Minnis administration has done what Mitchell accused it of not doing
Let me state from the outset that I am no water boy for the Free National Movement (FNM) government or Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis. I read with interest Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) National Chair Senator Fred Mitchell’s response to Minnis’ national address which aired on ZNS, in which he alleged that the FNM has “no plan to put money on the ground and bring relief to Grand Bahama”.
Grand Bahama’s economic woes are well documented; therefore, there is no need to repeat them. What is worth mentioning is that the PLP has been afforded two opportunities in 2002 and 2012 to address the economy on that northern island. The Christie administration left the island in the same deteriorating condition it met it in when it came to office twice. I am not too sure if Mitchell and his political organization have the moral authority to criticize the current administration two years into its tenure.
Both parties have used the dire situation in Freeport as a political football while in opposition. Mitchell talks as if the PLP has never been given a go at it with respect to Grand Bahama. Perhaps he is pandering to uninformed Bahamians while appealing to the 17th century English philosopher John Locke’s tabula rasa theory. He should not hold his breath for the minds of Grand Bahamians going blank. The deteriorating Royal Oasis Resort and Casino, International Bazaar, Xanadu, Casa Bahama, Grand Union and City Market buildings are constant reminders of what Grand Bahama once was, and what it now has become.
What is happening in Freeport transcends politics. I think the time has come for politicians who live in ivory towers to desist from capitalizing on the suffering of Grand Bahamians. Having said all that, I think the case can be made that this government has “put money on the ground,” to borrow Mitchell’s words, which were also used by PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis. According to The Nassau Guardian, the Minnis administration purchased the Grand Lucayan Resort with an “initial capital investment of some $32.4 million”, along with an additional $14.6 million toward operational costs for Lucayan Renewal Holdings Ltd., the government’s special purpose vehicle that manages the resort. So far, that’s $47 dumped on the ground in Freeport.
The total cost for the resort is $65 million. The FNM administration has also forked out $3.2 million in severance packages to 164 Grand Bahamians who were employed at the resort. This means that each of the workers pocketed $19,500. The 91 managers will share $4.4 million, which means that each of these Grand Bahamian managers will get $48,351. This would mean that these 255 Grand Bahamians have extra cash to spend at the restaurants, grocery and clothing stores, etc,, which would in turn impact the wider community.
If this isn’t putting money on the ground, then what is? If I am interpreting the PLP correctly, the opposition was diametrically opposed to the government intervening by purchasing the resort from Hutchison Whampoa. I am not sure what other mitigating measures the FNM administration could’ve taken, other than continue dumping millions in subsidies in a resort the Chinese no longer had any interest in funding. Had the government sat idly by and did nothing, Mitchell would’ve issued press releases berating the government for its inaction.
Again, I am no water boy for this administration. It has three years remaining to fix Grand Bahama. If things fail to improve significantly, then it will be in for a dogfight to hold on to three of the five seats it currently holds on Grand Bahama.
– Kevin Evans