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Editorial: Pennies For Paradise Island Deal

AT last, the details of the lease granted to Royal Caribbean for Crown Land on Paradise Island have been revealed – and what a bargain it is for the company. Not so much, perhaps, for the nation’s Treasury.

Royal Caribbean has effectively been given a lease for a minimum of 150 years – and at a rent of just $140,000 a year. Over the first 25-year lease before extensions, that’s just $3.5m in rental income for The Bahamas, with an extra $350,000 in VAT on top.

How does that compare with the money Royal Caribbean will generate? Well, the company estimates an extra $26m in extra visitor spending a year from the Royal Beach Club, rising to $650m over the initial 25-year lease. That $650m dwarfs the $3.5m rental sum.

That $140,000 rent a year looks even more of a bargain if you compare it with the annual rent being spent on rental for the Post Office at the Town Centre Mall, with $820,000 being spent there annually.

As for who gets to determine whether the lease will continue, that appears to be in the hands of Royal Caribbean, not the government. The company needs only to give notice of its intent to renew three months prior to the existing lease’s expiry.

That’s quite a deal! That $140,000 annual rent could be earned in a day, or two at the most given the company’s predictions.

That would also see visitors being diverted away from such locations as Downtown Nassau and to the company’s own resort instead. That’s money that won’t go into store checkouts, but will rather go to Royal Caribbean’s own purse.

The lease was signed by former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis – with current Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis now having to deal with the ongoing row that sees a neighbouring entrepreneur, Toby Smith, want answers and a resolution to the court case he has brought against the government after he says he too was promised Crown Land to lease for his Lighthouse and Beach Club project.

That has brought him into conflict with Royal Caribbean over whether the neighbouring projects can co-exist.

The confusion over the two projects aside, it is difficult to see how this deal is of major benefit to the country.

The rent is minimal, and it will likely take money away from other locations rather than generating more for its neighbours. Beyond that, it will bring jobs, true, but how many of those jobs will be lost elsewhere as cruise ship passengers stop using bars, restaurants and stores in Downtown?

This is not the last we’ll hear of this matter, we are sure. Between Mr Smith’s ongoing court dispute, and reported confusion with eight different site plans and uncertainty over which is the correct one, clearly there is more to resolve.

But as the person who put his signature to the lease, Dr Minnis could do with answering too what the major benefit of this deal is for the country.

We want to encourage enterprise and business, and we want new developments for our country – but is this really the best deal we could get?

BPL debts

Speaking of money to pay the bills, it appears that Bahamas Power & Light is suffering from customers not paying theirs.

More than $100m is owed to BPL in unpaid bills, said CEO Whitney Heastie yesterday.

BPL has its problems, of course, with power outages still not a thing of the past.

But it cannot solve those problems without the money to do so – and people who owe the money ought to pay up if they can.

Mr Heastie said the company is in “dire straits” financially, and said the company has found people pay their cellphone bill to have data, but put off the BPL bill to provide light.

BPL cannot provide the power for free, so people should not expect to be able to go on without paying.

It’s sad, but true. Of course, there remain many struggling financially from the effects of the pandemic – but that’s not everyone, and some of those who don’t pay are able to do so.

It’s time for those who can do so to hold up their end of the deal. The last thing we need is our power company running out of money – that will affect us all.  

Comments

John 2 weeks ago

Be white, be foreigners and bang The Bahamas is yours for the asking!

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truetruebahamian 2 weeks ago

That's just another stupid racist comment. Who throws away all Bahamian (white and black and yellow and brown and red) to the mega rich foreigners who do nothing but rape our lands? Kickbacks and faulty leases will only ensure that Nassau town will finally die - will not benefit from tourism - will not be able to be anything but a cheap off ship souvenir depot and the properties will not be able to save enough to cover tax demands. Re examine your statement.

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ScubaSteve 2 weeks ago

White and foreign??? Huh??? It isn't Royal Caribbean's fault. They simply asked for the deal. 110% of the blame and fault should be towards Minnis. He is the low life piece of sh*t that agreed to the deal on behalf of the Bahamas. Ohhh... and I believe he wasn't white nor a foreigner.

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Proguing 2 weeks ago

Go tell that to Izmirlian, to SKY Bahamas foreign investor, Hywel Jones family etc.

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truetruebahamian 2 weeks ago

It's all being given away. Minnis was the worst prime minister since and alongside Pindling and Christie. - the results of whose choices were pointed to destroy Nassau town and its unique essence and history.

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truetruebahamian 2 weeks ago

John, think of the horrific ongoing China incursion.

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BahamasIslander 2 weeks ago

There are so many parallels with Disney's proposal for building a private cruise port at Lighthouse Point at the southern tip of Eleuthera. A great deal for the cruise line, and peanuts for The Bahamas. The Disney Heads of Agreement would give Disney an undisclosed number of acres of seabed for $1,000/acre/year.

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BahamasIslander 2 weeks ago

This sounds like Disney's proposal for Lighthouse Point at the southern tip of Eleuthera. A great deal for the cruise line, and peanuts for The Bahamas. The Disney Heads of Agreement would give the cruise line an undisclosed number of acres of Bahamian seabed for $1,000/acre/year.

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birdiestrachan 2 weeks ago

This is what Doctor Minnis was talking about that was going to happen and why he had to call an early election. I suppose more things will be revealed. Those people saw him for what he was Nair of BTC did and so did Ms: Butler-Turner

The only good thing he has done is call the election early.

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