While speaking on his Government’s plans to facilitate investment through enhanced infrastructure and business support for Cat Island, San Salvador and Rum Cay, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said that
Family Island development is not a “mere political catchphrase for my government.”
“It is a cornerstone of our Blueprint for Change, and it is an imperative that is near and dear to me,” Prime Minister Davis said, at the Cat Island Business Outlook, held at Fernandez Bay Village, in Smith’s Bay, Cat Island.
“In developing policies to spur economic growth and improve quality of life on our islands, investment, infrastructure and innovation are three key areas of focus,” he added. “We are seeing positive indicators of economic rebound and growth for Cat Island and several of our other Family Islands.”
Among those present from Government included Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Leon Lundy; Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Utilities Bacchus Rolle; Senior Advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister Kevin Simmons; Deputy Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation, and Acting Director of Aviation Dr. Kenneth Romer; and of the Office of the Spouse of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Ann Marie Davis.
Prime Minister Davis noted that, in 2021, Cat Island, San Salvador and Rum Cay collectively recorded a nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $34.2 million. Just over 45 percent thereof ($15.5 million) was driven by real estate and rental activities, with industries including accommodations, food services and the arts, generating $4.4 million, he added.
“Economic activity for the islands grew by 2 percent between 2020 and 2021. In 2019 — prior to the COVID-19 pandemic — some $88.6 million in economic activity was recorded,” Prime Minister Davis said. “This level of activity can be achieved again, and there is potential for even greater economic gains through expansion of existing and new industries.”
“We expect continued growth as we work to support Bahamian entrepreneurs, attract viable foreign direct investment projects, and secure greater numbers of stopover visitors,” he added.
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that his Government opened its Tourism office in Cat Island in 2022, and that the “dedicated” work of the Ministry of Tourism was yielding “remarkable” post-pandemic results.
“Tourism statistics indicate that of the five islands last year whose foreign air arrivals exceeded 2019’s pre-pandemic numbers – those being Andros, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exuma and Long Island – Cat Island led the way with a close to 70 percent increase in foreign air arrivals in 2022 compared to 2019,” he said.
“Equally as exciting are the arrivals numbers for January of this year. Cat Island experienced a nation-leading 175.4 percent increase in foreign air arrivals compared to January 2019,” he added.
“This increasing interest in Cat Island as a destination augurs well not only for local businesses, but for current and prospective foreign direct investment.”
Speaking on foreign direct invest for Cat Island and San Salvador, Prime Minister Davis noted that, in 2009, the Cat Island Partners broke ground on their proposed mixed-use golf, resort, residential and marina project for Old Bight. The developers at the time, he added, encountered delays due to a number of factors – including that the Port Howe site, identified for its proposed marina, lacked available Crown Land nearby to make the site viable.
“The developers reapplied to government with a scaled down, re-designed proposal, and I announce this morning that the new proposal for the Cat Island Partners $160.45 million mixed-use golf, resort, residential and marina project at the PGA Village in Southeast Cat Island, has received government approval,” he pointed out.
“We intend to amend the existing Heads of Agreement with the developers.”
Prime Minister Davis stated that Phase I of the project was earmarked to provide 150 Bahamian jobs during the construction phase, and 150 to 300 Bahamian jobs during the operational phase.
“Phase I is slated to include the construction of 125 single family residential lots; 11.6 acres of multifamily residential pads; 9 holes of the original Rees Jones golf design and an additional 9 holes to be added in phase 2; a village that includes a welcome center; as well as a full service restaurant, a pro-shop, 12 private one and two-bedroom cabanas, and a multi-use pavilion,” he said.
On San Salvador, Prime Minister Davis said, his Government was successful, upon coming to office, in “getting the Club Med resort reopened and getting Bahamians back to work”.
He added that San Salvador was bustling with robust job opportunities – perhaps even reaching full employment – as numerous Bahamians had several jobs, while others had made the decision to leave the traditionally sought-after security of the public service for work at Club Med.
“In the category of local entrepreneurship, we are proud of a son of San Salvador, Trevor Williams, who operates a 100 percent Bahamian-owned water company which supplies Club Med and other local customers,” he said
“Trevor’s accomplishment I hold up, as it is one of many examples of how viable foreign direct investments can create avenues for Bahamians to start and build their own successful enterprises.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that The Bahamas’ rich and vibrant cultural heritage, coupled with the infrastructural upgrades, necessary improvements to the delivery of government services, and relatively safe communities, make the Family Islands ideal places to live, visit and invest.
“This year’s theme of “Forward, Upward, Onward, Together” reminds us that we must respect and build upon the gains of the past, and work hand in hand toward progress for the future,” he said.
“My Government is determined to foster such progress, and to give Cat Island, San Salvador and Rum Cay the quality of life and development you deserve.”