By MALCOLM STRACHAN
AS ANNOUNCEMENTS go, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the developers – but perhaps not a better time for the nation.
Right in the middle of the debate over the benefits or lack thereof with regard to the Royal Caribbean deal on Paradise Island, here comes a whole new player to blow that one out of the water.
New World Developments has launched a plan to develop 10,000 acres of San Salvador in a scheme that will cost $1bn over the next five years.
There will be ten hotels, a golf course, a sports academy, with development director Simon Tolan describing it as “like a Baker’s Bay, but just bigger and more exclusive”.
It has everything to back up that “more exclusive” label – from a famous name associated with the project, in this case former NFL quarterback Drew Brees – to talk of flying in on private jet to meet with the island commissioners.
Bahamians may well be looking at this mega-development in the constituency of Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis and asking well, what does this do for us?
Planning permission has been granted in principle, according to the business plan, after a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office on January 27, 2021.
There is talk of 1,500 permanent jobs – though does San Salvador have a labour pool sufficient to cater to those needs? If not, then where will those workers come from, and where will they live? Who will do the construction? How much of that $1bn will go into the Bahamian economy?
What about the support infrastructure – power supply, sewage and other waste – that would be required?
That’s before even reaching the possible environmental impact of a scheme that talks of the possibility of creating an inner lagoon and the need to acquire intervening property and relocation a research laboratory to make the most of its opportunities.
The document itself talks of the five national parks on San Salvador and how they “could provide challenges during the review and approval process”.
We hear often of these mega-developments being proposed – yet how many of them actually come to fruition, and how many make any kind of dent on our national finances?
Our national debt has not been wiped out by these various proposals, our dwindling NIB fund has not been rescued – for all the money being talked about, how much of it actually benefits us?
The same questions raised about the Royal Caribbean deal can be directed here – how is this going to benefit local Bahamians, and what will it take away from elsewhere?
We can’t be naïve enough to believe that there are 1,500 San Salvador people presently out of work who will be magically in work at this location when it opens.
A local food chain opening up in New Providence is struggling to find enough cooks – so I am fairly sure the smaller population of San Salvador will not have enough people to meet the range of needs that this “more exclusive” location will be looking for.
This will be a development that will radically reshape the island and social structure of San Salvador. It will no longer be the traditional lifestyle that San Sal currently has – it will be a resort island and large parts of society will rotate around servicing the needs of that development.
There has been talk apparently with local administrators – but is this what the people of San Salvador want?
Some may well do, and certainly there is a need for job vacancies to be filled (the same could be said of anywhere in The Bahamas these days).
But what level of consultation has been conducted with the community as a whole?
This will fundamentally change the nature of life on the island – and for what? What will we as a nation get? What will San Salvador as an island get? These are the questions that people are grappling with.
It is not just me asking these questions – a quick look at the replies to The Tribune’s Facebook page in response to this announcement shows many having the same concerns.
Some asking if the island can sustain a resort of that size, some saying we are losing our homeland, talking of selling out our country island by island. Some point out that these kind of developments are granted all kinds of exemptions for building materials, while the small Bahamian business or resident still has to pay up. Some ask whether there will be a hospital for San Sal, or fire trucks – the natural question to follow being who will pay for that? Another talks of the Prime Minister jetting around the world talking about the dangers of global warming and wonders how a development such as this affects emissions.
From an environmental view along, it seems impossible that this development would not encounter opposition.
Of course, we have had mega-developments before. We have a Baker’s Bay. We have Atlantis. We have Baha Mar. What we need to ensure is that there is an effective trade-off, where we know what it costs us, but what we gain collectively is of greater benefit to all.
That counts for development such as this one. It counts for developments such as the Royal Caribbean one. It counts for whoever winds up owning the Grand Lucayan. It counts all the way down to smaller locations – such as the swimming pig resort that ran into opposition from its local neighbours.
Thorough consultation is one method of doing that, but we do not seem to be very good at that either. With the Royal Caribbean development, the government doesn’t even seem to be able to work out a consistent line on it. Is it very close to breaking ground, as the Prime Minister said, or is it not even past a final decision in Cabinet, as Youth, Sports and Culture Minister Mario Bowleg said?
The Royal Caribbean deal may be the most obvious clash, thanks to the neighbouring lighthouse development, of whether we are putting Bahamians first or not – but each of these deals needs to be considered in the light of how it benefits us all. And we need to be told exactly how.
The comments by members of the public on social media show many things but they show one thing most of all – that a great number remain to be convinced that these projects will help our nation.
ThisIsOurs 2 months, 2 weeks ago
I think they're out of touch. These people can afford to jet set to private islands and fancy resorts to escape the press of the city and they likely live on the seafront. Whats losing one more public beach to them? They wont notice until to affects their children and by then theyll be powerless to stop the tsunami, be that ocean waves or the angry mob. Just examine the history of widening economic divides
Maximilianotto 2 months, 2 weeks ago
It would be better to invest in education considering 5,000 mostly Grade D college students flooding the labor market annually. These investments won’t happen anyway, just ego trips of little Napoleon aka Minister for Tourism and Investment. And, like San Salvador, who really owns the 10,000 acres? Atlantis and BahaMar are enough, Freeport and Abaco have enough stalled investments - but it’s less fashionable than announcements of billions of new investments with no real economic benefit.
empathy 2 months, 2 weeks ago
How do we gain? Not sure how anything other than Bahamian entrepreneurship grants any “gains”?!
Maybe the question should be “how much do we gain?” Answer: “nothing!” Except environmental damage and social degradation 🙄
whogothere 2 months, 2 weeks ago
This fundamentally are the questions.. Out side of Nassau and Freeport the scale of these developments are not sustainable - does Sans Sal have the labor - nope... Where will outside labor live?...who knows... Who will do construction? - Foreign company or a politician's friend...And how much of that 1b will go in to Bahamian economy - I'd say well below 1 percent. And how much gov revenue was lost by yet another foreign concession buffet? I'd bet not enough to cover to the social and infrastructure pressure this sort of project will exert on the community..
SP 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Imagining the Bahamas without any tourism development answers the question!
The pros of this development to the southern Bahamas are enormous. Badly needed commerce, travel, and development would be tremendously enhanced in the southern corridor of islands.
The cons are making the government realize development should benefit Bahamians first and foremost. The atrocities of cheap foreign labor dominating and destroying the natural wage scale of whole sectors of the economy must be rolled back and corrected.
If Bahamians are expected to produce at world-class levels, common sense dictates Bahamians must always be predominantly considered for employment at wages commensurate with the cost of living in the 6th most expensive country in the world!
Maximilianotto 2 months, 1 week ago
If Bahamians expect to produce world-class levels they must have world-class professional education and work ethics - don’t see this. As long as mentally of „being entitled“ prevails this will fail. With grade „D“ no chance. So announcements wil remain announcements.We are in a global economy - Dominican Republic has arrived there.
lobsta 2 months, 1 week ago
These discussions are pointless. This project won't happen. It's nonsense from people who have neither the knowledge nor the backing to execute something like that. They claim it will be more exclusive than Baker's Bay... laughable. This is most likely a con on investors who should know better. This would all be very funny if it wasn't so sad.
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