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A Comic's View: Land Lease Is A Circus But No One’S Laughing

ALL smiles for Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley and Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis here - alongside Erin Brown and Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper - but there’s not much to smile about in the Paradise Island deal for the Bahamian people.

ALL smiles for Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley and Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis here - alongside Erin Brown and Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper - but there’s not much to smile about in the Paradise Island deal for the Bahamian people.

By INIGO ‘NAUGHTY’ ZENICAZELAYA

THE greatest showman who ever lived, PT Barnum, gifted the world with this hard truth; “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Until recent years, I didn’t know that many of them eventually go to work as politicians, and end up negotiating on “the People’s” behalf.

There’s no nicer word to describe whoever is behind the recently disclosed $140,000 per year Crown Land lease that Royal Caribbean secured from the former Minnis administration, which will still be in place when we’re all dead and our descendants have colonised Mars.

According to this newspaper, Royal Caribbean may make $650m over the first 25 years (of a potential multi-year lease) while our treasury takes in a paltry $3.5m by comparison.

I’m no economist, but that math is not mathing.

Who negotiated this deal on our behalf? And, more importantly, was there a gun, knife, or conch shell present, aimed at essential body parts?

Royal Caribbean also appears to have the power to say whether this lease lasts for 150 years. For those counting, that’s six generations from now. Six being the operative number, since only the devil himself ever attempted a greater heist.

Imagine – fellow modern humans – were we to go 150 years into the past, we would find ourselves in 1871. Back then, Queen Victoria sat on the throne, the second German Empire formed, and the United States was a mere toddler.

In 1871, the lightbulb didn’t exist, nor did the telephone, combustion engines, or even cash registers. (Though, in fairness to older generations, blue jeans were just becoming ‘a thing,’ so at least they had fashion sense).

It’s hard to imagine how any forward-thinking government could ever put pen to paper on such a lopsided contract, particularly since this arrangement with Royal Caribbean could threaten Bahamian livelihoods elsewhere, such as Downtown Bay Street. For a century and a half.

One potential saving grace is that our recent elections have given Bahamians a possible do-over on this deal. The ‘New Day’ Davis administration has an opportunity to pull ye olde, ‘Stop, review, and cancel!’

If ever there was a deal begging for it, this is it.

Back in 1871, our ancestors lived under the flag “Expulsis Piratis, Restituta Commercia.” To which politicians these days respond, “LOL…just kidding!”

PT Barnum, who died in 1891, had another famous saying: “Remember the proverb of Solomon: ‘He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.’”

A PIECE OF CAKE

There’s something brewing in the ‘New Day’ press office. And by brewing, I mean coffee, tea, possibly kombucha, beer, and maybe even some sake.

Yesterday, I tuned into the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) press briefing and was somewhat surprised to see the weekly event has already become a lot less newsy and a lot more ‘foodie.’

Streamed live on Facebook by the OPM (and whichever media houses may need some free content in the middle of a slow Thursday), the briefing started with a cold-open by Communications Director Latrae Rahming.

Rahming ostensibly runs the communications shop. But at these briefings, his role is akin to what we in the comedy business would call a ‘crowd warmer.’ He buttered up the press assembled, thanking them for their presence and professionalism, before quickly turning the show over to Press Secretary Clint Watson, the MC of sorts.

Watson, for his part, (literally) knows his audience.

Having spent decades in the media before sliding into his new role days after the last elections, he only took a moment to exchange pleasantries with former colleagues before getting into the meat of the lineup.

First up was the Featured Guest, tourism director Joy Jibrilu, who is always the answer to why it makes sense for different administrations to be cautious about changing ministry directors haphazardly. The lady knows her stuff.

Next up was the surprise Headliner, Prime Minister Davis. Brave said a quick few words on his way to the airport. In fairness, I’m not sure he’s travelling this weekend, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

Finally, there was a Special Guest Appearance by former Free National Movement (FNM) minister Loretta Butler-Turner. Loretta, another lady who knows her stuff, has taken on a consultancy role in the current Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government.

Honestly, that wasn’t surprising.

What did surprise me was how few questions the media had for either Mrs Jibrilu or Mrs Butler-Turner.

I may have discovered why.

At the end of these press briefings, the media is feted to a cornucopia of delicious delicacies from various Bahamian food entrepreneurs. This week, I believe the showstoppers were potato dumplings and tea.

Now I hate to be the one to handle this particular hot potato, but I can only imagine the sweet, distracting scents wafting in that briefing room while my colleagues are working. Because who doesn’t love food, right? Especially free food?

A journalist from this newspaper asked Mrs Butler-Turner what we were all wondering. He queried whether she had switched political party allegiance, and she seemed to answer in the affirmative. No one from any of the other media houses followed up. Despite the FNM convention slated for this weekend (she starred in a very contentious one), all questions were (apparently) asked and answered!

Like the cat that ate the cream, Watson smiled at the quick escape from tricky questions.

While wrapping up, he was so jubilant he spilled the beans: “And now to the segment that y’all have come to love so much. That y’all show up for. Y’all sitting here like little, good young kids – young people – sitting here like ‘we’re waiting on it!’”

Then out came the dumplings.

Watson has found an ingenious way to escape potential ethical questions that may come from these frequent “food gifts.” The government is not footing this food bill. Instead, Bahamian chefs, bakers, and delicious tea makers donate their wares for possible press coverage.

Don’t get me wrong; I like promoting Bahamian entrepreneurs. I like the weekly briefings. But I’m not sure I want them mixing together on my plate with a side of hard news.

In any case – if the past is prologue – Bahamian media remains enigmatic. One day you think you have them eating out of the palm of your hand, and the next, we read it’s you who is out to lunch.

Comments

birdiestrachan 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Who signed the Contract for the dumb deal. You whistle and I will Point. None other than your silly, silly most admired by yourself doc.

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IAmOne 1 month, 3 weeks ago

One thing I can say, you don’t pull any punches. Yes. This was a very dumb deal. One thing FNMs and PLPs can agree on as Bahamians.

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