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A top executive at the second largest resort on Bimini says direct ferry service from the U.S. will determine the success of the highly anticipated casino.
Michael Weber, general manager at the Bimini Big Game Club, said the resort is excited about the upcoming Resorts World Bimini Bay, set to open in December. But the proposed ferry service coming into Bimini from Ft. Lauderdale is essential, and if it fails to materialize, the island simply won't draw the numbers needed to justify its existence.
"Personally, I don't think we have the volume to have a successful casino. For it to work, I think the new casino has to play in conjunction with the Balearia coming in," according to Weber. "Casinos are based on getting bodies in there. We have sufficient bodies to keep us busy as a resort, but we're a small property. To keep a casino afloat, we're talking a lot of money. Something has to support it to make it work."
Weber pointed out that it has been more than two decades since Bimini had a direct ferry service come to the island.
The Balearia Bahamas Express currently services Grand Bahama, but dredging has begun in Bimini to accommodate the high-speed vessel. Bimini, which is just 50 miles away from the United States, is banking on the ferry's presence to bring Americans back and forth to the tiny island for quick trips.
"The role of the ferry is huge. We can do what we can with tour operators and such, and going after the corporate and wedding market, but those coming just for a couple of days, that's not available. But for Bimini, it's so close, and they can really spend the day here," he added.
Meantime, business at the Bimini Bay Resort is reportedly booming during its second phase of development.
With the addition of its world-class casino, the resort's executives plan to take advantage of infrastructural improvements on Bimini and aggressively market the property.
RAV Bahamas' CEO, Alejandro Capo, noted that 13 of phase two's 131 residential homes have already been sold, just six months after it started.
"We're really going to go with the great marketing effort for the second part of this year to see if we can get the up northerners because right now our primary markets are South America and South Florida," he said. "We really haven't hit any of those northern markets like New York, New Jersey, the Metro area."
With the new casino on schedule to open in December, Capo estimates there to be an increase in employment opportunities on the island.
"The casino will need to hire another 100 people on Bimini. Indirectly, he said, the need for more casino regulators and other spin off jobs will result in a total of 250 to 300 new jobs," he shared.
According to Capo, Bimini Bay's marina has seen an increase. Boating business is up by 50 percent compared to last year, he said, and all major holidays have been sold out months in advance.
"So we're really not seeing that downturn in our marina business," he added.
However, Capo noted the hotel portion of his business has suffered due to the lack of airlift into Bimini, although he is pleased that there are now plans for a new airport terminal.
The tourism minister, Obie Wilchcombe, recently revealed to Guardian Business that they are in discussions with several different airlines with a view to increasing airlift to Bimini. With the anticipation of increased airlift, Wilchcombe said there will be a need to improve that island's airport to accommodate the increased number of travelers.
"We are going to have to extend the airport's runway. That is not necessarily going to take place within the next four months, maybe over the next year [to] year and a half. The truth is we will have to consider the size of the aircraft that will be coming into Bimini," he explained.
He shared with Guardian Business that his team is currently in negotiations with three airlines and charter services, including the national flag carrier Bahamasair.
Developers behind a nearly $1 billion project set for southwestern New Providence plan to submit an official proposal to the government within the next 45 days, as they seek to bring "Hollywood to Nassau".
On Friday, former Cabinet Minister Tennyson Wells, president of Hollywood Bay, confirmed to Guardian Business that plans are progressing and that the project's financiers, bankers and equity partners are expected to meet between now and the end of January.
Having met with both the Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle and the Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe within the last three weeks, Wells said the response so far from the government to the project has been "positive".
"They are now waiting on us to show where the funding will be coming from. Last week, I had a discussion with the Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle and told him that we are now prepared to sit down and start negotiating the heads of agreement," he said.
"And he has indicated to me the course of action that I should take, which I am in the process of dealing with. So I should have a proposal for them I would say within the next 30-45 days. Certainly, by January 15, I would like to present it to them, the proposal we're looking at for the heads of agreement."
While the development, valued at $980 million, is expected to include a 1,000-room hotel, an 80,000 to 100,000-square-foot casino, a marina and a high-end shopping area, at the heart of it will be its unique, world-class theme park, which Wells described as a "mini-Disney World, designed to bring back the myths of The Bahamas".
The theme park will also include a 12,000-seat amphitheater. Big names in the animation industry will reportedly be the ones responsible for bringing the theme park concept to life.
"The decision to include a theme park was simple because when visitors come to The Bahamas, they are looking for excitement, somewhere to go and something to do. That theme park will be designed that during the day, you will have families visit and at night, it will turn into a gigantic entertainment center," he said.
"A very significant portion of what we're doing is the theme park, which will be one of a kind in the world.
It's going to be a digital immersive theme park. That's where they will take a room and turn it into a TV screen with mirrors and they will have action on that screen and you will be made to feel like you are part of that action."
"The people who are putting this together for us are big names in the animation industry and have worked on blockbusters like 'Avatar' and 'Transformers'. That part of the project is well advanced. We presented this concept to the Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe about two weeks ago. I think they were quite impressed with it."
The 1,000-room hotel will consist of a 500-room all inclusive, 300 high-end rooms and 200 rooms "similar to Comfort Suites" in terms of their price point.
Currently, Wells said they are meeting with potential casino operators, contractors, its theme park and mega-yacht marina partners.
Earlier this year, developers applied for a casino license and are still awaiting the government's decision. They would be competing with any potential buyer of the former South Ocean resort for that license, which both have indicated would be pivotal to their overall development plans.
If the Wells-led two-and-a-half year project is approved, 50 percent of it will be owned by a cross section of Bahamians, marking it as a significant development for the country.
Once it's up and running in 2016, it is expected to hire anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 people.
Prime Minister Perry Christie made reference to Well's plans earlier this year during his wrap up on the 2013/2014 budget debate, telling parliamentarians that Wells, a former attorney general, is a lead figure in a group that is interested in developing a resort on the site of the former South Ocean development.
"Discussions are also taking place with a joint Bahamian and non-Bahamian group on a proposal, which they are developing for a major tourism resort and an innovative attraction to be located on the southwestern part of New Providence," he said.
"And this development is predicated on the very casino license previously associated with the South Ocean property."
The government has been advised by the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) that it should develop a set policy on the development of over-water bungalows in The Bahamas, days after the government approved the Leaf Cay resort, the first such project of its kind in The Bahamas.
Leaf Cay's principal, Peter Vazquez, has suggested that by bringing the over-water bungalow concept - previously seen primarily in the Pacific, a significantly farther flight for U.S. tourists - to The Bahamas, this country will benefit from a surge in tourism of a kind it has never seen before.
Eric Carey, executive director of the BNT, told Guardian Business in an interview that he does not see the over-water bungalows which are planned for the $50 million Leaf Cay resort in the Exuma islands having a particularly detrimental environmental impact. However, Carey has urged the government to exercise caution in how quickly and on what conditions the over-water bungalow concept is extended throughout The Bahamas.
"I think it's something we should explore - approve one or two and see how it works, see how we can monitor and manage that, and make sure its something we want nationally before we go ahead and approve that.
"There are these places in the Pacific where they are more well known, and they are pretty successful low impact resorts. High-end in a lot of cases. The issue becomes one of quality control for me, rather than an environmental issue. We certainly don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry who want to put up a water bungalow to do so, and so what I advised the minister is that we should develop guidelines for these."
Last week, Guardian Business revealed exclusively the government's decision to provide approval in principle to yacht charter company owner Vazquez and his wife Kim, along with their business partner Roger Cardinale, to build the Leaf Cay resort.
The resort, a private 13.1-acre island, will be turned into a commercial resort where 16 over-water bungalows, seven private villas, eight two-unit townhome villas and five "tree top bungalows" will be available to guests, along with a 30-slip marina and fuel dock, a restaurant and bar, an infinity pool, tennis courts and an over-water spa.
The plan is to sell the villas but enter them back into a rental pool.
Cardinale is the president of the international division of CEC Entertainment, which develops, operates and franchises the Chuck E. Cheese's family entertainment center brand.
Carey said that the BNT was not formally consulted by the government, but BNT officials were asked by key members of the government for their opinion on the project.
"Our feeling about it from an environmental perspective was that the bungalows are no more of an impact than a marina, less in a lot of respects, as with a marina often there's dredging involved. With over-water bungalows you drive pilings, there are the same or less sewage issues, they do not have a fuel component, etc.
"We would want to make sure that there is proper collection and retrieval of sewage from the lines, that it goes into a closed system and gets treated on the land, and you can do that in the same way you would do a pump out for boats, so in my opinion I don't think the impact is any more significant than for a marina."
Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for investments, told Guardian Business the government saw the Leaf Cay resort project as a "welcome addition to our tourism product".
"The Bahamas has been a globally competitive tourism business and we want to look at things that would distinguish The Bahamas differently than some of our regional competitors."
However, George Smith, former MP for Exuma, said he is not impressed with the government's decision to approve the over-water bungalows for Leaf Cay, adding that he was concerned about how the bungalows would fare during a hurricane.
"We are now doing something that seems to be popular somewhere in the Indian Ocean but there's very little land in that part of the world, we don't have any shortage of cays in which you can do these things. Just because it works in Bora Bora, or because something may work in New York, it may be terribly out of place in The Bahamas."
He added that as far as he is aware the Leaf Cay proposal is "not popular" among those who frequent nearby Staniel Cay, although he did not elaborate on this.
Meanwhile, Smith expressed concern that Vazquez is being given an opportunity that would not have been afforded to a Bahamian.
Vazquez told Guardian Business that while The Bahamas is hurricane prone, the over-water bungalows will be designed and built in a way which takes this into account, using concrete rather than wooden pilings, and concrete roof trusses.
"These are rated up to a category three type of hurricane protection, they are not common run-of-the-mill over-water bungalows. Plus, the bungalows are contained on the north side of Leaf Cay, which has 360-degree protection by Harvey Cay, Staniel Cay, Big Majors and Sampson Cay to the east. It also has extremely shallow water, so there will be no build up of any waves."
ABACO -- The Treasure Cay Billfish Tournament (TCBT) recently announced a new date and format for its 31st annual competition.
The tournament is now scheduled for June 25-29, 2014 and will be held at Treasure Cay Beach Marina & Golf Resort in Abaco. The tournament will offer three fishing days - Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with an optional 'Family Fun Day', Kettle of Fish Tournament and 'Rock the Dock Party' on Sunday. Treasure Cay General Manager Stephen Kappeler said: "We took into consideration that some tournament participants may like to depart on Sunday to return to work on Monday. Plus, scheduling the event after school is out will make it easier for participants to include their families."
Known for its great fishing, excellent value and social events, the world-class competition attracts teams from around the world. The TCBT also offers social parties, dinners and fun competitions. Its guaranteed cash payout ranges from $10,000 for a minimum of 10 boats and up to $50,000 for the participation of 50 boats.
The TCBT offers a special bonus of one free room night at the resort or a free day of dockage for registrations made prior to March 31, 2014. The early registrations also receive an entry into a drawing for free tournament dockage for boats up to 60 feet, and additional prizes.
One of the best fishing destinations in The Bahamas, Treasure Cay is known for grander-size record-breaking marlin, large dolphin and wahoo. While billfish is the focus of the TCBT, the tournament includes Fun Fish Division awards for tuna, dolphin and wahoo. The Fun Fish Division offers an optional payout rivaling top prizes of U.S.-based tournaments. In addition to the cash prizes, winners receive beautiful trophies and the top team is honored with a statuesque perpetual trophy showcased in the resort's Spinnaker Restaurant, one of the largest air conditioned out-island restaurant facilities available for events. Awards are also presented to the top lady and junior anglers.
Release point standings are verified by the participant's own digital and/or video camera with an image that can verify the time and date the photo was taken. The TCBT is open to the public and center consoles over 30 feet are welcomed. The top TCBT team will qualify for the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) Offshore World Championship, with information available at www.igfaoffshorechampionship.com.
In addition to great food and family social events, the TCBT also raises funds for the children of the Treasure Cay Primary School. Registration for up to six team members, including boat entry, cash prize eligibility, dinners, cocktail parties, team goody bag and room discounts, can be made online at www.treasurecay.com.
The current champion of the event is Team Southern Comfort, owned by Peter Angel, from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Southern Comfort captured the lead on the last day of fishing, bumping Domarlo, owned by Doug Macdonald, from West Palm Beach, Florida to second place. Big T's Too, owned by Bob Wolsey, from Sarasota, Florida dashed from zero to 800 points on the last day to snag third place.
Domarlo claimed the Ultra Champ award for most points earned by prior TCBT winners. The Kettle of Fish Tournament resulted in the catch of more than 70 lionfish as well as several snappers.
Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder is applauding Albany's decision to include a financial center as part of its $140 million expansion set to begin early next year.
He called the move by the project's developers a "successful" strategy that shows foresight, seeing the connection between its clientele and the financial services industry.
"This facility will create a platform that will attract new physical presence in The Bahamas. I think it will be a very successful model, where they may sell a condo or a home to a highly successful, high net-worth individual or someone in the financial services industry who may require a family office, investments management company or some other related financial services firm that will be located right there within Albany," he told Guardian Business yesterday.
Pinder thinks constructing a facility like this speaks to the government's plans to have the financial services and tourism sectors work closely together, creating synergies.
"We see that as a way of the future. So we are very encouraged that developers like Albany see that too," he said.
When asked by Guardian Business what type of financial institutions would be interested in operating out of the Albany Financial Center, the financial services minister said that will depend on those buying real estate within the development.
Finance is just one of four growth areas Albany's expansion will focus on. Others include: health and wellness, education and sports.
Construction of the Albany Financial Center will begin in the first quarter of 2014 along with 260,000 square feet of expansion around the marina at Albany.
Guardian Business also understands that the financial center has already attracted commitments from several major financial institutions that previously had not committed to The Bahamas.
To date, the $1.3 billion project's overall scope has included between 450 and 600 residential and resort units, an 18-hole championship golf course and clubhouse, a world-class marina for mega yachts up to 240 feet, shops and cafes, a spa, fitness center, equestrian center, tennis court, an expansive water recreational facility, a beachside social area and a dining club.
Since ground was broken on the project in 2008, it has been steadily expanding through the economic downturn. The latest phase of construction began last September, which is the development of its marina residences.
NASSAU, Bahamas -
'King' Eric Gibson has secured corporate sponsorship for a new 'A' Class
boat for the upcoming Grand Bahama Regatta at Taino Beach. The 'Palm
Cay Princess' will set sail and compete in her first race at the Grand
Bahama Regatta September 27th - 30th.
Browning CEO of Palm Cay, the residential Marina development on
Yamacraw Road, has said that he supports The Bahamas' island regattas
and ocean sporting events. Earlier this year, Palm Cay sponsored and
introduced the Palm Cay Sir Durward Knowles Cup; the only one to bear
Sir Durward's name, it is a regatta circuit floating trophy which made
its first appearance at the February St. Valentine's...
Recognizing that boaters tend to stay in a destination longer than the average stopover visitor, the Marina Operators of The Bahamas (MOB) believes emphasis must be placed on ensuring that fees charged to customers do not result in the country's boating sector being priced out of the market.
While noting that The Bahamas is becoming popular as a destination, MOB President Peter Maury said the level of uncertainty surrounding the implementation of a value-added tax (VAT) in July could severely impact the industry. A four percent fee is already charged to those that dock in The Bahamas.
"A lot of these boats don't just come to Nassau, they go to the Family Islands all the way down the Exuma chain as far as Inagua, Crooked Island and Acklins, where I think they make an economic impact, and it's been proven that those areas have improved," he told Guardian Business yesterday.
"Nowadays, you're dealing with a customer that can pick and choose where they want to go. All they have to do is drive to another country. They're not flying in and staying in a fixed hotel. They can pick and choose wherever they want. It's much better to have the yacht customer to come by not charging them additional fees, but having them come to the country and spend money in the country.
"With the charter business, it just seems that a lot of these brokers that are booking the charters year-out are worried how VAT will affect the bookings. When they sell a charter now in 2014 for 2015, when the guests actually get on the boat in 2015, are they going to have pay VAT on the actual charter price of the yacht. Let's say it's $100,000, that could definitely affect not just what the brokers get but what the owner gets and what expenses the captain has to pay.
"So I think that's a big deterrent right now because we don't know what's happening. If it's going to be on dockage and electricity, these are things that boats use, so it will drive expenses up."
His comments come following a recent release from the Ministry of Tourism on the country's boating sector from 2012-2013. According to that report, between January and October 2013, the percentage of boaters and yachters as a whole declined by 3.5 percent. The percentage of marina boaters declined by 8.9 percent between January and October 2013. The percentage of mixed-use accommodation boaters increased by 0.6 percent and offshore boaters increased by 2.8 percent.
"Although the number of boats and yachts have increased over the years, the number of passengers on these vessels have not steadily increased. The number of passengers on board the boats/yachts have an effect on visitor expenditure," the report stated.
The report also pointed out that May to July are the most popular months for boaters and yachters to visit The Bahamians, especially offshore boaters and yachters.
Investors in the troubled Cotton Bay Estates project have invested "eight figures", according to its chairman.
Franklyn Wilson said despite the project's recent legal woes and hard economic times, the $200 million development in Eleuthera is still moving forward with support from "some very deep pockets".
Wilson, who is also the chairman of Arawak Homes, said Cotton Bay remains undeterred.
"The reason I have been reluctant to give any specific timelines, is because who knows when the economic conditions make sense," he told Guardian Business. "We are being deliberate and cautious. Development has never stopped. We have simply been pacing ourselves."
The comments come shortly after a ruling in the Supreme Court that denied Cotton Bay's claim to $11 million in performance bonds.
Judge Stephen G. Isaacs sided with CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank (Bahamas), claiming "the bonds are not valid and enforceable against the bank."
The former project manager of Cotton Bay, Penn's Renovation & Construction Company, requested the bonds in preparation for phases one and two of the project. After the work contracts were
terminated, Cotton Bay investors still called in the bond, which was subsequently denied by the bank.
Wilson told Guardian Business that he was disappointed by the verdict, commenting that "it was not a frivolous matter".
"My position is this, nobody sues a bank, a major one like FirstCaribbean, and you do that lightly. We had four different senior attorneys from in and outside The Bahamas take a look at this case, and we were not represented by lightweight council. The judge did not rule in our favor, and that's life."
The Cotton Bay chairman explained that attorneys had sought confirmation through the bank that the bonds were valid. Wilson claimed he received what was interpreted as confirmation, although the document was ultimately deemed improper.
The plaintiffs also asserted the bank's actions through the process validated that the bonds were accepted.
While the court claimed the bonds would have only covered 35 percent of the contractor's cost, Wilson insisted the $8 million bond, earmarked for the clubhouse, represented nearly the entire expenditure. The second bond, coming in at $3 million, was meant for villas valued at around $6 million.
In all, he said the $11 million worth of bonds were for approximately $15 million in contracts.
Wilson admitted to Guardian Business that the ruling serves as another blow to the project.
He said the legal affair "was huge" and "something not taken lightly".
But overall Wilson remained upbeat on the property's future. He insisted that once complete, Cotton Bay will feature "one of the greatest golf courses in the Caribbean".
Work is ongoing on the course and hotel, he explained. The giant clubhouse, which is now the largest building on Eleuthera, is essentially complete, along with villas totaling 54 rooms.
On a personal note, Wilson told Guardian Business he took comfort in the fact that Judge Isaacs defended him amid allegations from the defense that his testimony was "not credible".
Located five miles south of Rock Sound, Starwood Hotels & Resorts first signed an agreement with Eleuthera Properties Ltd. in 2005 to develop the massive project. Comprising more than 100 estate lots, a clubhouse, a private marina and an 18-hole golf course, it was heralded as one of the largest projects ever undertaken by a group of Bahamian investors.
In his typical bombastic and inelegant style, the chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in a letter to the editor of The Nassau Guardian of July 3 responded to legitimate criticism from the leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) of the PLP's denial of the severity of the global recession by charging that the FNM administration made it worse.
This deceit was part of the PLP's propaganda when in opposition. Another part of that deceit was the outrageous claim of the billions of dollars of "notional" projects which they had lined up for inward investment prior to their defeat in 2007 and which they claimed the FNM's 'stop, review and cancel' policy had prevented from progressing.
The continued reference to billion-dollar projects that suffered from the alleged 'stop, review and cancel' policy must be a reference to the PLP planned massive land giveaways (as was contemplated at Mayaguana) to various prospectors who had not even secured the funding for some hugely exaggerated projects on which they could not possibly deliver even with the sale of Bahamian land.
But this was the propaganda engaged in at the time and presumably being resurrected by the chairman of the PLP now. The PLP seemed to subscribe to a policy of announcing huge investment deals, highlighting exorbitant sums which they hope will be invested and large numbers of new jobs they hope will result, but not making the terms of the agreements public so that if or when they did not materialize the government's embarrassments might be minimized.
The Free National Movement (FNM) does not go that way; that is why before the end of 2007 the FNM government tabled heads of agreement concluded by the PLP but never tabled in the House of Assembly as follows:
Date heads of agreement signed
1. Governor's Harbour Resort & Marina
March 23, 2004
2. Rav Bahamas (Bimini Bay)
June 9, 2004
3. Kerzner International
(Supplement to heads)
December 7, 2004
4. Pittstown Landing
April 27, 2005
5. Cape Eleuthera Properties &
Powell Point Properties Ltd.
May 3, 2005
6. Baha Mar Development
April 6, 2005
7. GINN-LA West End
Dec 9, 2005
(Amendment to heads of agreement)
June 8, 2006
8. EGI Ltd.
April 24, 2006
9. Sky Beach Development
April 20, 06
10. RC Rose Island Hotel Co.
February 13, 2006
(Amendment to heads of agreement)
April 12, 2007
11. Crystal Mount (Cat Island)
January 16, 2006
12. Royal Island (off N. Eleuthera)
December 14, 2006
13. Park Ridge Securities (Albany)
November 9, 2006
March 6, 2007 (Amendment)
14. Lignum Vitae Cay Ltd.
April 27, 2007
15. Bonds Cay (Berries)
May 1, 2007
None of these projects were stopped or reviewed by the new FNM government. Instead everything was done to facilitate them moving forward in a timely fashion. The worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression intervened and stopped virtually all of these projects. Those which proceeded - Albany, Baha Mar, Rav Bahamas - did so because of extraordinary efforts by the FNM.
Such efforts and support to others of the projects - notably GINN, Exuma Resorts Developers-Setai/Aman, RC Rose Island and the Harcourt Group in Grand Bahama - could not overcome the fallout for these projects from the recession and very directly the failure of important international financial groups like Lehman Brothers.
The record also shows that by February 2008 the FNM government had concluded and tabled in the House of Assembly three major agreements which had stalled under the first Christie government: those relating to the doubling in the size of the Baha Mar project inclusive of seeking and obtaining parliamentary approval to transfer a portion of the public road (now deviated West Bay Street) and other government-owned land to Baha Mar; the conclusion with the Park Ridge Securities relating to the Albany project and including parliamentary approval for the transfer of portions of south west Bay Street and of portions of South Ocean Boulevard in exchange for a new south west Bay Street now named Frank Watson Boulevard, and the conclusion of a superseding heads of agreement with the Exuma Resorts Developers for the development of a Setai/Aman Resort at Norman's Cay.
Bradley Roberts continues the PLP distortion that the FNM chose to award the New Providence Road and Utility Improvement Project to an international (Argentinian) company excluding presumably able Bahamian companies. He ignores the fact that the bid for this project was put to international tender (as required by the Inter-American Development Bank) by the PLP government. Under that government no reputable international company responded to the bid. The FNM's return to government brought a response from international companies and following a competitive analysis, Jose Cartellone Construcciones Civiles (JCCC) was awarded the contract.
Roberts also conveniently fails to acknowledge that every Bahamian road paving company was engaged by the FNM government between 2007 and 2012 on other important and significant road and utility upgrade projects - many of which are now ongoing in New Providence (deviated West Bay Street and the connector road to JFK Drive; Bay Street from Nassau Street to Mackey Street, intersection improvements along East Bay Street to the Montagu fishing ramp; Moss Road extension and access roads to the new sports center and all Family Island road projects).
Roberts also seeks to ignore that in each of the five budgets presented to Parliament during the FNM's last administration - 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/2010, 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 - there was a consistent reduction in customs duties and the elimination of duties on a number of products to ease the cost of living on the community, to improve the competitiveness of the tourism product or to provide specific incentives. This happened in each of the five budgets. It is worthy of recalling that the systematic reduction of customs duty rates and the reduction of the number of rates are policies introduced by the first FNM government between 1992 and 1997.
It is acknowledged that in the 2010/2011 budget, in addition to continuing the reduction in customs duties on selective products to ease the cost of living broadly, provision was made for increases in several taxes to ease the financial strain that was having an unfortunate impact on the country's fiscal circumstances. Roberts' claim that the policy was a failure is untrue. The policy produced an increase in revenue over the previous year of $160 million and led directly to a lower deficit.
It is never clear from these critics of that fiscal policy whether they are promoting lower spending or higher deficits. Balancing the trade-off between debt and unemployment in that global recession was probably an issue of such delicacy that it did not likely catch the chairman's fancy.
Roberts has also not been able to make the distinction between debt and spending that creates infrastructure - fixed assets for the country and debt for which no remaining evidence can be found. This is why he has been able to say such critical things about the increase in debt during a devastating global recession in which the opportunity was taken by the FNM to deficit-finance the construction of infrastructure to facilitate the economy's future growth while also easing the strain of unemployment. On the other hand he overlooks, and hopes that the public will not notice, the shame of the huge creation of debt during a period of economic growth with nothing to show for the spending during the period presided over by PLP from mid-2002 to mid-2007. He might consider this is why his party while commanding a majority of seats in the House of Assembly, does not command the support of the majority of registered Bahamian voters.
Roberts and the PLP already are getting a sense of the challenge of economic management in a period of economic adversity. Already they have demonstrated that their understanding of job creation is restricted to finding jobs for their members and supporters even if they can only achieve this by firing Bahamians they met working.
It is also to be noted that notwithstanding that economic circumstances have already begun to improve and the recession has ended, they began their term with the largest deficit in the country's history. No doubt they will seek to blame the previous administration for the size of their deficit, but they understand that they are in charge now, as they are quick to point out, and the choice was theirs to make.
Finally, Roberts objects to the FNM reminding that the PLP has failed to keep its promise and pledge to be ready to govern on day one. He seeks to excuse the failure of the PLP to name new boards including naming new chairmen for the most important public corporations where FNM political appointees resigned their posts at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) and the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (ZNS) by comparing the PLP record to that of the FNM. The FNM welcomes such comparisons as the superiority of FNM performance in every segment of government can be readily seen. We have a record and we are proud to stand by it.
Roberts will have considerable opportunity to engage in vitriolic bluster in response to legitimate criticism of the PLP's governance and propaganda, particularly since so much of their governance seems to be conducted by public broadcast by way of the usurpation of ZNS news.
o Charles Maynard is the chairman of the Free National Movement.
A major international hotel operator has gained approval to construct phase one and two of French Leave Resort on Eleuthera.
The long-awaited nod opens the flood gates on at least $12 million worth of investment on seven-and-a-half acres of elevated land overlooking historic Governor's Harbour.
Shaner Bahamas, a company founded by Lance T. Shaner, will enter into a partnership with Governor's Harbour Resort & Marina to build and finance the resort property. Shaner Bahamas is an off-shoot of the Shaner Hotel Group, a corporation with more than 34 owned or managed properties and thousands of employees.
"Shaner Bahamas is an entity specifically created for
development in The Bahamas," said Eddie Lauth, an investor and partner in Governor's Harbour Resort & Marina and the CEO of Shaner Capital. "They are very interested in this country. We now have approval for development, so we are finalizing the contractors and getting started."
Located just off Queen's Highway, French Leave Resort could indeed mark a resurgence for the hospitality industry in central Eleuthera and serve as an important driver for the economy.
Phase one, Lauth said, includes the construction of 21 hotel cottages, a bar and grill restaurant, and a pool and pavilion clubhouse facility. He told Guardian Business the developer is also committing to phase two "straight away" by commencing underground utilities.
Phase two will see the construction of 17 more cottages, bringing the total number of accommodations to 38.
Groundbreaking should happen as early as next month.
"The marina village site will feature two restored docks and will be able to accommodate only a select few, large luxury yachts," he explained. "The authentic Bahamian hotel cottages are single and detached with covered porches, cedar roofs, block construction and each will have a battery back-up system for 100 percent clean electricity. The inspiration for us is the scale and the wonderful architecture found today at Governor's Harbor with the antique churches and homes."
The announcement has been a long time coming for developers.
Lauth said stakeholders had to "sit tight" for a few years due to a defective title issue. He hopes the first cottages can now open for the 2013 season.
Formerly the site of Club Med, the property was purchased in 2004, with further land acquired from the Frank Lloyd Trust. The developers now hold an impressive 270 acres of prime land in Eleuthera, all of which could transform in the coming years.
Lauth told Guardian Business the ultimate goal would be a resort "with 100 keys".
The 5-star, sustainable, boutique concept has been partly inspired by Orjan Lindroth, the developer behind Schooner Bay in Abaco, Lauth told Guardian Business.
Schooner is in the midst of an aggressive expansion, with an estimated $30 million being spent on infrastructure, amenities and homes this year alone.
Lauth said the 270 acres of land was purchased in Eleuthera partly because stakeholders are concerned with maintaining a consistency of vision, feel and architecture.
Phase one and two of the resort, representing $12 million in investment, will be spearheaded by three or four Bahamian contractors. Lauth said the company is in the process of signing these contracts. Construction should create dozens of jobs, not to mention the long-term employment prospects for Bahamians working on the property.
"There will initially be three or four contractors. We are blessed with high quality contractors on the island and we're very pleased with their work. Right now we're hoping to have everything wrapped up in the next 30 days and break ground after that."
This venture is the first hotel development in the Caribbean by the Shaner Hotel Group.
Hotel brands owned or managed by the company include Marriott, Holiday Inn, Crown Plaza and Renaissance.