Watching the policy play out
The Grand Lucayan, which is made up of three hotels – Breaker’s Cay, Memories and Lighthouse Pointe – closed in 2016 after it was damaged by Hurricane Matthew. Only Lighthouse Pointe reopened.
Jobs were lost at the resort. The closure also harmed the Port Lucaya retail area, and the wider Grand Bahama.
The Minnis administration decided to buy the hotel from Hutchison Whampoa. It did not think Hutchison was sufficiently motivated to sell. The resort needs a new owner who has money and the vision to make the property attractive.
The government agreed to purchase it for $65 million.
When the government signed the sales agreement last month, it made a down payment of $10 million, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said.
Chairman of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas Michael Scott revealed yesterday that the government will pay another $20 million toward the purchase and take out a three-and-a-half-year mortgage for the remaining $35 million.
The sale was expected to be finalized tomorrow, but Scott said the government has to “issue a guarantee under the agreement of sale for that part of the purchase price which is going to be left for mortgage”.
In order to issue a guarantee, Scott noted that the government will have to seek a resolution in the House of Assembly. The House is currently on break until September 19.
The government’s plan is to sell the hotel as soon as possible. It is looking for buyers.
Grand Bahama has experienced a severe economic decline the past 15 years. Allowing more and more industry to collapse on the island is unwise, the government thinks.
Last week, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis said the government ought to make public the full details of the resort purchase as well as the operational strategy and business plan.
Davis also said the government should disclose a structural engineering and a quantity surveyor’s report before committing the Bahamian people to a $65 million debt.
The government has been candid in interviews about what it intends to do. This is also an evolving situation. Therefore, some decisions will be made as issues are faced. It was not the government’s desire to buy the hotel. Negotiations between Hutchison and private sector partners were leading nowhere – hence state intervention.
Davis and the government’s chorus of critics now have to watch and wait on the process. If the government sells the resort to a fit-and-proper buyer who could repair, reopen and reinvigorate the business, then state intervention would have worked. If the government were stuck with the place for years, pumping tens of millions into it to keep it afloat, the policy would not have been a success.
There are times when it is necessary to calmly evaluate a situation rather than releasing statements and making commentary just to be in the news.
We should all hope the government’s plan works. Bahamians will get back to work if it does. To root against what the government is trying is to root against potential prosperity for our people.