Hawksbill Creek Agreement
The Hawksbill Creek Agreement is an agreement with a 99-year lifespan, expiring in 2054. However that date is misleading, as arguably some of its most beneficial aspects expired in 1990. For on that year, exemption from Real Property Tax, Personal Property Tax, Capital Gains Taxes, Taxes on Shares and Earnings, expired. Of course, due to a private arrangement with the Grand Bahama Port Authority the expiration date of these benefits was extended to 2015.
Why should you care about the forthcoming expiration of these benefits? Will paying annual Real Property Taxes have an impact to the bottom line of your company? Should annual earnings taxes be extended to Freeport, will the payment of these make a dent to your profitability? Do you plan to realize capital gains from years of hard work building up the value of your business? How do you feel about sharing 10% of this with the Government? Without a doubt, if the exemptions from these taxes is not extended every business owner, every property owner and most of the residences of Freeport will feel the pinch (or pain) of higher taxes.
Unlike 1990, when the shareholders of the GBPA entered into the Freeport Act with the Government which provided direct benefits to both parties and indirectly benefited the Licensees and residents of Freeport, today there is a different situation at the GBPA. Today there is an opportunity for the Licensees, as one of the original three parties of the HCA to extend the tax benefits via an amendment to the original agreement. However, to achieve this goal, Licensees need to work together with a desire to improve our community and country.
Where do we start? Perhaps we need to first find answers to some questions raised by critics. After all, why should the Government continue to provide favorable tax status to Freeport. Doesn’t a tax benefit provided to Freeport take something away from others in The Bahamas?
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Prime Minister and minister of state for finance have been urged to “immediately intervene” over what one leading attorney described as Customs’ attempt to “hold businesses hostage” in Freeport over demands for the submission of monthly bonded goods sales reports.
Fred Smith QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner who has won numerous Supreme Court verdicts against the Customs Department for violating the Hawksbill Creek Agreement’s provisions, confirmed that there were no provisions in that treaty or the Customs Management Act requiring the submission of such reports.
Racing to the defence of Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) licencees, who had seen their business operations and wider economy thrown into “confusion” by Customs’ latest demand, Mr Smith said: “I am shocked that Customs should be acting in such an arbitrary, heavy-handed manner towards licencees in Freeport.
“Customs does not have the right to hold businesses hostage by refusing to clear their trailers because the licencees may or may not be doing something else incorrect.
“The Hawksbill Creek Agreement and Customs Management Act provide for appropriate processes for the way something should be done, and the powers Customs has or does not have. Holding licencees to ransom by not clearing their trailers is a dictatorial abuse of their powers, and simply unacceptable.
Attorney Carey Leonard speaks at the Rotary Club of Freeport (09/23/10) about the path to a better future for Grand Bahama.
Remarks made by Carey Leonard at The Rotary Club of Freeport
Thursday, Sept 23, 2010
In July we started a journey, a journey towards creating a new vision, a new vision for the future of Grand Bahama. We knew from the outset that to create such a vision would require more than the Grand Bahama Port Authority and the Government, it was going to require the vision of you in this Rotary Club, the vision of all those in the Rotary Clubs, the vision of all the GBPA Licensees, of all the other businesses in Grand Bahama, from West End to Sweeting’s Cay, and the vision of all those who call the island of Grand Bahama home. You may ask why we started by coming to Rotary? This was not done in a vacuum, we came to you because Rotary is the perfect starting place. Why do I say this? Look at the principals that you operate by, your “Four-Way Test” Is it the TRUTH, Is it FAIR to all concerned, Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS, and Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned? For a truly holistic vision to be created all those ideals are required. No special interest group can do this; it is going to take us all.
In August we did the “Introduction to the Hawksbill Creek Agreement” and we will continue presentations that, it is hoped, will assist you in your understanding of various topics of the HCA, such as the Customs Duty Exemption for GBPA Licensees and, perhaps a review of the License Agreement between the Licensees and the GBPA.
So let us move on.
We all know that The Bahamas is attending to the negotiating process required for this country’s admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO). We know that the ‘Goods and Services’ Schedules to the WTO are extensive. We know that the Minister confirmed to the WTO that The Bahamas has begun reforming laws governing both foreign and internal, yes internal trade. We know that these reforms will result in considerably improved conditions of access for foreign suppliers of goods and services in The Bahamas. We know that the way Government procurement is done will change, and this is just the beginning.
By K. NANCOO-RUSSELL, Freeport News Reporter
THE FREEPORT NEWS, 09/23/10
A group of businesspersons who hope to bring about change by presenting an informed opinion to the government on a number of issues that will directly affect Grand Bahama have launched a website to help garner public support.
Attorney Carey Leonard recently embarked on a series of public speaking appearances, presenting information on various topics which are related to the development of the island’s economy, such as amendments to the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.
His latest address was at the Sunrise Rotary Club’s breakfast meeting at Le Rendezvous restaurant yesterday.
In the past, Leonard has encouraged residents to become more vocal about concerns and ideas they may have, stressing that the only way change can be effected is through a united front. He said he has received a significant amount of support from members of the public who have pledged to become a part of the movement.
To this end, he said, the site, grandbahamafuture.com, was created as a communication tool to help spread the message.