PM Christie Highlights Vibrant Public Sector Activity on Abaco

Dynamic public sector activity is centred on Abaco — a rising tourism and investment centre.  Ongoing investment continues in infrastructural improvement initiatives, such as road works in North and South Abaco, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie said, on September 22, 2016 at Abaco Business Outlook.

“On Moore’s Island, the $5 million investment to extend the airport runway, complete sea wall repairs, replace water mains and develop a new airport terminal will bode well for the future of that island’s 600 residents,” Prime Minister Christie said.

He added that as part of a Sports Master Plan being implemented by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, and the Government’s commitment to the development of national sporting infrastructure, a major new sporting complex is getting underway in Marsh Harbour, with ancillary tracks being placed in Sandy Point and Cooper’s Town.

“On November 10th of this year, my Government will launch the National Sports Academy at what will become the University of The Bahamas,” he said.  “Moore’s Island will the recipient of the first affiliated academy in December of this year and its facility will include dormitories, soccer pitches and sports medicine practice, all in an effort to facilitate the training at home of young Bahamian athletes.”

Prime Minister Christie noted that Abaco public and private sector initiatives provide for long-term construction and business development for local contractors, business suppliers, landscapers, tradesmen.

“In fact, the heightened level of business activity has created demand for a financial services sector in Abaco and five international and Bahamian commercial banks, along with the Bahamas Development Bank, now have a presence in Marsh Harbour offering a portfolio of financial services to a growing base of industries and entrepreneurs,” he said.

“Their presence further validates Abaco’s stature as a rising international tourism and investment centre and the increased level of economic activity has contributed to higher expenditure levels such that, in 2015, Abaco delivered over $41 million in fees and taxes and Customs receipts to the Bahamas Treasury.”

He noted, however, it was without the requisite business licence, registrations fees and VAT contributions from vacation rental sales emanating from the 250 second homes and rental villas, representing some 780 rooms registered with the Ministry of Tourism.

That number, Prime Minister Christie added, represents less than 25 percent of the total number of certificates and permits issued for second homes in Abaco with the Bahamas Investment Authority, most of which are neither registered nor licenced with the Ministry of Tourism for commercial operation.

“This situation should be rectified and all such properties, on a nation-wide basis, should be licenced and like hotels and other commercial entities, pay licence fees and taxes to the Bahamas Treasury,” he said.

“Our developing communities throughout the Family Islands can certainly benefit from increased revenues from home rentals, as many still lack services that would improve efficiencies and quality of life for citizens and residents,” he added.  “The Ministry of Tourism’s registration drive for second homes is in full force, with notices posted in the Nassau, Grand Bahama and Family Island newspapers and, so, this issue is slowly and systematically being addressed.”

Public sector funding also recently delivered the new Marsh Harbour Airport terminal and proposed runway extension to handle larger aircraft, making it possible to attract more direct airlift from destinations other than Florida and Atlanta, Prime Minister Christie said.

The opening of the new mini hospital in Marsh Harbour later that year, he added, will provide residents with improved access to medical care and provide an added boost to consumer confidence in the destination as second home and extended stay option.

“In addition to these improvements, Abaco now has a new Administration Building and an Office of the Prime Minister,” he pointed out.  “The National Training Agency has implemented programmes and an Urban Renewal Programme support the efforts of Local Government.”

Prime Minister Christie told participants that looking ahead, the level of optimism only grows with the knowledge that Abaco still has the potential for unlimited growth.

“Within another generation Abaco can be expected to deliver further international access through an expanded airport with pre-clearance facilities and can anticipate at least 30 new small resorts and marinas and another 6000 second homes, driving infrastructure, capital development and new job creation – a feat not possible by many of its regional competitors,” he said.

He added: “With even newer technologies of the future, Abaco is also poised to benefit from a younger generation of experienced local entrepreneurs and skilled workers and a solid base of loyalty and preferential customers who are today the children of many of its second home owners and who tomorrow, side by side with Abaconians, may well become its investors in development of an even more exciting destination created in the place they now call their second home.”

Prime Minister Christie thanked The Counsellors, Ltd., for inviting him to speak that day and the event’s hosts at the Abaco Beach Resort for their wonderful hospitality.

“I would be remiss if I did not thank the central and local support teams of the Ministry of Tourism, led by Minister (Obie) Wilchcombe and the Out Island Promotion Board, led by Kerry Fountain, our Local Government Officers and our investors for the hard work they are doing to keep Abaco and by extension, all of the Islands of The Bahamas, top of mind in the global marketplace,” he added.

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