By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
An ex-tourism minister yesterday questioned why the Government appears "hell-bent" on the Oban Energies deal, suggesting it instead focus on Carnival's planned cruise port to revive tourism.
Obie Wilchcombe, pictured, told Tribune Business: "I do believe the government is wrong not to be pursuing the Carnival Cruise Line development. I don't understand that. I don't know why the government is hell bent on Oban when Carnival has already announced to the world that they were going to create in East Grand Bahama the most significant cruise port ever.
"We signed the agreement, all seemed to be completed, and I don't understand why now the government is not pursuing it. I just don't understand it. That's a deal, that's a good deal. You're talking about a brand that will attract other brands, other tourism brands to Grand Bahama. These are individuals with the finances and the ability to add to the existing product and enhance the product."
Dion Foulkes, minister of labour, recently said the Cabinet sub-committee examining the Oban Energies' Heads of Agreement was expected to receive a key technical report this week. The government is looking at several amendments to the agreement for a proposed $5.5 billion oil refinery and storage facility in east Grand Bahama.
The former Christie administration and Carnival had signed an agreement for the construction of a new $100m cruise port destination in East End, Grand Bahama, just days ahead of the May 10, 2017 elections.
Reiterating his previous comments to this newspaper, Mr Wilchcombe urged the government to take the lead in Grand Bahama's resurgence. He argued that government must act with urgency, and is not on the same timeframe as the private sector.
"The private sector can wait for for economies to grow; the government can't do that. They have to act with urgency. Grand Bahama has lost a significant amount of its population. Many persons have moved out of Grand Bahama in search of job opportunities. It's becoming a more depressed area every day," said Mr Wilchcombe.
Speaking to the Grand Lucayan situation after Paul Wynn, the Wynn Group's chief executive, confirmed he had backed out of a deal to purchase the resort, Mr Wilchcombe said: "Grand Bahama has always been more of an entertainment and party town.
"The government needs to sit down with Hutchison Whampoa and the Port Authority, and discuss a plan and work on an agreement that does not cost the government a tremendous amount of money.
"My recommendation would be for the government to talk with them about a lease agreement and find the operator they require to turn those properties around and create a tourist attraction that is a world leader. You have to have a plan of action. Grand Bahama needed revamping and that's demanded because of New Providence's success."