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By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
FREEPORT - Although Brookfield Asset Management has cancelled the ownership transfer agreement with Kerzner International, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham says there is "no need for any concern" at the moment regarding the Atlantis resort.
While speaking with the media on Wednesday in Freeport, Mr Ingraham said Kerzner is still managing the resort and bookings going forward are very good.
"There has been no change, no jobs have been lost; Atlantis is having a far better season now than last year," he said.
The Prime Minister stated that Kerzner has a loan for $2.3 billion and that the property on Para ...
By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
PLP LEADER Perry Christie yesterday challenged Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham to "stop playing politics and fight for Bahamians".
In a statement, Mr Christie said at a time when our nation is desperately in need of leadership and re-assurance, the only thing Prime Minister Ingraham can offer are low-down nasty insults and cheap political stunts.
Mr Christie said: "Atlantis is the nation's single largest private employer and thousands of Bahamian jobs are at stake. I cannot understand how the Prime Minister can be conducting politics-as-usual in the middle of this crisis. We're told he found out on Frida ...
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader Perry Christie yesterday downplayed an election threat from the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) and suggested that the new party is falling apart.
Christie's comments came as he hit out at the DNA's claims that he was in collusion with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham to suppress details about the recent Atlantis takeover.
"Bahamians already know the DNA is not ready for the big time. It has been a rough few weeks for [DNA Leader] Branville McCartney, whose party has been plagued by infighting, stumbles, accusations and counter-accusations," said Christie at a press conference at PLP headquarters on Farrington Road.
He said the DNA is "self-destructing even before it's out of the gate".
Christie also refuted McCartney's claims that he (Christie) was present at a Cabinet meeting called on the eve of the Atlantis ownership change announcement.
"The DNA states that I was in the Cabinet room with the prime minister and his Cabinet to discuss the Brookfield [takeover] of Atlantis. I was not. Let me say it again, though, in case the slower minds in the DNA need it to be repeated: I was not in that room," he said.
Christie said it was his party that first called on the government to reveal details of the Brookfield/Atlantis deal. He added that he only knew of the ownership change "five minutes" before the prime minister made his public announcement last November.
"I learned that the government had approved the [transfer of ownership] of Atlantis to a Canadian hedge fund on the same day as the Bahamian public. My response was concern about the security of Bahamian jobs, and it continues to be a matter of serious concern for me.
"Immediately after the government made its announcement, I called on the FNM to make the deal public, and we've been repeating this call ever since."
He reiterated his party's plea for the management agreement between Kerzner International and Brookfield Asset Management, a Canadian conglomerate, to be made public. But there is no evidence that a final agreement is actually in place.
"The truth is, Bahamians do not trust the FNM to fight for them at the bargaining table. The government assured Bahamians their jobs were secure, but Bahamians are smart; they're asking if those assurances are only good until the elections.
"Hubert and Branville, FNM and FNM light, listen to me, for the many thousands whose jobs are at stake, and for their families, this is not a game," he said.
Kerzner Chairman Sir Sol Kerzner announced in November that Brookfield was taking over Atlantis, the One&Only Ocean Club and Kerzner's property in Mexico in a $175 million debt-for-equity swap.
Kerzner International will continue to manage the Paradise Island properties under a four-year contract, which The Nassau Guardian understands can be terminated at any time, subject to a penalty.
The management contract also requires Kerzner to meet gross earnings of $215 million at the end of the agreement's first year, a target the company last met in 2008.
The Guardian has also been informed that there are worries Kerzner could reduce staff or cut operating costs to meet those revenue targets. However, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and Sir Sol have both publicly said the nearly 8,000 jobs at the Paradise Island properties are safe.
2***Nassau, The Bahamas - Minister of State for
Investments the Hon. Khaalis Rolle, joined a panel of hospitality
leaders November 9, to address prospective investors about current
trends in The Bahamas to create jobs and expand the industry.
Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference and Operations Summit was held
November 8- 9 at the Atlantis Resort, where hotel executives gathered to
learn about the 1,000 careers growing in the hospitality and
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said yesterday that he is not concerned with the statements made by Kerzner International's Chairman and CEO Sol Kerzner that thousands of jobs may be at risk as a result of the Baha Mar project.
Kerzner told reporters on Thursday that the 8,000 jobs at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island would be placed in jeopardy if the government approves the Baha Mar project in its current form.
"It's a deal that makes no sense," Kerzner said. "It's a deal that could be harmful to the people of The Bahamas and certainly to future investors and indeed ourselves."
Kerzner has also argued that the deal between the government and Baha Mar ...
Whether those involved in frontline politics have realized it or not, the political landscape in The Bahamas has changed. With the proliferation of the Internet and international television, the new Bahamian voter is different from the voter of the past, even the last election. Through Facebook, YouTube, television houses like CNN, FOX News, etc., Bahamians can get any news in the world on their smartphones, tablets or laptops instantly and live. Most of the new Bahamian voters will not attend political rallies. They want to be able to in the comforts of their homes, or anywhere else for that matter, see their leaders outline their platforms for the upcoming elections electronically or digitally. This way, people in Inagua, Mayaguana, Cat Island, Long Cay, Abaco, Grand Bahama or New Providence, for example, can simultaneously view the candidates and the party leaders.
In the United States the first general election presidential debate was held on September 26, 1960, between U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, and Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, in Chicago at the studios of CBS' WBBM-TV. "Television primes its audience to rely more on their perceptions of candidate image (e.g., integrity). At the same time, television has also coincided with the world becoming more polarized and ideologically driven" (Hayes, p. 235).
No general election debates at all were held for the elections of 1964, 1968 and 1972, although intra-party debates were held during the primaries between Democrats Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy in 1968, and between Democrats George McGovern and Hubert Humphrey in 1972.
It was not until 1976 that a second series of televised presidential debates was held during the general election campaign season. On September 23, 1976, Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter and Republican incumbent President Gerald Ford agreed to three debates (one on domestic issues, one on foreign policy, and one on any topic) on television before studio audiences. A single vice presidential debate was also held that year between Democratic Senator Walter Mondale and Republican Senator Bob Dole.
The dramatic effect of televised presidential debates was demonstrated not only in 1960, but again in the 1976 debates between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Ford had already cut into Carter's large lead in the polls, and was generally viewed as having won the first debate on domestic policy. Polls released after this first debate indicated the race was even. However, in the second debate on foreign policy, Ford made what was widely viewed as a major blunder when he said, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration." After this, Ford's momentum stalled, and Carter won a very close election.
Debates were a major factor again in 1980. Going into the debate, Jimmy Carter had a narrow lead over Ronald Reagan in a race considered 'too close to call'. Reagan, with years of experience in front of a camera as an actor, came across much better than Carter and was judged by voters to have won the debate by a wide margin. This translated into Reagan turning a close election into a landslide victory.
Since 1976, each presidential election has featured a series of vice presidential debates. Vice presidential debates have been held regularly since 1984. Vice presidential debates have been largely uneventful and have historically had little impact on the election. Perhaps the most memorable moment in a vice presidential debate came in the 1988 debate between Republican Dan Quayle and Democrat Lloyd Bentsen. Quayle's selection by George H. W. Bush was widely criticized; one reason being his relative lack of experience. In the debate, Quayle attempted to ease this fear by stating that he had as much experience as John Kennedy did when he ran for president in 1960. Democrat Bentsen countered with the now famous statement: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
The year 1992 featured the first debate involving both major-party candidates and a third-party candidate, billionaire Ross Perot, running against President George H. W. Bush and Governor Bill Clinton. In that year, Bush was criticized for his early hesitation to join the debates with him being alluded to as a chicken. Furthermore, he was also criticized for looking at his watch which aides initially said was meant to track if the other candidates were debating within their time limits, but ultimately it was revealed that the president indeed was checking how much time was left in the debate.
Moderators of nationally televised presidential debates have included Bernard Shaw, Bill Moyers, Jim Lehrer and Barbara Walters, and recently Bret Baier and George Stephanopoulos among others.
I stand to be corrected but I don't know that there was ever a nationally televised debate between the leaders of the major political parties here in The Bahamas. The last televised debate, moderated by Wendall Jones of Jones & Co. (who is to be commended for his fortitude in pushing for this debate) was between the candidates in the famous Elizabeth by-election, which ended up in the Election Court with Ryan Pinder of the PLP coming out on top. I believe that it was a grave political mistake for Dr. Duane Sands not to participate in the Elizabeth debate and that he would have fared much better had he did.
There should be at least two debates between the leaders of the political parties - one on New Providence and the other Grand Bahama. We should be careful not to exclude any leader of any party running in the upcoming elections to be fair to all. The venue for the debates should be at the leading convention centers on the mentioned islands with an audience of voters on a strict first come first serve basis. These properties should view this as their contribution to nation building as good corporate citizens. Police presence goes without saying to keep the peace and to ensure that the debates are not unduly interrupted and are kept safe and professional. The world would be watching. Colored lights resembling traffic lights should be installed to aid the candidate as to the time left with green indicating 30 seconds, yellow indicating 15 seconds and red indicating only five seconds are left. If necessary, a buzzer may be used or a flag. The moderators should be anchors from the major media houses including Wendall Jones, Shenique Miller, Jerome Sawyer and Candia Dames, for example.
The debates should be two hours long with four five-minute or two five-minute and one ten-minute break. The candidates should be standing behind their podiums with the moderators seated on the other side. The moderators should ask the questions allowing each candidate two minutes to respond and others one minute to respond or rebut. There should be no opening statements, just closing statements. The questions should be on issues that are pertinent to the voters, e.g. the economy, Atlantis, jobs, crime, immigration and education. The candidate should agree to the rules beforehand.
The candidates in each constituency should also have a chance to debate the issues on a smaller scale but also televised nationally. I agree with Wendall Jones when he said that if a candidate is not willing to participate in a nationally televised debate and put forth his and his party's position on the issues, then he or she is not worthy to be a candidate.
The time has come for a more mature discussion by our political leaders on the issues impacting not only the electorate, but all the people of our beloved country and generations to come. We cannot underestimate the importance of this upcoming election. After the debates the new Bahamian voter will be more informed as to who to cast his ballot for on that great election day. And as they say, let the proverbial chips fall where they may.
May God be with us all.
- Pastor Mark Smith
The Bahamian economy is driven by the tourism and financial services sectors. Tourism and tourism-related construction and manufacturing combined provide an estimated 60 percent of gross domestic product.
Who is the Bahamian tourist? Is it the cruise ship passenger, the hotel vacationer, the yachtsman or the second-home owner? Not all tourists are created equal.
Cruise ship passengers spend considerably less time and money in The Bahamas than other tourists. The Ministry of Tourism enthusiastically points to the increase in cruise ship arrivals that now outpaces arrivals through Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA). In May, the Ministry of Tourism estimated that total cruise ship arrivals for 2012 may exceed 4.5 million. This is not surprising given that a single ship can carry more than 4,000 passengers.
Without a doubt The Bahamas is a leading cruise ship destination. But cruise ships come to The Bahamas for only several hours or a brief one-night stay. A 2012 report from the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association notes that average visitor spending is down to $64.80 for 2011/2012 from $83.93 for 2008/2009. Though such statistics only include the ports of Nassau and Freeport and are limited to six-month time periods, cruise ship passenger spending relative to other destinations is low in The Bahamas.
Attempting to fully capture the spirit of The Bahamas in several hours, or even a night, is impossible. The Ministry of Tourism announced that it is planning an ambitious revamp of the Welcome Center at Nassau Harbour. But unless this is combined with an immediate revamp of downtown Nassau, tourists will still be welcomed to congested and smog-filled streets.
Downtown revitalization efforts should be spearheaded for Bahamians too and not just based on tourist expectations. Bahamians want to dine at downtown cafes. Why should the tourist be the sole consideration?
The Bahamas caters to the tourist, not to the Bahamian. LPIA was in dire need of an upgrade, its antiquated structure showed years of neglect. The U.S. departures terminal was completed first, then the international arrivals unit, and last but not least, we eagerly await a domestic terminal.
The New Providence Road Improvement Project was planned over a decade ago; its delayed implementation led to extreme frustration to motorists and business owners. But alas, the Airport Gateway Project will improve the capacity of the road system to and from the airport to facilitate the movement of tourists to and from two major hotels, Atlantis and Baha Mar.
The prime minister spoke enthusiastically recently about the construction of a medical center in Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera.
He said: "These three tourism projects together with the construction by government of a modern multi-million-dollar mini-hospital, which will begin shortly in Palmetto Point, will provide hundreds of new construction and permanent jobs for the people of Eleuthera. It will also prove to be a boost to the growth of tourism and second-home owners who will have the assurance of essential medical care being readily available right here in Eleuthera."
Yet again, a crucial infrastructure project was promoted for the tourists' appeal, not simply because Eleuthera is in desperate need for advanced medical facility. The Bahamas needs to focus on upgrading infrastructure and services for its own people, then the tourists will come.
The Bahamas seems to cater more to those who spend several hours wandering around our capital than to those who live here.
Bahamians already know the
DNA is not ready for the big time, and today we have further evidence,
with a DNA press release full of lies, from start to finish.
DNA states that I was in the Cabinet room with the Prime Minister and
his Cabinet to discuss the Brookfield purchase of Atlantis.
I was not.
Let me say it again, though, in case the slower minds in the DNA need it to be repeated: I was not in that room.
the other hand, Bran McCartney spent many long years in the FNM
Cabinet, smiling and saying "yes, sir" as the FNM cut education funding,
created jobs for foreigners instead of Bahamians, presided over record
levels of murder and violence, cut special deals for insiders and failed
to put Bahamians first.
Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
Sonia: I had the privilege of working for the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island from 2002-2005. It was a breakthrough opportunity for me after serving seven years at the Ministry of Works as a design engineer and project manager. In the role at Atlantis I drew on my project management skills, as I had responsibility for executing an annual multi-million dollar capital budget for all the senior vice presidents of the company who were at the time my internal customers. Unlike in the public sector I was given a lot of autonomy to run the projects department. I, of course, closely coordinated with the heads of the facilities division but felt empowered, and I was expected to succeed.
I currently own and operate a full service mechanical and electrical engineering consultancy and, as it turns out, my major project is the Baha Mar Development resort being undertaken on Cable Beach. Graphite Engineering Ltd. has been selected as the Mechanical and Electrical Engineers of Record for this project.
GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Sonia: I did not choose tourism specifically as a career, but as a consequence of what was available in the economy. An opportunity in tourism presented itself and I was pleased to embrace it. Bahamian engineers continue to be under represented in major tourism projects at the level of design and onwards. This will only change if we continue to build capacity and, when given an opportunity, we provide stellar service.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Sonia: My team was given the opportunity to oversee the renovation of the Crown Ballroom. By dollar value it was the largest project given to our department. It was not a technically challenging assignment but we had a very short time frame to deliver the project, and we were able to get it done.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Sonia: As it specifically refers to the engineering services in hotels, there have been a myriad of changes because the mechanical and electrical systems that support these buildings, keeping them lit and cool, continue to be more sophisticated.
GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Sonia: We are currently sitting on an opportunity to aggressively push sustainable tourism and make this a given for any property in The Bahamas. We should require that our hotels in the first instance be high performance buildings, with excellent carbon footprints. We should be reusing, recycling and cutting waste. If we can do this without hurting our cost competitiveness we would set ourselves apart from the pack and demonstrate that we really care about our country.
GB: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?
Sonia: Do your homework, literally. There a lot of opportunities very high up in the food chain of these resorts that Bahamians can fill. We must accept the fact that a lot of the developers are multi-national companies and it means we may be competing with international persons for jobs at home. This means we need to get international exposure and experience, and be prepared to function at the top of our game.
The announcement that Resorts World Genting in partnership with RAV Bahamas, Ltd. will open a 10,000 square foot casino at the Bimini Bay Resort and Marina this December is welcome news. With unemployment hovering around 15 percent and Grand Bahama struggling with unemployment around 21 percent, this investment has near term tangible benefits.
The Bahamas needs a diverse portfolio of hotel accommodations and entertainment, a luxury boutique gaming resort certainly adds to that repertoire. We can thank Atlantis for a grand introduction to the mass tourist market but The Bahamas is much more than Paradise Island, we are a nation of 700 islands and surely the world is ready to see more.
With global press coverage, it begs the question as to who is Resorts World Genting? Resorts World Genting falls under Genting Malaysia Berhad, part of the multinational Genting Group, a consortium of companies and brands with significant market exposure in Asia only recently expanding to the Western Hemisphere.
The Bahamas is right to encourage and invite investment from the Genting Group; Resorts World Genting Resorts knows how to operate world class integrated resorts. World Genting won the World's Leading Casino Resort in 2005, 2007-2010, and Asia's Leading Casino Resort from 2005-2010.
As the prime minister noted, "Their vast customer base, marketing clout, and state-of-the-art operations will have a very positive impact on Bimini Bay Resort and the local economy, creating new construction and permanent operational jobs as well as entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians."
The Resorts World Genting brand name cannot be underestimated, the mere announcement of investment in The Bahamas made worldwide headlines thrusting The Bahamas into spotlight. This publicity attracts the attention of potential investors and developers; The Bahamas is open for business.
But there are still questions. Bimini has a population of 2,008 according to preliminary Census 2010 data released by the Department of Statistics. With an estimated 300 new jobs in the immediate future and the potential for additional 700, how will Bimini cope with the rapid increase in population?
Bimini will require substantial infrastructural improvements in the very near term to meet the expectations of the high net-worth individuals it so desperately seeks. Will Bimini's runway be expanded to accommodate larger jets? Will utilities be able to keep up with increased demand as the local and tourist population swell?
Should the casino operate with such predicted success to increase Bimini's economy by 25 percent; Bimini's infrastructure must be ready to handle the success.
And this leads to the definition of success, while predicted to be an economic success, is this a social success? We have gained the investment of an award winning integrated resort group, Genting, and yet, the very center of their investment, a luxury boutique casino touted with windows to display the tranquil beauty of The Bahamas, leaves Bahamians outside looking in? We praise the investment and invite all to enjoy the splendor of our country, but are Bahamians left out?