EDITOR, The Tribune.
Where is the fairness?
Please permit me to offer a few comments relative to remarks reportedly made by Mr Michael Maura at the recent Bahamas Business Outlook regarding the state of waterfront properties to the east of East Street north connecting Bay and the expectation that the movement of shipping operations away from Bay Street along with the attendant tax breaks and concessions, would encourage the owners of these properties to undertake improvements.
In the main, Mr Maura’s comments and observations are very valid, particularly as they relate or speak to the deplorable state of the tourist product and the eyesore these undeveloped waterfront properties have become.
Let me say at the outset that, I do not know who are the owners of these derelict waterfront properties sitting east of East Street and Bay and even if I did, my views and comments here remain unchanged.
My commentary is about public policy. These individual owners, whoever they may be, have not done anything unlawful and are within their rights to take advantage of any commercial opportunities made available to them.
However, I do not end there.
To the extent that any of the owners of these properties include the owners of those shipping companies now operating from the Arawak Shipping Port, which sits on public property, it begs the question in this instance, how is it that a private property owner can be given an opportunity to operate his private enterprise, utilising public property (Arawak Cay), while the same individual private property is allowed to become a hindrance to the development of the island main tourist and commercial centre (Bay Street) with no benefit to general public?
I do not see the fairness in any individual being allowed to use public property and concessions for his or her benefit and enrichment and the public does not in return, receive any benefit from the use of the individual property for its benefit, or the owner/individual is not made to put his property into development for the public benefit generally.
This becomes more undesirable, especially if the property in question has the potential to provide immense public benefit and it was the expectation, that in return for benefits and concession given to the individual, that he or she would put the land in question into development for the general improvement of the area.
Insult would be added to injury, if the private land owner, is also the beneficiary of a very generous monopoly and profit guarantee from the government through his use and occupation of the public property in question.
No public policy or Pulic Private Partnership (PPP) should support or facilitate such a construct.
This in my view cannot be good public policy.
It would be even more egregious if the owners of these unimproved properties are currently receiving property tax breaks and other concessions as a means of incentivising them to develop their property, when it is obvious that they are not inclined to do.
While this neglect and decay has for the most part has been confined to properties east of East Street, what the government must be careful of is that this neglect and decay does not move to the west of East Street and Bay, due to businesses on this side being financially starved or cut off from the cruise passenger spend when the new port is brought into operation.
This can and is likely to happen if Global Port is allowed to or does not resist the temptation to retain the lion share of the cruise passenger spend within the cruise port by cherry picking the retail opportunities and attractions that are likely to be demanded by or of interest to the cruise passenger.
Perhaps, one day the time will come when the government, in the public interest, will be inclined to use the legal remedies available to them to spur some activity among these landowners.
CLAUDE B HANNA
January 22, 2023.