THE delight was obvious to see in Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ announcements of two big economic deals – one for South Abaco and one for Grand Bahama.
The Grand Bahama deal has been long in the making – the closing date for the Grand Lucayan sale. Indeed, the date for the completion of the purchase by Royal Caribbean and ITM had seemingly slipped a couple of times as negotiations went on. Even Hurricane Dorian was cited as a factor in the delay as the government swung into response mode.
Whatever the reasons for the delays – and they could be as simple as the fact that sealing a major deal takes time – the announcement of the March 2 signing date is very welcome. Dr Minnis says the project could bring 2,000-3,000 jobs, sorely needed in Grand Bahama. More than the construction phase though, it is the long-term employment and the reinvigoration of the visitor market there as the Grand Lucayan brings more visitors to the island that will prove the real long-term economic boost. The deal is not the be all and end all of the opportunities that will spring from it, rather it will be a chance for the whole area to benefit from a revived market if all goes well.
While that deal is one people have long been aware of and just waiting to find out when it would all be signed off, the South Abaco project is perhaps the one that will attract the most discussion.
A $300m residential resort and marina that will bring 600 jobs in construction, it comes to an island sorely affected by Hurricane Dorian.
The jobs will be welcome, the opportunities will be welcome – but the public eye will want to make sure the project holds up to scrutiny too.
The construction of a resort and marina will obviously need thorough examination for the environmental impact, for example. To this end, we would hope consultations are already under way with groups such as the Bahamas National Trust and activist bodies to make sure that when the project is done, it’s done right.
Ask the questions early rather than face the kind of fight that’s been seen elsewhere, such as with the Lighthouse Point project in Eleuthera.
That said, it is heartening to see the shoots of economic recovery taking root. These projects will not only help the recovery after the storm, but the recovery that’s been long overdue from the economic storms that have beset The Bahamas over the years.
In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, we heard too many stories of businesses closing their doors for good or moving elsewhere. Seeing businesses taking the reverse course and opening their doors on the hurricane-affected islands is heartening indeed. It’s a sign that, for all the tragedy those islands experienced, we can rebuild.
There remains work to be done, we are sure. There will be those environmental inspections. There will, we hope, be thorough due diligence carried out to ensure there no repeat of the Oban embarrassment. We hope the Heads of Agreement will be better constructed than the one for the Pointe development reportedly is with regard to Bahamian employees.
But this is welcome at a tough time for islands that sorely need good news. We wish the projects every success, and applaud all those involved in making sure they have come this far already.