Friday, Oct 19, 2018
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Bethel defends decision to buy Grand Lucayan

The Grand Lucayan resort in Freeport, Grand Bahama. FILE

Attorney General Carl Bethel yesterday defended the government’s decision to purchase the Grand Lucayan resort in Grand Bahama and condemned those who have criticized the controversial purchase.

“This is a major hotel complex. Its wellbeing, not just its survival, its wellbeing and ultimate profitability, being a matter of fundamental importance to the government, because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, The Bahamas cannot be all it wishes to be, unless Freeport is all that it can be,” said Bethel, as he opened debate on the Fiscal Responsibility Bill in the Senate.

“Anyone who sits there and tries to pour cold water on what we did for Grand Lucayan, they cannot have their best interest [at heart], not only of Freeport and the great island of Grand Bahama but The Bahamas…because without question we see in Freeport the dichotomy between proactive government and a government that turned a blind eye, whether through callousness or through the benefit of what they thought was the best advice at the time.”

The government has signed a sales agreement with Hutchison Whampoa for the purchase of Grand Lucayan at a final sale price of $65 million.

The Grand Lucayan, which is made up of three hotels – Breaker’s Cay, Memories and Lighthouse Pointe – closed its doors in 2016 after being damaged by Hurricane Matthew.

Only Lighthouse Pointe reopened.

When Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced the purchase of the resort, he stressed that his government has no interest in running hotels, but does have a deeply vested interest in saving the jobs of Grand Bahamians, those who are employed on the Lucayan strip, and ultimately saving the economy of Grand Bahama.

Bethel noted yesterday that the view driving down Freeport roads represents what happens when governments turn away.

The Royal Oasis Resort & Casino shut down in 2004 following the passage of Hurricane Frances.

When the resort closed, business at the bazaar right next to the property declined rapidly and never came back.

“A rotting hulk of hotels,” Bethel said.

“One has now gone back to the jungle. It was the Princess Towers. It’s a rotting hulk, an eyesore right in the face of Grand Bahama and its economic development.

“It shouts at every potential investor. It’s a dying tower. It needs to be imploded. Quite frankly, I’d go further. Since all the insurance money was appropriated by those who own it, we need to acquire it.

“[I’m] not going to improve no one’s property for them. Let the government acquire it. Let’s take it down. Let’s find some way. [Do] you know the contagion that spread from that hotel? The International Bazaar is now…halfway destroyed.

“The few areas in the back are somehow managing to cling to a level of existence. It is heart-rending. That is what happens when governments turn away, turn a blind eye and fail to act.”

Bethel even hit out at former FNM Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson, who he said did not see the trickle-down effect of the closure of The Royal Oasis resort more than 10 years ago.

“I always take pride in the fact that I was the one person, I was chairman of the FNM at that time, I said to the government, the first Perry Christie government, [it] should nationalize or buy the property and restore it,” he noted.

“…What then happened is the former deputy prime minister of our party, Frank Watson, then immediately issued a statement the next day to say he wanted to know what I [ate] for breakfast because he think I kind of crazy.

“Yes, yes, yes and that is because all of the leading minds, so to speak, in politics in The Bahamas, former deputy prime minister, cursing me out, the former government of Christie, all didn’t have the intellectual ability to question the quality of the advice they received.

“They just accepted that this is the best advice so let’s do nothing and doing nothing meant death for Freeport.

“Presented with the same challenges, this administration and I commend the prime minister for him going out on that limb, bright and wholly, and never backing down.”

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