Leader of the Opposition Philip ‘Brave’ Davis. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Leader Philip “Brave” Davis yesterday questioned how the Minnis administration plans to finance the purchase of the Grand Lucayan hotel if the country is as “broke” as the government maintains.
Mr Davis said it was a “pity” the Minnis administration had not moved with haste to settle a deal to sell the resort based on a memorandum of understanding left in place by the former PLP government.
His criticism came following the prime minister’s assurance to Free National Movement supporters on Friday in Grand Bahama “that under no circumstances will the Grand Lucayan close.
He said the Lucayan jobs must be protected, adding the government will continue to search - and if the need arises - will intervene and purchase the Grand Lucayan. Dr Minnis said people in Nassau did not understand the level of importance the resort held when it came to that island’s economy.
In response Mr Davis said: “It is clear that the government has no plan and had no plan to fix Grand Bahama. Grand Bahama rewarded them with five seats, and there are three ministers of the government from Grand Bahama, yet 15 months into this pitiful administration, they have no solutions to the problems there.
“Now we are told by the prime minister, whose main propaganda line has been that the country is broke and has no money, that he intends to buy Grand Lucayan if no deal can be settled with a private developer. What a pity, the prime minister and his colleagues did not move with alacrity to settle the deal based on the memorandum of understanding, which the PLP left in place when we demitted office. Had they done so, instead of ducking and dodging the investor for months and refusing to meet, perhaps the matter would have been well on its way now.”
He continued: “We make the point that buying the property is one thing. Where will the money come from? However, buying will not be sufficient. Who is going to renovate it and pay for those renovations? Is the owner willing to sell or will it be a compulsory purchase? Who will operate and manage it?
“The Hotel Corporation is a vehicle left in place by the PLP to manage these kinds of difficult projects. The FNM does not have to invent the wheel. We say fix Grand Bahama. If you need help, the PLP can show you the way.”
PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell also attacked the idea of the government buying the resort as “desperate” and questioned whether Dr Minnis and Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest were on the same page.
He said while the prime minister was on the one hand promising to purchase the hotel, Mr Turnquest previously said he would advise the direction the government was taking in 30 days.
“I must say that I get astounded,” Mr Mitchell said. “First of all, it is interesting to me that a party that is in government and markets the fact according to them that the country is broke - I don’t believe them for one second that that is the case that this country has a money problem.
“They say that the country has a money problem so on what basis are you going to buy a hotel and why has it come to that when they were all boasting that this hotel was going to be opened within a short period of time?
“The second thing that I am amazed about (is) with the whole thing with Grand Bahama was his visit to west Grand Bahama when he said that he was amazed about the level of infrastructure and the development and the size of the development. This is astounding. You wonder where was he when he was the leader of the opposition,” he said, referring to Dr Minnis’ recent tour of the former Ginn development. “Did you not know the country?
“I mean the PLP helped that investment, put a substantial investment in there. The problem is that in all of these things it shows how the FNM simply believe their own propaganda and didn’t know the extent to which the PLP was doing work in this country for this country and suddenly they have found religion.”
He also said: “I think generally these people were just ill prepared for office.
“I would say (the prime minister’s comments were) ill informed and sound rather desperate because they said this thing was going to be concluded and it doesn’t look like it’s anywhere near being concluded,” Mr Mitchell further said.
Mr Mitchell said there are alternatives to purchasing the Grand Lucayan.
“I have said to them that I know of a property, the gentleman happens to be a friend of mine and so I disclosed that interest.
“In Grand Bahama, they could nix all these discussions with the present owners of that hotel and they could for I believe less than half of the money they would have to spend to make sure that this thing gets up and running with this new property. Start a whole new thing and put people back to work and start getting people back into Freeport and boosting the tourism economy. But I’m not sure why they can’t move in that direction because you know the Xanadu hotel is sitting there with a willing seller. It sits on 21 acres, it’s got 75 marina slips, it’s got a right to ultimately have a casino licence. It sits on a wonderful beach so what’s the issue? They would have none of the problems, which they have on the Lucayan strip,” Mr Mitchell said.