YOU can’t even get a jitney ride for a dollar these days – but that’s how much is being paid to buy Grand Bahama International Airport.
Of course, whenever something is sold for a dollar, you know there’s a much bigger price tag waiting – and in the case of the airport, it’s the hefty bill to build a new airport. That will cost between $40m and $50m. That $1 will be paid to Hutchinson Whampoa – and there were rightfully questions raised over Hutchinson yesterday.
Glenys Hanna Martin MP put it bluntly, wanting to know what motivated Hutchinson to sell the facility, and criticising foreign companies who get concessions but don’t live up to their obligations.
Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said: “After the passage of Hurricane Dorian… Hutchinson expressed that they had had enough of operating that airport and simply wanted to sell it and be done with it.”
It gets worse. Not only did they want to sell it and be done with it – they also collected the insurance payout from the damage from Hurricane Dorian and kept it in their pockets rather than finance restoration. That could be as much as $25m, although the exact sum has not been verified.
They’ve kept the money and sold off an airport ripped apart by one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit The Bahamas without paying for the repairs after getting the payout.
Add to that the cost of reimbursing Hutchinson for half the cost of payments to employees, and that $1 isn’t looking such a bargain.
One source told Tribune Business that Hutchinson and the Grand Bahama Port Authority have effectively been allowed to abandon their developmental obligations.
It sounds like they’ve got exactly what they wanted. Have we got what we wanted?
Mrs Hanna Martin wasn’t going to let the matter go so quickly, pointing out that we haven’t seen the Heads of Agreement, and saying Mr D’Aguilar “wants to tell you it’s a dollar because he wants to send you down that road. But there is another road and we would like to know what has been agreed with Hutchinson Whampoa with this administration for the sale of that airport for a dollar”.
She pointed out that when Hutchinson came to The Bahamas, it wanted Freeport Harbour, but the deal ended up including the airport and the Our Lucaya hotel. She said: “What you have allowed, you have allowed a foreign investor to take all the cream and leave us with the burden.”
It certainly doesn’t look like a great deal – and if it is, then let’s see that Heads of Agreement. Let’s see the terms of the deal in black and white.
Let’s talk about fake news.
On our front page today, a grieving family have spoken out to deny that Nurse Marsha McQueen died shortly after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
The reason they did so was because of Bahamas Press, a website that is so often the very definition of fake news.
It ran a story claiming that Nurse McQueen died after a massive heart attack and said she was one of the first to receive the vaccine.
Not so, say the family, who say that she didn’t take the vaccine shot, and they do not know if her death was caused by a heart attack as they wait for the autopsy.
No one from the family was in touch with Bahamas Press, and no one gave them any information.
The sister of Nurse McQueen yesterday hit out at the “mischief” suggesting a connection between the death and the vaccine.
She said: “I just need the rumours to stop. This is just all about using someone to say ‘don’t take the vaccine’. To say ‘oh this nurse took it and she died’.”
That’s exactly what is happening. Bahamas Press is using a grieving family to push doubts over the vaccine. They don’t care about Nurse McQueen. They don’t care about her family.
At a time when the government is trying to encourage people to take the vaccine, this insidious action is seeking to undermine public confidence. It’s a lie. It has no basis in fact, in science or in decency.
Of course, Bahamas Press doesn’t care – it doesn’t even have a door you can go and knock on to complain. If you have an issue with a story written by The Tribune, you know where we are. Our address is at the top of this page. Bahamas Press doesn’t even have a phone number on its website. It can vanish into the night to avoid being held accountable. Its owners aren’t even publicly known, though it has been suggested they have connections to certain political figures.
The emergency powers brought in under COVID-19 made it an offence to spread misinformation if one knows or can be reasonably expected to know the information is false.
Despite the denial of a connection with the vaccine, Bahamas Press still has the story up, it is still spreading misinformation. We suggest that the law deals with them.
What’s more dangerous - about 30 members of a political party walking up the street who aren’t going to get elected or a website which everyone knows promotes one party spreading a scare story questioning the safety of a COVID vaccine?