By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Government has a “master plan” for the economic development of the Family Islands, according to Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe.
Speaking at an Out Island Promotion Board event, Mr Wilchcombe suggested that “plan” is similar to the multi-million dollar Resorts World investment in Bimini, which is constructing two hotels and has already started daily cruises from Miami.
Echoing earlier comments from the Prime Minister, Mr Wilchcombe also spoke of development plans for San Salvador which should be announced soon.
Throughout the Bahamas, he said, there are “some new developments” taking place.
“I think you are aware of what is going on in Bimini, and you’d understand that Bimini is about to become something that it hasn’t been for many years,” Mr Wilchcombe said. “What we’re trying to do as a government is to ensure that islands like Bimini, that we put in place a master plan.”
We cannot allow for investors to determine what should be done to the islands and subsequently have the country going in a direction that’s “not necessarily in the best interest of the county,” the minister explained. So, he continued, “each island of the Bahamas will have a master plan.”
He pointed to the Resorts World Bimini investment as an example and promised “more” for Exuma. There are “new things” happening in Eleuthera, Mr Wilchcombe continued, and “there’s another announcement coming up” about San Salvador.
“The truth is, a lot is happening in the Family Islands,” he said. “What we want to do is ensure that each island of the Bahamas has a plan. That to me is more important than anything else because I do not like when we are treating the out islands like out islands, and we’re not seeing the islands equal to this capital city or to Grand Bahama.
“It has to be where there’s a plan for each and that we know there is an organization that’s taking place in the islands and that the Ministry of Tourism is playing a greater role.”
Prime Minister Perry Christie spoke on the importance of Family Island development nearly two weeks ago, where he also hinted at an upcoming “major investment” for San Salvador.
“Over the years of my tenure as Prime Minister, I have articulated a vision of anchor resorts in the Family Islands, which had been the subject of some questioning,” he said.
“But the idea has always been to ensure that we have an economic strategy that is predicated on the understanding that we cannot continue to allow the Bahamas to develop in such a way where people are leaving island destinations and coming to Grand Bahama – with emphasis on Freeport – and to New Providence for jobs.”
The government has “made decisions” based on investors who are believing “in increasing numbers” that the Bahamas is the right country to invest in, Mr Christie said.
“And my colleagues on Thursday, a few days ago, agreed for the beginnings of a major investment on another island similar to Bimini that gives us great excitement.”
Although he did not name the island in his official speech, he suggested to reporters that the island is San Salvador.
He continued: “So I want you to continue to promote the Bahamas as a safe and beautiful place to invest in. Because the people of the Bahamas will have this wonderful opportunity to move to different stages of development, where not only are our people employed and we have dramatically impacted the employment levels in our country, but they will become owners of subsidiary businesses that will come about as a result of the need to service resorts.”