Fed up with second-class treatment of Bahamian entrepreneurs

Dear Editor,

Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar, as reported by Neil Hartnell of the Tribune newspaper, issued a challenge: “Develop projects of scale”.

Well, Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club says “challenge accepted!”

We are already ahead of the game: WE ARE BAHAMIAN, we have approval from the Bahamas Investment Authority, we have a memorandum of understanding and we accepted the government of The Bahamas’ offer for a lease of Crown land on Paradise island. We want to restore the Paradise Island Lighthouse free of charge and create a beach excursion for Bahamians and our guests.

We have full financing, we are 100 percent Bahamian, we will only be employing Bahamians and we are ready to take our product to the world with pride and show all of our guests what Bahamian hospitality, combined with culture, history, music, art, architecture and food is all about.

We understand, through their example, that the government favors foreigners: they demonstrate this every day and their desire to make Bahamians sit small and wait.

Since April 12, 2012, we have waited 3,274 days.

We have the physical space on Paradise Island to handle thousands of cruise passengers; there’s so much room they can be spread over acres of beach.

How much more challenging does government wish to make it?

We have met with more than 100 government employees, from the prime minister, ministers, permanent secretaries, directors, boards, chairman and the list goes on, from 15 government agencies.

We initiated legal proceedings against the government of The Bahamas and ever since this all began the government could have just recognized the merit of the project and let us get on with it, but instead they wish to pursue giving it to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

We shall continue to go about our quest in a dignified, well mannered way, despite provocation from those in government who wish to provoke this into gutter politics.

We wish to publicly recognize the support that Dionisio D’Aguilar has given us publicly and privately; he gets it and we appreciate it.

My challenge to government: Get out of the way, take your feet off the necks of Bahamians and let us thrive!

Look at what we as Bahamians have to go through for a meeting with the prime minister. He’s been “flammin” me since he got into power. Compare that to every photo op he can get and ask yourself how many Bahamian entrepreneurs does he welcome into his office to meet and publish photos? Look at the red carpet treatment he gives to foreign investors.

I welcome forming a coalition with other Bahamian entrepreneurs who are stuck in the “red tape” “running around the mulberry bush” of government.

I would like to unite with other Bahamians and express to this Minnis-led administration that we are fed up watching him entertaining foreign investment and leaving the hardworking, honest, enterprising Bahamians out of the mix and settling for crumbs. We want a piece of the pie.

Legal proceedings is a process that will take time and we are prepared to work through that challenge too, however, Minnis could very well concede, honor the agreements in place and let us get on with construction of the beach club and restoration of the lighthouse. We could start now and restoration and construction will be complete by the time cruise tourism returns.

Beach access for Bahamians is getting more and more limited. We are losing our historical buildings over time.

If government are clearly not prepared to fix up the oldest lighthouse in the country at 203 years old, get out our way.

May the light shine on.

 Toby Smith

Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club Co. Ltd.

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