The owner of the Compass Point resort on West Bay Street gave The Bahamas government an ultimatum yesterday, threatening that if the Minnis administration does not fulfill its promise to make the ease of doing business better in The Bahamas before the next election, he will close the property, putting 60 people out of work.
Leigh Rodney, the owner of the property from Detroit, Michigan, took out a full-page ad in The Tribune to air his grievances.
“If the FNM wins the next election, without acting upon the promise they made when they were elected two years ago, the Compass Point owner does not want to continue to do business in this country and will therefore close his business,” the advertisement reads.
“This paid for advertisement will be the only thing Compass Point has to say publicly regarding this matter.
“If the leadership of this country resorts to publicly distorting this request into derogatory statements, the owner of CP will not respond.
“The CP owner is not interested in making this a public spectacle, he is not running for office.
“He simply wants to make some positive changes that will benefit everyone in The Bahamas.
“Compass Point has chosen to run this ad, so if the property does close, and 60 jobs disappear, the voters will have an accurate understanding of why Compass Point closed, should that unfortunate event occur.”
Rodney, who spoke briefly to The Nassau Guardian yesterday, said he simply wants a meeting with the government to discuss how hotels are regulated in The Bahamas.
He said he would not comment on the matter further because he is not trying to pick a fight with the government, just seeking an opportunity to meet.
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar told The Guardian yesterday he was unmoved by Rodney’s threat.
“I’m certainly not in any way intimidated by the request. I mean he got to do what he got to do and we got to do what we got to do,” D’Aguilar said.
“He’s not going to threaten the prime minister and the minister of tourism and the Bahamian people, ‘bout if we don’t do what he wants us to do he ga’ shut down his hotel.
“He has every right to do that but certainly don’t come with that tone to a minister of the government of The Bahamas.
“It certainly wouldn’t be that way if I were investing in his country.”
D’Aguilar continued, “The laws are not unreasonable, and all other hotels abide by them. Yes, we have our problems, we are a developing nation but I’m sure his country has problems too.”
Rodney said in the advertisement that he has been trying to get the government to address his concerns for two years without success.
“The FNM administration promised voters that it would be the leaders that made all changes possible to make it easier to run a business in The Bahamas,” the advertisement states.
“The Compass Point owner believed that promise.
“For the two years the FNM had been in power, the Compass Point owner has made what he thinks is a simple request. Set up a small group that would be tasked to make a list of recommended changes to existing laws and regulations, include the Compass Point owner as one participant in this group, have as chairman of the group a government person chosen, who if he/she recommended changes, the lawmakers would listen.
“The top leaders of this country, Dr. Hubert Minnis, Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar, [former] Prime Minister Hon. Hubert Ingraham and others have been made directly aware of this request by the Compass Point owner.
“To date, they have not acted upon this reasonable (in the opinion of the CP owner) request.”
D’Aguilar told The Guardian he is quite aware of Rodney’s concerns, but disagrees with his position.
“Mr. Rodney, who is the owner of the Compass Point hotel, began meeting with me shortly after I came to office and indicated that he felt that our hotel licensing process was silly and redundant and needed to be amended,” D’Aguilar said.
“He also had a number of complaints and I didn’t necessarily agree with him, but I agreed to listen to him and told him that frankly I disagreed with him.
“I didn’t think the hotel licensing environment, yes, it may be slightly bureaucratic, but certainly it wasn’t as bad as he said it was.
“And I said, ‘You know, every single hotel seems to comply with the rules and if the Bahamian people see fit or if the government sees fit, or if there’s enough problems with it to amend it then we will.
“And he got increasingly threatening and said, ‘Well I’m going to shut down my hotel. I’m not going to abide by the rules.’
“And at that stage I said, I’m not going to deal with this man anymore threatening the government and threatening me to do what he wants me to do or otherwise he’s going to shut down his hotel.
“I said to him, ‘When you come into this country you have to first of all understand that this is our country and not your country. And when I go to your country I’m expected to abide by your rules and when you come to my country you’re expected to abide by my rules and any number of threats isn’t going to change our minds or make us do anything differently. You have to show a certain level of respect to the country in which you are now living as a guest and as an investor.’
“And I said, ‘You have in your hands the lives and livelihood of 60-plus people. You need to ensure that you act responsibly and if the government is asking you to do one or two things that you don’t find that you should be doing or you find unnecessary but it codifies law then in order to ensure the livelihood of your employees then you should act responsibly.’
“Throwing threats at me wasn’t going to get me to change my mind, so I referred him to the chairman of the hotel licensing board, and I left it there. My last communication with him, I think, was in the latter part of 2018.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis appointed an Ease of Doing Business Committee in his first year in office, after a 2017 World Bank Annual Report listed The Bahamas as 119 out of 190 countries for ease of doing business.
In June of this year, Committee Chair Lynn Holowesko said the committee was disappointed that the government has not enacted more of its recommendations on how to improve the country’s ease of doing business, adding that her committee has also continued dialogue with the World Bank to get The Bahamas’ ease of doing business ranking markedly improved this year.
It was unclear up to press time if the government responded to Rodney’s request.