Twelve participants in the Caribbean-Canada Emerging Leaders' Dialogue 2011 (CCELD) recently visited Grand Bahama on a site visit to The Bahamas. Hailing from Canada and various Caribbean nations, participants of Group Study 6 dialogued with leaders in multiple sectors on-island, to gain a better understanding of national, regional and global issues from the perspective of their hosts.
Greeting the group upon their arrival to Grand Bahama were officials of The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA), along with Ministry of Tourism representatives. "On behalf of the Port Authority, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you to our ‘island city', said GBPA-Vice President, Arthur Jones.
Freeport's history, development and tax-exemption privileges were significant topics during a lengthy question-and-answer period amongst the group and GBPA representatives. Discussions ensued pertaining to concessions under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, regionalization, industrial development and other pertinent issues.
According to Jones, "our greatest challenge right now, is that there is no quick solution to economic challenges facing us at present." Rowena Bethel, Co-chair of the local CCELD Committee, concurred, whilst encouraging the participants to maintain close links and contacts developed by this exercise. "As we move forward in a very intensely globalized environment, our alliances become so much more important and hemispheric groups become very, very, vital as well," Bethel urged.
"If we can build the links, it will help the region move forward as a group and we'll probably be in a better position to deal with attempts to control global governance by more powerful countries," she added.
The CCELD brought together 120 future leaders from Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean to participate in a two week, leadership development conference. Participants were privileged to explore governance, regional cooperation, and innovation in public and private institutions, through the lens of the Dialogue's theme: "Growth Through Connection - Enabling Sustainable Progress".
After three days of plenary sessions in Ottawa, Canada, Group Study 6 visited Toronto and then The Bahamas. According to Group Co-chair, Glenn Mason, their visit to Grand Bahama was a total eye-opener for the majority of them. During their two-day stay, they experienced Bahamian cultural activities at Taino Beach and visited the island's industrial heart, the Freeport Harbour. A guided pilot boat tour of port facilities, the Container Port and Grand Bahama Shipyard was followed by a visit and in-depth presentation and tour of BORCO Terminal Bahamas (a subsidiary of Buckeye Partners, L.P). A private luncheon at the Garden of the Groves, followed by a residential tour, capped off their trip.
"What impressed me the most was how organized your city and facilities are. I had no idea of the industrial capacity of Freeport. I expected something much smaller." Mason admitted. He further commented that there is certainly a sense of organization and planning. "The industries we met with all seem to have a long-term view, everybody is planning for the future."
Overall, the group was highly impressed with the island's ethics towards environmental stewardship, praising the cleanliness of land and ocean that they viewed firsthand. After leaving The Bahamas, the group re-convened with their peers in Barbados, where each team presented a presentation on their observations and conclusions for the plenary, conference president and invited guests.
In advance of that presentation, Mason said, "I think we will definitely transmit the sense of economic leadership that is here in Freeport and present in the leaders we met with at the Port Authority and industries. It is evident that people here are really thinking and planning for the future and taking care of the present at the same time," he concluded.