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Turnquest: Govt will do all it can for Grand Bahama

Peter Turnquest. FILE

The government will do everything within its “fiscal and legal constraints” to save the tourism infrastructure of Grand Bahama, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest.

Turnquest’s comments followed the suggestion from former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham that instead of the government buying the Grand Lucayan hotel from Hutchison Whampoa, the government should seek to purchase the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) as part of a more substantive plan to turn Grand Bahama’s economy around.

Asked his thoughts on Ingraham’s comments, Turnquest said, “We are happy that he agrees with us that every effort must be made to rehabilitate and restore the Grand Bahama economy.

“We agree that the GBPA needs to do more and to encourage their DevCO partner (Hutchison) to do more to lower the cost of doing business in, and access to, Grand Bahama in terms of utility costs, service charges and airport costs for international and domestic flights.

“Grand Bahama needs an active partner leading the way with the government as an engaged partner in order to realize the shared vision of self-governance and prosperity the proud people of Grand Bahama desire.

“This is why the government is committed to ensure the tourism infrastructure of Grand Bahama does not die and is prepared to do everything possible within its fiscal and legal constraints to support and revitalize this important economic sector.”

Turnquest said this commitment also relates to the government’s plans for the Grand Lucayan hotel.

He, however, did not opine on what those exact plans are.

While speaking to members of the Free National Movement’s Grand Bahama branches recently, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the government would not allow the hotel to close and pledged that if a private buyer could not be found, the government would intervene and buy the property.

Minnis’ comments resulted in widespread criticism, with many people saying it was a bad idea.

The government had previously announced that it was negotiating a sale of the hotel to the Wynn Group.

However, Wynn Group CEO Paul Wynn revealed last week to media that he opted out of the deal to purchase the resort complex.

Wynn told Guardian Business that he thought the final purchase price negotiated was too high. He also admitted that purchasing the property would have required him to ask the government for too much and contended that the best thing for Grand Bahama might be for the government to purchase the property.

When he spoke to The Nassau Guardian on Sunday, Ingraham said the government has a variety of tools in its tool kit to ensure that it does not have to purchase the hotel.

“One thing it could do, to start with, it could jump on a plane and go to Hong Kong, and show respect to the owners of Hutchison Whampoa and speak to them directly,” he said. “I did it. [Former Prime Minister Perry] Christie did it. Minnis should do it also.”

The Grand Lucayan hotel closed its doors in October 2016 for repairs after it suffered damage from Hurricane Matthew. Nearly 1,000 people lost their jobs.

The resort features three brands: Memories, Breakers Cay and Lighthouse Pointe.

In November 2016, only the 200-room Lighthouse Pointe reopened.

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