The Compass Point property.
By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party chairman Fred Mitchell yesterday accused the Minnis administration of creating the environment in The Bahamas where a foreign investor can feel “emboldened” enough to threaten the government.
However, speaking in the wake of Compass Point owner Leigh Rodney’s threat to close the resort, Mr Mitchell also underscored that the Free National Movement has done “nothing” to ease doing business in The Bahamas.
The government’s perceived inaction to improve the ease of doing business is a chief concern of Mr Rodney, as detailed in a full page advertisement taken out in Tuesday’s Tribune by the Detroit businessman.
This week, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar responded angrily to Mr Rodney’s threat, saying the resort owner is “completely out of line” and warned the US investor that as a non-Bahamian, he “must remember he is a guest in this country”.
Mr Mitchell described this stance as ironic. “One of the fundamental ironies of this situation is that when I was minister of immigration, I made a similar point to Sarkis Izmirlian who was then the developer of Baha Mar, and he made threatening remarks about our prime minster,” Mr Mitchell said in a video message.
“And I said, as minister of immigration, speaking on Emancipation Day in Fox Hill, that if he had a level of discomfort of being in The Bahamas, then he could look for another place to live.
“Well, when I saw the newspapers yesterday, I had to smile because the minister of tourism, who sat on the board with Sarkis Izmirlian, who attacked the PLP for our position, told the now-investor of Compass Point that he was a guest in the country. So obviously, he was saying the same thing that I was saying. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.”
Mr Mitchell went on to describe the government as hypocritical. “But the more fundamental point I wish to make is that it could not have happened to a finer group of people. They deserve what they get. They are so hypocritical. Because they set an atmosphere in this country where an investor feels so emboldened that he can threaten the government of The Bahamas and he thinks he can do it with impunity.
“The fact is though, what is important, and what PLPs should take away from this is this - that we have the proof now, from a foreign investor, not from the (PLP), that the FNM has not done anything to ease doing business in The Bahamas. This is not the PLP talking. This is a foreign investor who is saying ‘you have done nothing to fulfill your promise on the ease of doing business.’ So they’ve been found out to be fakes and their story was a fairy tale. That’s the takeaway for the PLP and everywhere you go today, you repeat that story: the FNM has done nothing to ease doing business in The Bahamas.”
Regarding the overall controversy, Mr Mitchell noted the PLP has a “principle” on the matter, adding party leader Philip “Brave” Davis in a statement on Wednesday said ordinarily a foreign investor should deal with these issues behind closed doors, “because if he has a level of discomfort doing business in the Bahamas, that’s where it should be discussed - not in the open and threatening The Bahamas government”.
In a statement released yesterday, the Democratic National Alliance said it was “disappointing” to see a foreign investor “lambast” a sitting administration while using the employment of local workers as a “bargaining tool”.
“According to news reports, the licence of Compass Point has now been renewed following the public exchange between the parties involved,” the DNA statement continues. “However, the Bahamian people deserve to know what if any favours were given and what promises were made to the investor in question by the (FNM) to embolden him to issue a public reprimand to a sitting government.
“This recent debacle shines more light on the role that special interest groups play in our political system and the urgent need for campaign finance reform in the Bahamas. While it is unclear whether the investor at the centre of this controversy is or was a financier of the FNM, the DNA maintains that until we address this important issue, he who pays the piper will continue to dictate the tune. This is why the DNA has partnered with the Bahamian people in the Change for Change drive that brings transparency and community funding into politics.”