By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce’s president yesterday argued that the Government should drop its obsession with maximising the Grand Lucayan’s sales price and instead focus on finding the right buyer.
James Carey told Tribune Business that Grand Bahama would be better off long-term if the Government selected the correct purchaser to transform the resort into the economic and tourism ‘anchor’ it needs to be even if it gave the property away for a peppercorn price such as $1.
He added: “They are talking about getting $100m for this property. If somebody is going to buy it they have to put $100m together to get it, and they have to have the funds in place or raise funds to do the renovations that’s necessary and make it the class act that it ought to be.
“During that process, no doubt successive governments, as they have demonstrated in the past, they give away huge concessions, whether it be exemptions or promotion or whatever they do. So, we get $100m for it, and we give away $100m to support the venture with getting going. That $100m up front depletes the pockets of the investor in terms of what they can spend, and this is not just for small investors but even for large multinational companies.
“I said all of that to say this: Why doesn’t the Government give someone the property; don’t give all of the concessions but also make the agreements as such that if they don’t complete what they promised to do, and operate as they promise to do, the property reverts to the Bahamian government and they owe the $100m or so to the Government. This thing they keep talking about getting $100m for the hotel, but they are spending millions every month to keep it going as it is.”
Bahamian taxpayers have spent more than $150m to acquire and keep the Grand Lucayan open since it was purchased by the Government in September 2018. It is spending around $1.2m per month in subsidies to keep the resort open.
Mr Carey said: “The Government tends to do these things because they are not a commercial operation, they are not in the business of profit. I won’t say it was a mistake buying the resort, but I think successively there has been some missteps about this. We’ve been too focused on selling the hotel more than getting the hotel open. I think we should be looking at getting this hotel open rather than how do we get it sold and opened.”
“They must have a manager in place. They have a Board that takes its general direction from the Government, and they will pass that on to the management. The hotel should not be closed down at this stage, but it needs to be disposed of.”
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