By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
DURING his first day in office in Grand Bahama, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis engaged in "fruitful talks" with representatives from Hutchison Whampoa regarding the Grand Lucayan Resort, which has been closed for nearly a year.
However, he would not reveal any details discussed or progress reached during his meeting with them at the Office of the Prime Minister on Friday.
He said: "We continue meaningful discussions towards the forward movement of the Lucayan hotel strip.
"I don't want to go into specifics to derail or prejudice the investment moving forward, but we would continue discussions, and we will continue to work as much as is necessary to try and bring back the Lucayan strip.
"There are too many people here in Grand Bahama suffering, and this has happened not as a result of the recession, but Grand Bahama has been in pain even before the recession."
A deal for the sale of the hotel property in Lucaya is critical to the survival of Grand Bahama's economy, which has been struggling since last October when the three-resort hotel property closed following significant hurricane damage.
On Thursday, The Nassau Guardian reported that Paul Wynn, CEO of the Wynn Group of Canada, had pulled out of the deal to purchase the Grand Lucayan Resort on the Lucaya Strip, and was seeking to get his refundable deposit back from Hutchison Whampoa, the owners.
In late July, Dr Minnis revealed during a national address the government is negotiating to become temporary joint owners of the Grand Lucayan Resort in a bid to boost the hotel until it can sell off its equity. At the time, he said "all signs point to the beginning of renovations at the resort" sometime this month, with the facility "ready for business for the winter season."
On Friday, Dr Minnis said he intends to keep his commitment to come to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in Grand Bahama once a month to deal with matters. Friday was the first of those visits.
While in office, he reviewed ongoing projects and new initiatives with the team in Grand Bahama, made up of Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Kwasi Thompson, Pakesia Parker Edgecombe, parliamentary secretary for communications in the Office of the Prime Minister, Iram Lewis, parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Works, and Rev Fredrick McAlpine, chairman of the Hotel Corporation and Senator Jasmin Darius.
"I am pleased to have spent my first day in office today here in Grand Bahama," he told reporters at a press conference at OPM in the Harold DeGregory Complex in Freeport.
Dr Minnis also met with the principals of Harcourt Development concerning the revitalisation of the former Royal Oasis property, which was acquired by the developers a decade ago.
"I expressed in clear terms that the status quo as it exists today is unacceptable. This office will take an active role in ensuring this property is revitalised," Dr Minnis said Friday.
"I am happy to report that these meetings were very productive and that the government is focused on its commitment to Grand Bahama.
"The economic revitalisation to Grand Bahama is critical to the team and me here in Grand Bahama. All efforts are being made to ensure Grand Bahama can touch and feel the impact of economic opportunities," Prime Minister Minnis said.
"I am committed to Grand Bahama, and my commitment is evident through this office. I will continue to be in office one day a month to serve this community. I promise that I will be back to experience a 'Taste of Port Lucaya' which I encourage all Grand Bahamians to support," he said.
The initiative was launched early this month to help boost and spur economic activity at the Port Lucaya Marketplace, which has suffered tremendously following the closure of the three-hotel strip.
Dr Minnis also gave an update on the hurricane relief programme on Grand Bahama.
"I have instructed officials to review the programme with a view to bringing assistance to the people of Grand Bahama in a more expeditious manner," he said.
"The programme may be of a voucher system; one exists today, but there can be an advancement on it," he explained.
"But I want Grand Bahama to know; it is impossible for the government to rebuild every home in Grand Bahama. It is impossible for this government or any government after the hurricane to rebuild every home in Grand Bahama or any island in the Bahamas. However, it is government's responsibility to improve the quality of life of every citizen and to give them all fair opportunity.
"We have limited revenue. If I was to spend $150,000 in every home, what will happen is that many in Grand Bahama will be left out or marginalised, but I can improve the quality of life for all, and that's what we will concentrate on," he said.