EDITOR, The Tribune.
I have been closely monitoring the standoff between a local Bahamian entrepreneur and the Free National Movement (FNM) government concerning the leasing of Crown Land on Colonial Beach, Paradise Island.
Here is the issue that is causing some Bahamians in Nassau to get their Hanes undies in a bunch: Royal Caribbean, which has total assets pegged at $27.69bn, as of 2018, wants to lease land on Paradise Island for its $50m Royal Beach Project.
The problem is, the Bahamian entrepreneur wants the same land Royal Caribbean is getting for his $2m project that will hire an estimated 40 Bahamians.
Apparently, whatever adjustments were made by the FNM government that contravenes the memorandum of understanding, initially agreed to in order to accommodate Royal Caribbean, have been rejected outright by the Bahamian entrepreneur and his sympathisers.
Based on my layman’s observations of this standoff between the entrepreneur and the FNM government, I can honestly appreciate why the government would want to accommodate Royal Caribbean, at the risk of appearing to be anti-Bahamian in the process.
Indeed, the principle of English philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarianism is at play here, in which the interests of one Bahamian is weighed against the broader interests of thousands of Grand Bahamians, if there are any merits to the claim that the closing of the Grand Lucayan deal hinged on this Paradise Island deal.
If I am reading The Nassau Tribune correctly, this was a point that was raised by both the Bahamian entrepreneur and Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Brave Davis. I believe both men are on to something. I wish the FNM government was more forthcoming in this regard.
Be that as it may, at stake is tens of thousands of Grand Bahamians, many of whom have been catching economic hell since the early 2000s, something most Nassauvians cannot relate to. The situation in Freeport has deteriorated to the point where homeless Grand Bahamians, who are living in their vehicles or the abandoned Royal Oasis and International Bazaar buildings, are bathing at either Xanadu or Taino Beach.
Had the FNM government acquiesced to the demands of the Bahamian entrepreneur, Royal Caribbean might have packed up its georgie bundle and said, “forget the Grand Lucayan deal”.
So rather than risk losing a $300m investment that will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs for an economy on life support, the government made the unpopular decision, upsetting the Bahamian entrepreneur and many Nassauvians in the process.
Why risk losing a $300m investment that will create 3000-plus jobs in a dying Freeport City for a project that is projected to create only 40 jobs in financially robust New Providence and Paradise Island?
Rather than putting one Bahamian in New Providence first, the government is simply putting thousands of Bahamians on Grand Bahama first.
In this regard, the rights of the minority do not outweigh the rights of the majority. For the sake of Grand Bahamians, I do hope that the Bahamian entrepreneur will accept the compromise being offered to him, and not engage the government and Royal Caribbean in any protracted legal wrangling, which might imperil the Grand Lucayan deal.
Freeport, Grand Bahama,
March 5, 2020.