As shown in the recently released labour force survey for May 2018, the unemployment rate in Grand Bahama remains high and the same as that recorded in May 2017. While the Department of Statistics has pegged the rate at 12.4 percent, the struggles and despair of residents of Grand Bahama cannot be captured in mere figures.
There is a general consensus that our second capital city is in urgent need of economic boost and revitalization. Hence, the Government’s efforts to attract viable investments and projects to Grand Bahama are welcomed. In this regard, the Grand Lucayan has been a subject of much discourse for quite some time.
The Prime Minister has stated on a few occasions that the Government intends to purchase or invest in the Grand Lucayan in Grand Bahama. The challenge is that it is unclear what the exact plan or strategy of the Government for this development is. There is hardly much substance or details beyond the grandiose pronouncements and announcements by Government representatives.
Grand Bahamians holding on to a glimmer of hope based on this resort have been placed on an emotional rollercoaster plagued with uncertainty and cloaked in political rhetoric. On the other hand, Bahamians are puzzled by the contradiction in the Government’s approach to the country’s fiscal predicament.
On the heels of massive reduction in the public sector, touted cuts in ministries’ budgets in 2017/18, a sixty percent increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate and verbalized commitment to fiscal prudence, the recent announcement on Grand Lucayan comes at a surprise to many.
The Government should provide the Bahamian people with details of the following:
How does the government intend to finance the proposed purchase of Grand Lucayan?
Total amount of taxpayers’ funds to be invested in Grand Lucayan
Structure of the purchase or investment
Cost of repairs to the resort and the entity responsible
Duration of planned renovations
Projected operations and maintenance costs
Anticipated marketing and promotion costs for the resort
Target date for the opening of the resort
Total number of Bahamian jobs that will be created or saved
The rationale for opting to purchase the resort
The anticipated return on the investment
An exit plan to divest of ownership in the Grand Lucayan
The feasibility study and economic impact assessment done to justify investment in the Grand Lucayan should be released to the general public in the spirit of transparency and accountability. It is noteworthy that it appears that publicized negotiations on the Grand Lucayan have been futile. This is in spite of presumed concessions offered and the potential of the Grand Lucayan. If private investors have been unwilling to risk their capital in the procurement of the resort, should taxpayers be concerned about this move? Further, will the Government be setting a bad precedent in bailing out this entity? Will public funds invested in this privately-owned property ever be realized or recouped on behalf of the Bahamian people? Could the proposed investment be better spent to spur economic activity on the island of Grand Bahama? What impact will this investment have on the fiscal deficit and national budget?
Over the years, successive administrations have had dismal records in the ownership and operation of businesses. This is simply because governments are often not efficient and effective in the management of commercial enterprises. We have no reason to believe this will be different should the Government assume ownership of this development. It is apparent that there is a level of desperation on the part of the Government. However, this should not impede the exercise of prudence and good judgement.
The Bahamian people await the details.
Arinthia S. Komolafe, Deputy Leader
Democratic National Alliance