By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PINERIDGE MP Frederick McAlpine yesterday said businessmen in the Minnis administration would never spend their personal finances to buy the Grand Lucayan resort in the manner they are doing with taxpayer's money.
His statement was prompted by Free National Movement MPs in the House of Assembly, who appeared to mock him as he asked a series of questions related to due diligence efforts surrounding the deal.
"Every time I try to do this you try to make me feel I'm anti-something but, no, this is common sense," he said. "You do this if you trying to buy a house. And you know, I have this other thing brewing inside of me. We have a lot of business people in here and you wouldn't spend your own money to do this. If it ain good enough for my own money it shouldn't be good enough for the people's money and we must think like that. Don't get it mixed up and when I take my seat talk about 'oh you don't support Grand Bahama.' If you tell a donkey that in this Bahamas, they won't believe you. You lose credibility when saying such a thing to me or about me because people know better."
Mr McAlpine argued that though Grand Bahama needs a shot in the arm, buying the resort won't accomplish this.
Of the Free National Movement's five Grand Bahama parliamentarians, he was the only one to criticize the purchase of the resort during debate on a resolution to borrow $65m in the House of Assembly.
However, he said he believes the government's intentions are good.
"Government should not be in the hotel business," he said. "It's politically messy and makes for bad economic business. Nevertheless, I understood Uncle Bulla when he said circumstances alter situations. We have a situation here, that has led to the predicament the government now finds itself in. I believe the government means well and we're trying to do a good thing. Now whether or not this good thing is the right thing is yet to be determined. I've always said the purchase of the hotel should be the last option; whether it's now the first or last doesn't seem to matter. The reality is, we're here."
Mr McAlpine said the government should sell the three hotels separately rather than to one "person or business," believing "this wold lead to the recuperation of funds being spent for the purchase."
"It also lessens the strain in future business on the strip being monopolized by one individual or corporate entity," he said.
Mr McAlpine asked a series of questions relating to the deal. "Is the SPV required to be licensed by the Grand Bahama Port Authority in order for the SPV to own and operate the hotel property, considering that the property is located within the Port Area?" he asked. "Is Central Government in an untenable situation of being subject to the terms of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, and would this represent a conflict of interest? If so, will the government have to pay the Grand Bahama Port Authority any license fees? Continuing with my concerns, let me take this opportunity to applaud the government in its quest to preserve approximately 400 Bahamian employees. Nonetheless, was each employee afforded the opportunity to either receive their severance package or continue their employment with the new owners of the property? Is the government paying the severance package, if so, why are we doing so and not the former owners?"
Mr McAlpine also became another person to question the success of the Grand Bahama Port Authority under its present leaders, saying that following the deaths of Edward St George, Sir Jack Hayward and Sir Albert Miller--"visionaries in their time"--the management of the authority no longer features the same "vigor, enthusiasm or commitment."
"It is my belief that the government must now step up to the plate and produce a vision for Grand Bahama and not wholly and solely rely on the Grand Bahama Port Authority to do so," he said.