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Port Of Nassau Needs 'Over $100m Infusion'

Cruise ships in port at Nassau. Photo: Captain-tucker/Wikimedia

Cruise ships in port at Nassau. Photo: Captain-tucker/Wikimedia

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Management of the Bahamas' main cruise port will be put out to bid by mid-December, with the facility needing "a substantial capital infusion in excess of $100 million".

Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism, confirmed to Tribune Business this week that the Government intends to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking private port operators to take over Prince George Wharf.

Reiterating the Minnis administration's belief that the port's operation/management was best left to the private sector, Mr D'Aguilar said significant investment was required for Nassau "to remain a major port destination in the Caribbean".

With the cruise lines "complaining incessantly" about Prince George Wharf's appearance and condition, the Minister added that "the status quo is not acceptable" as the Bahamas was failing to maximise the economic benefits from the annual four million-plus cruise passengers that pass through it.

Mr D'Aguilar, emphasised, though, that the Government wanted Bahamian involvement in any winning bid, and that it must facilitate entrepreneurial opportunities for locals to "spread the wealth".

"We have to go through an RFP, and we're in the process of developing that," he told Tribune Business. "It's very much in the preliminary stages, and I've been told never to set deadlines in the public sector, but hopefully by the middle of next month we will have it complete, prepared and issued.

"In our opinion the port of Nassau is sorely in need of a substantial upgrade and substantial financial infusion, and the Government is always struggling financially to complete the project to the point where it's done and looking great.

"The cruise companies complain incessantly about the appearance and management of the port, and the fact we have the Ministry of Transport running it is not the best of corporate structures to manage such an important entity."

Asked about the scale of investment required at Prince George Wharf, Mr D'Aguilar replied: "I'm sure it's in excess of $100 million.

"We've got to build another berth; I think there's room for one, and then create some exceptional retail options and probably put in attractions down there.

"This is the gateway for in excess of four million cruise passengers to our country. We have to take our time to get it right and create something that's memorable, so that when foreign visitors come through they say this is a pleasant, exceptional experience," the Minister continued.

"We're still very much in the formative stages and have to flesh it out, but it's my hope, my dream we get this done. It's going to have to change. The status quo is not acceptable.

"If we're going to remain a major port destination in the Caribbean, the time is right for substantial investment. I want Bahamian entrepreneurs to step forward and take advantage of the four million-plus passengers that come to Nassau."

Tribune Business revealed earlier this week that Global Port Holdings, the world's largest cruise port operator, had partnered with BISX-listed Arawak Port Development Company (APD) to submit an application for taking over Prince George Wharf's operation and management.

Mr D'Aguilar, while confirming the approach, and describing Global Port Holdings as a "strong contender', said the formal bid process would be open to all-comers as the Government sought the best, most competitive offer.

"Obviously they're a good candidate because, according to them, they're the largest operator of passenger ports in the world," the Minister said. "They're a contender, and are very interested in managing the Prince George dock.

"But we want to make sure it's a fair process, and want to involve as many Bahamians as possible. Anyone who's interested has to have a Bahamian component, so we have as much Bahamian participation as possible."

Mr D'Aguilar said the Minnis administration was seeking to pick up where the last FNM government left off when it came to creating economic ownership for Bahamians, and spreading wealth throughout the country. He disclosed that the Government had encouraged Global Port Holdings to find a Bahamian partner, hence the selection of APD.

He implied that the Government would follow the model established by the 2010 Commonwealth Brewery transaction, which required Heineken to offer a collective 25 per cent equity stake to Bahamians in return for approving its buy-out of the Finlayson family.

The Minister said there were "two approaches" to outsourcing operational control at Prince George Wharf - the 'NAD model', where the Government had hired a private sector manager to run Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) but retained ownership of the asset, and the 'APD model' where the Government and private sector had teamed via a public-private partnership (PPP) to develop the Nassau Container Port.

"We're very much in 'see where this is going to go', but a private sector model with a private company managing the port will yield greater results for Bahamian businesses and entrepreneurs," Mr D'Aguilar told Tribune Business.

"It's a port we're not proud of. Based on the complaints we've received, it's an inhibitor to real growth. We need someone more nimble, proactive and well-funded. We want to optimise the retail options and opportunities for Bahamian entrepreneurs.

"The fact you have government in the middle of it kind of introduces a political element that is not ideal. Politicians should not be involved with what, and who, goes there. We need a private sector entity. It's what works best, what works well, and politicians should stay away from it," the Minister continued.

"Government should not be running this port. It's been proven time and time again that this is a model we should not be following. It needs to be run by a private sector entity, and we need to stop this model where we think the Government runs it better."

To support his position, Mr D'Aguilar pointed to state-owned enterprises such as Bahamas Power & Light (BPL), Bahamasair, Water & Sewerage Corporation, ZNS and the Hotel Corporation - all of whom "lose oodles of money and cost the taxpayer millions of dollars each year".

"This is not the model we should be following," he reiterated of Prince George Wharf. "But we need to involve as many Bahamian entrepreneurs as we can to spread the wealth, and impact as many Bahamians as we can."

Comments

HonestTruth 1 week, 4 days ago

This is a wonderful idea.

One thing I must say about D’aguillar is this man appears to be the hardest working man in government and has a real business mindset towards how our country should be ran. If the opportunity presents itself, he needs to have a larger role in government and even a bigger portfolio than tourism with respect to our economy.

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ThisIsOurs 1 week, 1 day ago

Gods no. This is the man who doesn't think black people should earn high salaries and that the citizens have no right to a plan to know where the govt is headed.

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birdiestrachan 1 week, 4 days ago

Has Tourism increased under this man, and what are his plans for persons to stay over night and spend some money in the Bahamas? the complaint is cruise passengers do not spend money in the Bahamas . As far as who will have this contract it has been decided The Rich folks who control Arawak Cay shipping Port. D'Aguillar can spin as much as he wishes. Lots of talk but no benefits for the average Bahamian people and that is the truth .

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concernedcitizen 1 week, 3 days ago

All Bahamians could buy into Arawak cay , the government at the time even made special provisions for public sector employees to buy shares ..Had people done this w as little as five hundred dollars their shares would have grown 3 to 4 times the original price .

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 3 days ago

The government owns 40% of the Nassau Port and 49% of BTC....... just sell the shares ....... And the same could be done with Prince George and Downtown ..... That is how Bahamians can become owners of their economy ....... Sell off BOB, BPL, Bahamasair, SLOPAirport, Abaco Airport etc, shares to Bahamians and let them earn dividends.

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concernedcitizen 1 week, 3 days ago

you can by shares in the port ,and it was the government at the time intention to let people buy shares in BTC

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TheMadHatter 1 week, 3 days ago

Trust me, they will "build another berth" first. It will have "unexplained" cost overruns (or the money will be in the infamous consolidated fund) and there will be NO MONEY left to even scoop up one load of horse shit, let alone "fix up the wharf".

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

It's not too difficult to read between the following lines to understand that "the fix is in" and therefor the only locals who will benefit from the great wealth created by this investment opportunity of a lifetime will be the very same select few very wealthy Bahamians who Ingraham essentially gave the Arawak Cay port to, together with a guarantee of the minimum profits they would earn on their monopolistic investment for decades to come. Just read between the lines my friends.....the little yapping white-haired poodle tells all there is to know, especially in the last paragraph below.

Mr D'Aguilar, emphasised, though, that "the Government wanted Bahamian involvement in any winning bid, and that it must facilitate entrepreneurial opportunities for locals to "spread the wealth".

Asked about the scale of investment required at Prince George Wharf, Mr D'Aguilar replied: "I'm sure it's in excess of $100 million.......We've got to build another berth; I think there's room for one...."

" I want Bahamian entrepreneurs to step forward and take advantage of the four million-plus passengers that come to Nassau."

Mr D'Aguilar, while confirming the approach, and describing Global Port Holdings as a "strong contender', said the formal bid process would be open to all-comers as the Government sought the best, most competitive offer.

"Obviously they're a good candidate because, according to them, they're the largest operator of passenger ports in the world," the Minister said. "They're a contender, and are very interested in managing the Prince George dock.

"But we want to make sure it's a fair process, and want to involve as many Bahamians as possible. Anyone who's interested has to have a Bahamian component, so we have as much Bahamian participation as possible."

Mr D'Aguilar said the Minnis administration was seeking to pick up where the last FNM government left off when it came to creating economic ownership for Bahamians, and spreading wealth throughout the country. He disclosed that the Government had encouraged Global Port Holdings to find a Bahamian partner, hence the selection of APD."

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Reality_Check 1 week, 3 days ago

Here we have another classic example of one of our country's most valuable assets - the Prince George Wharf - about to be effectively sold off at a bargain basement price to a group comprised of a major foreign port operator, and a 'favoured' few very wealthy Bahamians who already have a de facto highly profitable controlling stake in the Arawak Cay port.

The international lending and rating agencies, that are effectively controlled by global lobbyists representing powerful corporate interests in the developed countries, have over decades crippled our political system and enticed our corrupt politicians to take on national debt at unsustainable levels. As a result our country remains in desperate need of foreign direct investment to acquire the hard currency it needs. This in turn allows foreign buyers like Global Port Holdings to swoop in like vultures to acquire controlling de facto ownership stakes in some of our country's most prized natural resources - in this case our natural deep water harbour between New Providence and Paradise Island. And of course our government is only too anxious for this deal to go through so that it get's the hard currency it needs for usual squandering while a select few of its most favoured cronies (who are big time wealthy FNM supporters) get a very lucrative piece of the deal, with only a few crumbs thrown the way of the Bahamian public at large. Yes indeed - another classic example of the raping of our country by a foreign corporation in cahoots with a select few very wealthy Bahamians, and with the help of a government in dire need of hard currency. Those Bahamians lucky enough to get a job with the new Prince George Wharf owners will find themselves working very long hours for slave-like wages. What a tragedy!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 3 days ago

The real tragedy is that the little yapping white-haired poodle readily admits the Minnis-led administration cannot be trusted to govern our country or do anything right by the Bahamian people and, as a consequence, we must seek to give away our treasured national assets to foreigners and a select few very wealthy and greedy cronies of senior elected government officials. There is absolutely no need whatsoever for the Arawak Port Development Company or any of its existing wealthy Bahamian owners to have any involvement in a deal to put management of the Prince George Wharf in private hands. Government should simply enter into a management contract with Global Port Holdings or a similarly qualified foreign port operator whereby government would retain ownership of the wharf and receive an agreed portion of the wharf's annual operating profits, if any. The foreign operator should receive the lion's share of the wharf's annual operating profits up to a stipulated maximum amount for a stipulated period of time in exchange for spending a minimum agreed amount to upgrade the the wharf and add a new berth. Government should also undertake to bear an agreed portion of the wharfs likely operating losses up to a maximum amount in the initial years of operation by the foreign operator. KEEP THE UNNECESSARY GREEDY LOCAL CRONIES AFFILIATED WITH APD AND CERTAIN ELECTED GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS LIKE YOURSELF OUT OF THE PICTURE MR. D'AGUILAR, OR FACE THE WRATH OF THE VOTERS THE NEXT TIME YOU RUN FOR ELECTED OFFICE!!

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Reality_Check 1 week, 3 days ago

What is our country going to be left with at the end of the day, aside from very burdensome taxes and fees, to generate revenue for our public treasury if successive governments continue to sell off our country's most valuable assets at bargain basement prices to foreign corporations with only a select very few of their cronies participating in the raping, pillaging and plundering?! There will soon come a time when we, the people, own nothing of any value in our own country, either directly or indirectly, and have absolutely nothing to show for what was sold to foreigners and the very privileged few locals, supposedly in our interest!!

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concernedcitizen 1 week, 3 days ago

Actually the treasury gets much more revenue out of both BTC and the Airport now ,and after 30 years of a dirty ,sh#thole of an airport ,I thank God we went into public/private partnership w VSR .like our cruise port ,the airport was an embarrassment under government control ..both governments ..There is just too much lovers ,family and friends under government control to run the port or the airport .

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concernedcitizen 1 week, 3 days ago

Any Bahamians could of bought into Arawak cay and the government of the day made small purchase shares available to the public ,they even made special provision for public employees to buy five hundred dollars of shares .If bought the 500 would have been worth 3 to 4 times that and if you kept rolling over for more shares ,,in 20 years your 500 dollars would have built you a nice chunk of money ..

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 3 days ago

There can be NO talk of upgrading PG Wharf without upgrading Bay Street from Potters Cay to Fish Fry ........ That means getting traffic off Bay Street (British Colonial to PI Bridge??) and making it a place where people will want to live and hang out again .......... and please move Junkanoo to Ft. Charlotte or the Sports Centre once and for all, so it can become a real quasi-commercial venture for the A and B groups ....... Then we can finally get rid of this stupid Junkanoo-Carnival distraction.

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proudloudandfnm 1 week, 3 days ago

ADP already has a permanent, extremely lucrative monopoly. Please don't give them another one. Find some other Bahamians. Please don't give it to ADP.

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concernedcitizen 1 week, 3 days ago

Actually we the people of The Bahamas get more in the treasury w VSR running the airport , ADP running the port and CWC running BTC ,,way ,way more its not even close ..Owning half of BTC we have been getting twice the revenue in the treasury ,,about the same for the airport ..Friends ,lovers and cronies theef too much and there are too many unqualified people on the payroll when gov ment runs it .Don,t forget the shipping companies ,Bahamian ,put up a total of 21 million building the port ,and anybody could of bought shares for as little as five hundred dollars ,,public service workers even got a special deal where it the 500 could be deducted from the pay in installments ,,The shares have tripled and more

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Reality_Check 1 week, 3 days ago

@cocernedcitizen: You must truly think we the people are dumb and stupid. Airport taxes, parking fees, etc. are now killing us Bahamians! The same goes for our soaring cost of living, especially increased food costs, caused by the very sweet deal Hubert Ingraham gave the controlling owners of APD. Perhaps you would be enthralled if our entire government became just one big public-private partnership with government and its select few cronies owning all of our most valuable national assets, and to hell with the rest of us!!

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concerned799 1 week, 3 days ago

Never ceases to amaze me how it seems taken as granted tourism by cruiseship is "good" when by definition it must canibalize hotel based stays to exist.

So we pay for the privallege of having a tourist pay $80 into the economy rather than $1000-$2000 if they are a hotel visitor.

And we wonder why things don't work out?!

Allowing foreign owned cruise ships means all decisions regarding visits and what level of Bahamian economic involvement (if any) makes them the new colonial master. Any benefit you could see, could be made zero at any time, as the ships can sail anywhere!

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 3 days ago

That is why we need to improve the main Bay Street experience ....... by making it a pedestrian-only zone, with bars, pirate haunts, The National Museum, open-air junkanoo minishacks, boutique cultural theatres (like Pompey Square) , native food courts and native bandstands for pay-to-play & dance entertainment ....... plus open up Water Tower for 15 minute elevator tours ($10 million income) ..... and the walk or buggy ride to Fort Fincastle will yield us a brand-new tourism brand to sell to the cruise visitors.

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TheMadHatter 1 week, 3 days ago

Everyone has good points. The main problem is the inclusion of the new berth in this project. Its too much money and too big a % of overall.

Why not just spend like $10M fixing up the area and lets see what we get for that first?

Also why add another berth for people to come and see a hell hole? The done forger about that video the tourist made a couple years ago eh? Fix that first. Jesus, did these people even graduate kindergarten?

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John2 1 week, 2 days ago

The Building of a new berth would be great for the ever expanding size of those cruse ships. Sand from the dredging of the harbour could be used to finally fill in and create the much needed broad walk stretching from PGW to the new beach soccer stadium . Thus finaly creating the foot trafic needed in that area and making the area more attractive for redevelopment ! As for operation/management of the harbour i agree with putting it in the hand of the private sector but i also think we only need maybe one or two consultant form an experienced port operator we do not have to reinvent the wheel . Bahamains are doing every thing with executing Aliv business plan from scratch using the latest technology and there is very little foriegn leadership at the top. Bahamains are all over the globe lets bring one or two home with port operation experience.!

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John 1 week, 2 days ago

When someone can explain why government has to pay to advertise Atlantis, pay to advertise Bah Mar, pay cruise ships to visit the Bahamas, as well as maintain airports and other infrastructure then one can see where the $100 million to fix the port has gone. Tourism as is operated today is nothing more than piracy. Highway robbery. The country is paying to bring tourists to beaches that Bahamians have been banned off, promoting casinos that Bahamians cannot gamble in and calling tourism a major industry even though Bahamians are only allowed to participate at the lowest levels. Bahamians are actually subsidizing some strange man or woman to come lay up on Paradise Island and sip Long Islans ice tea when most of us (Bahamians) go home and drink cold Lipton tea because the power off. There are enough natural resources and economic opportunities in this country for every Bahamian to be a millionaire. But through ignorance and continuing to ‘not to our masters’, we continue to enslave ourselves.

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John2 1 week, 2 days ago

I agree ....i call it modern day plantation economics !

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John 1 week, 2 days ago

Here’s something to wrap your fingers around: Disney World earned $1.7 Billion in its last financial quarter. That amounts to $7 Billion a year! Atlantis according to last figures published in 2013 was earning $487 million a quarter or close to $2 Billion a year! Now add the earnings of all the cruise ships that visit the Bahamas along with the smaller properties. Then can you tell me why this country has a cash strapped government and so many of its citizens living below the poverty line?

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sheeprunner12 1 week, 2 days ago

We do not need any more cruise ship berths ........ we have enough cruise visitors ...... they just need to be encouraged to spend more money than $70 ..... 5 million cruisers x $100 = $500 million

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John 1 week, 2 days ago

Sip on this: the number of Bahamians in visits to South Florida is over 1 million trips. The population of the Bahamas is under 400,000. This means that the number of Active Bahamian Travelers go to Miami or, at least South Florida, four times a year. Well we know this figure includes persons on business trips and students traveling back and forth to school and colleges but 4 trips per person per capita is no small number. Now just imagine the Bahamas can get 1/4 of the US population to visit the Bahamas once a year or even once every 5 years. And the tourists ‘spend’ estimated at $100 per person is by no means an accident. The early Pindling government realized the importance of getting tourists into the country and getting tourists them to spend money. But the forces that be saw otherwise. They wanted tourists to come to the Bahamas and spend only with them and take the rest of their money back home. So they started labeling Bahamians as violent savages and jet ski operators, who can earn $309 a day as rapists. Consider the amount of negative incidents involving jet ski operators compared to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who use these services without incident. In fact a memorial experience. And while there is a serious murder problem in this country which, no doubt, is being fueled by external forces, America has had 307 mass killings in 2017. This is almost three times the murder count in the Bahamas. And when you compare the number of visitors that suffering criminal injury in this country compared to the total number that visit, the Bahamas is more safe for tourists than the cities they come from.

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birdiestrachan 1 week, 2 days ago

D'Aguilla says the Minnis administration is seeking to pick up where the last FNM Government left off creating economic wealth and ownership for Bahamians and spreading wealth through out the Country. He is talking about the already rich becoming richer while there is nothing for the poor over the hill people who voted for them.

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bogart 1 week, 2 days ago

Good ideas. First the govt must improve what exists with present govt BPL, Bahamasair, W/S etc entities to make them pay their way Directors and workers accountable and jail time to make sure they dont come back when they are found guilty. Marketing survey on where the benefits go from present operations and how can more Bahamians benefit. Bay st merchant said when you see people disappear you know there is a Police raid coming. Sheeprunner 12 has it that it is not in berth but how they spend. More attractions needed to get them off the ship and govt should have lots of plans including OVA DA HILL Marketplace which will have tourists move up shopping arras past Govt House , modern museum centre piece pictures, dipicting Bahamian, shops selling fully Bahamian items by old Citi market, towards east st towards tower lined with Bahamian Arts and Crafts, a full Bahamian cultural, intellectual, centre markrting islands, food feast, etc, history column, sculptures etc. Empower more Bahamian businesses let the small man have a piece of the pie when monry is spent. Fpr too long Bay st merchants get wealthier kids while the pore man majority of workers remain pore. Check the wages minimum wages. Where is the return on investment 85 million to dredge the harbour for Oasis of the Seas and millions of advertisong annually.

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John 1 week, 2 days ago

In a conversation completely unrelated to this topic (I was visiting a patient T the hospital) and out of the blue this old man said “it is time for the Bahamas to stop letting other people value its dollar. We have to learn how to put a price on our goods and services and either people take (it) or leave it. That is the only way we could get our true value.’ And on the face of it that may sound like a simple statement but do you realize how much better off the country would be if it catered to 3 million tourists that were willing to spend $500 each as opposed to 6 million tourists who are only willing to spend $100 each.. and that’s just for starters.

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bogart 1 week, 2 days ago

YES YES YES YES... We need to analyze returms on imvestments. Revenue from some must not continue to go into the bottomless pits of other entities in perpetuity. Without people going to jail or be punished for white collar wrong doing.

Proper and legitimate supply and demand for labour must have a rral equilibtium point. All things being equal. Legal workers will not be able to compete with illegal ones willing to work for less and sheltered by any means imaginable by persons to continue to break the laws of our Bahamaland.

We will be better for insrtance with a municipal transit authority bis systen and hsve to spend less to buy cats 2 or 3 perfamily and less than the 119 million plus overruns of some 85 m to fox roads which by the way needs fixing again. Are the taxes sufficient to offset the road repairs and would all the millions of car purchase money not be better in developing the nation than creating car manifacture jobs in other peoles countries.?

Cost benefits, returmon investment must be the rule rather than emotion.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 week, 1 day ago

We must also keep in mind that foreign direct investment puts great pressure on the Central Bank's foreign currency reserves over the long term as the foreign investors seek to repatriate the profits on their investment, and eventually their invested capital, to their home country in a hard currency. Right now our Minnis-led administration is so damn desperate for hard currency inflows to our country that they would be willing to sell just about any valuable national asset owned by the Bahamian people on the cheap......and our Prince George Wharf is near the top of our government's "for sale" list. The foreign cruise ship lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, etc.) are champing at the bit to partner with Global Port Holdings or another similar foreign port operator to strip the Bahamian people of another one of their valuable assets on the cheap all because our current-FNM government now readily admits that it is unable to properly manage any of our country's assets in the best interest of the Bahamian people. If our government cannot manage our most valuable assets from a profit-making point of view (including the ones that constitute monopoly businesses like BEC/BPL), then how on earthl can we possibly expect our government to run our country, period! This is what happens at the end of the day when international lending agencies, representing foreign corporate interests in the developed countries, entice corrupt politicians to burden a country with unsustainable debt, better known as the 'debt death spiral trap'. We are now a nation for sale on the cheap thanks to our corrupt politicians of yesterday and today!

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Reality_Check 1 week, 1 day ago

The only solution is serious and very painful belt tightening......but the IMF knows full well senior elected government officials find doing so politically unacceptable....so the IMF just waits, knowing that the unsustainable debt level will eventually suffocate our small nation, like a huge boa constrictor squeezing the life out of its prey, until its their time to step in and take charge, and we, the Bahamian, no longer have any control whatsoever over our own destiny.

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