasury by salary deductions over a period of up to 12 months (N.B. in effect extending a loan for shares purchase).

Mr. Christie wanted to move the ports to Clifton. He is now complaining about increased fees at Arawak, can anyone imagine the astronomical fees if goods had to be hauled from Clifton? The cost of food would have gone through the ceiling. But we don’t suppose Mr. Christie was thinking of the poor Bahamian and his food bill in his Clifton calculations.

Remember the land at Arawak was owned by the government, whereas the land at Clifton was owned by Frankie Wilson’s company. […] Obviously, Mr. Wilson would have owned a significant interest in the port.

And so, with Mr. Ingraham, not only do the Bahamian people have a port built on the people’s land but the Bahamian people are very much stakeholders in the investment.