April 04, 2012
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MP Fred Mitchell yesterday criticized recent comments made by the prime minister blaming the party for the current state of the City Market food store chain.
In a statement, Mitchell said the troubles of City Market have nothing to do with the PLP's past policies or decisions.
City Market is currently in dire straits financially and looking to restructure after poor sales.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham suggested at a rally in Fox Hill over the weekend that a decision by the Christie administration in 2006 to approve the sale of City Market to a foreign group and a small prominent Bahamian private investor group ultimately led to the crisis the food store chain is currently facing.
"It is at a minimum quite ironic that the same [PLP Leader Perry] Christie who now says that he puts Bahamians first, in 2006 turned down a bid to purchase City Market by a group of Bahamians who, at a minimum, may have better understood that Bahamian consumers generally want brand name products and that Bahamians don't change to buying unfamiliar, generic goods quickly," Ingraham said.
"Whatever is the case, the basic matter is this: The Christie administration agreed to a purchase which resulted in the destruction of a longstanding supermarket chain that generations of Bahamians grew up with."
At the rally, Ingraham said one of the early decisions of the PLP upon coming to office in 1967 was to approve the well-known Winn-Dixie chain of supermarkets in the United States to buy the food store chain, which was originally Bahamian-owned.
Mitchell said his constituents were looking for answers from the prime minister during the Free National Movement (FNM) event, and he demanded that Ingraham protect the interests of Bahamian workers.
Mitchell explained that the issue of City Market and the transfer of its undertakings was "materially mis-stated" by Ingraham.
"The PLP at all times in 1967 and in 2006 acted in the best interests of the people of The Bahamas," Mitchell said.
He also said: "In this country there are private property rights which attach to shareholders. Notwithstanding all the propaganda to the contrary, the PLP allowed as far as possible during its terms of office to apply the principles of the market and the rights of private owners to sell their shares to willing buyers.
"In the case of both transfers of the undertaking under the PLP, if the PLP had refused then there would have been a cry about the PLP stopping free enterprise."
Mitchell contended that when the owners of City Market filed for bankruptcy in 2006, they put the property on the market for auction.
The bidders that won included many well-known Bahamian shareholders, he explained.
"It is therefore incorrect to say that the PLP turned down Bahamian shareholders," said Mitchell.
"Further, the PLP administration took steps upon the approval of the transfer to protect the policy of Bahamians first by insisting that the new financiers from the Caribbean were just that, financiers and not equity owners."
Currently, the owners of City Market are in talks with Super Value regarding a possible sale.
More than 300 jobs hang in the balance, but the prime minister told employees on Saturday that he had been assured that their pensions were secured.
The current owners -- the Finlayson family -- acquired City Market in late 2010.
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News date : 04/04/2012 Category : Nassau Guardian Stories