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PI entrepreneur ready ‘at stroke of PM’s pen’

Toby Smith

Toby Smith

• Toby Smith says financing needs ‘oversubscribed 300%’

• Royal Caribbean scaling down opens up ‘massive door’

• ‘Fighting for all Bahamians’, and tells Gov’t to ‘hurry up’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamian entrepreneur seeking to restore Paradise Island’s lighthouse yesterday revealed his financing needs have been “oversubscribed by more than 300 percent”, as he urged the Government: “Make good on our deal.”

Toby Smith, Paradise Island Lighthouse and Beach Club’s principal, told Tribune Business his proposed investment has been “upped” from $2m to $3m and stands “ready to go” at “a stroke of the pen” once Prime Minister Philip Davis KC signs-off on the approvals that remain outstanding.

Suggesting that “a massive door” has been opened for his plans to proceed, after Royal Caribbean reduced the Crown Land footprint for its rival Paradise Island project from seven to four acres, he added that having provided the Davis administration with proof of financing “the ball is in the Government’s court to do what is right for the Bahamian people”.

And, drawing strength from the concerns voiced by Atlantis and Glenys Hanna Martin, minister of education, over Royal Caribbean’s proposed beach club, Mr Smith reiterated his belief that he is “fighting for all Bahamians” when it comes to their ability to “thrive” as entrepreneurs and own a piece of the country’s economy alongside major foreign investors.

Promising that he will “never give up”, and remains determined to see a project first conceived 11 years ago through to fruition, he told this newspaper: “The Government have absolutely everything already on the table that has been provided over a period of 11 years from Paradise Island Lighthouse and Beach Club, and with a stroke of the pen they could simply allow me to proceed for the benefit of all Bahamians and create meaningful jobs.

“It’s going to be approximately 80 construction jobs and 80 full-time jobs for Bahamians only. I’ve upped my investment from $2m to $3m, and I’ve provided to the Government everything that has been asked of me. I’ve had financing lined up since inception, and I’ve been oversubscribed by more than 300 percent.

“I’m ready to go just as soon as the Government issues all the necessary regulatory and procedural documents. I’m sure that the Prime Minister has a pen, and he simply has to sign the documents that are required. The Government is crying out for Bahamian-owned projects to contribute to the tourism product, and Paradise Island Lighthouse and Beach Club provides for a world class product for Bahamians to enjoy alongside our guests.”

Mr Smith would not be drawn on whether he plans to reapply for government approval of his project, as Mr Davis has called for, or if he will appeal last month’s Supreme Court ruling by chief justice Sir Ian Winder that he does not possess a valid and binding Crown Land lease for the collective five acres he has been seeking on western Paradise Island in the vicinity of Colonial Beach.

While he signed, and executed, a lease for two Crown Land parcels of three and two acres, respectively, on January 7, 2020, the then-Minnis administration held off from counter-signing. This was seemingly done to facilitate Royal Caribbean’s proposed beach club, which also wanted that two-acre parcel, after the Government realised it had effectively dealt the same Crown Land to two different investors.

The Bahamian entrepreneur was seemingly shoved aside to make room for the foreign investor, and Mr Smith’s Crown Land lease remains one of the outstanding issues, especially following Sir Ian’s ruling last month. However, with Royal Caribbean now reducing its Crown Land footprint, the cruise giant is seemingly no longer competing for the same two-acre parcel also sought by Paradise Island Lighthouse and Beach Club.

“It swings open a massive door,” Mr Smith said yesterday of the cruise giant scaling back. “It’s cleared the path to allow me to proceed, while the Government can undo the fiasco it has created in collusion with Royal Caribbean. The ball is on the Government’s side of the court to do what is right by the Bahamian people and stop impeding us.

“While they make massive announcements of foreign projects, and while their time is absorbed by the likes of Royal Caribbean, when is it going to be time for Bahamians to thrive with viable projects that provide Bahamian ownership and opportunities that are restricted solely by government bureaucracy?”

Paradise Island’s lighthouse, which is among the first buildings that cruise passengers see as they approach Nassau harbour, has fallen into disrepair and become something of an eyesore. Mr Smith reiterated that his ambition remains to transform it into “a shining example of how historical Bahamian buildings should be dignified and maintained”.

“This project came about as a result of wishing to restore our oldest lighthouse in the country, the West Indies, which is the first impression and, frankly, a clear illustration of tough times in The Bahamas,” he told Tribune Business. “In order to restore the lighthouse free of charge to the Bahamian people, while still remaining their patrimonial property, we have to raise revenues which is how the concept of the beach club came about.

“The beach club will be able to facilitate up to 500 people per day, weather permitting, where Bahamians and our guests can enjoy Bahamian hospitality and be all-inclusive. We shall provide modern amenities, including modern technology to reduce our carbon footprint, employing renewable energy production, and be an example of how an environmentally sensitive operation can be run.

“We will also bring about the appearance of yester-year at the lighthouse, built in 1817, and make this a shining example of how historical Bahamian buildings should be dignified and maintained for future generations of Bahamians.” Mr Smith also promised that there would be no exclusive water transportation to his project, thus allowing the small ferry operators, self-driven and self-owned boats to visit western Paradise Island.

“This is not costing the Government a penny for the restoration of the lighthouse,” he affirmed, “and many say they wish to assist us financially in this. However, I believe that any business venture should be built on a solid foundation, and that foundation is a lease.”

While a Cabinet conclusion issued under the Minnis administration approved Mr Smith’s Paradise Island project, and instructed the relevant government agencies to ensure all necessary permits and conditions were in place, Mr Davis last week publicly stated that the Bahamian entrepreneur must reapply if his ambitions are to move forward.

“They told me to reapply, and they are tightlipped,” Mr Smith said. “The Prime Minister has every opportunity to simply make good on our agreement that was founded on a Cabinet conclusion and let Bahamians thrive and this Bahamian thrive. I wish to publicly thank all Bahamians for standing up for what is right, and if they do this to me they can do it to anybody. I’m not the only one they’ve done it to.

“I’m very committed. This has now become not only a full-time job for me, dealing with government bureaucrats and fending off Royal Caribbean, but I’m going to see it through to fruition despite how the Government have demonstrated through their actions that they are not pro-Bahamian unless it’s one of their inner circle.

“For countless Bahamians this is the struggle we have to endure every single day. What do we have to celebrate with 50 years of independence if it’s the Government that’s imposing and we have to fight. I’m not giving up, so the Government would be well advised to do what is right.... Yet they still keep me on this merry go-round and expect me to respect this cycle,” he continued.

“I’m fighting for all Bahamians and standing up for all Bahamians. Standing together we can bring about change so be vocal, stand up, challenge the politicians. This is our country, our destiny, and so the selfish agendas should be put away. Hurry up and get my documents together. I’m ready with a whole team of Bahamians to bring about a great story that people can read, listen to and watch instead of these huge promises that act to the detriment of brand Bahamas.”

Comments

Sickened 1 year, 3 months ago

I have a feeling that government is looking for a suitable family member to force on Toby to be a 'Bahamian' partner. In case black Bahamians are unaware of this practice... IT HAPPENS A LOT! No matter how long your family has been in The Bahamas, if you are too white and the project is too attractive, then you need a 'business partner' in order to get approval.

TalRussell 1 year, 3 months ago

The Chief Justice, has ruled in law against Comrade Toby's --- 13 years (smoke and mirrors) record at his many attempts at being granted,--- Free Paradise (Hog) Island parcels of land. --- Comrade Toby's attempted land grab is a tricky matter.--- Truth is Comrade Toby--- Struggles to produce any written evidence in support of his13 years --- has merit. --- The premiership, --- Has invited, --- All other Bahamians --- and foreigners --- to submit their proposals for Paradise (Hog) Island parcels of lands. ---- It was just mind-boggling to hear how Toby was allowed to get away without telling anything of real substance during his one hour 'so-called' live interview with the Guardian's Talk Show Host Naughty. --- Not that Comrade Toby, --- hasn't painted a clear picture of the ways 13 years of changing premierships' have ruled over their cabinet members, -- Yes?

The_Oracle 1 year, 3 months ago

That the Prime Minister is some "Lord and Master" who's approval is needed for any project is a travesty. Yep, environmental must be satisfied, yes licensing must be had, rules must be followed but lawfully these heads of agreements and political government intervention is what is holding the country back. Not to mention the concessions granted. That the P.M. can approve or disapprove based on his mood or color of someones skin, what he had for breakfast or if the person is a PLP or FMN is B.S. Small minded control oriented no matter the party.

killemwitdakno 1 year, 3 months ago

It would be so significant to have in the midst of all the commercial development , a Bahamian owned lighthouse leading them in. Sign of hope. The story alone attracts patrons.

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