The Free National Movement Government, headed by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, has bungled a deal that meant so much to the people of Grand Bahama.
With the island’s economy in an anemic state, grossly lacking in vitality and unemployment seemingly growing; Dr. Minnis and colleagues who sit around the table with him and investors, could not deliver during negotiations for the sale of the Grand Lucayan Hotel complex.
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D‘Aguilar reportedly has gone on record admitting that the government is at a point of desperation. It is understandable that Dr. Minnis and company would be desperate, because they staked so much on their promise of revitalizing Grand Bahama.
That was the campaign mantra used by Dr. Minnis and the FNM candidates in Grand Bahama. To Grand Bahamians, they made as big a pitch about revitalizing the island as was the case in the wider country about it being “The People’s Time.”
Now, they have failed to make good on that vital promise and for Grand Bahama the future looks bleak. There have been so many ‘positive’ comments made by the FNM about delivering on the sale of the Grand Lucayan. Many Grand Bahamians believed them. Others who were skeptical, still wanted to believe.
What the government has allowed the situation to get to, however, is the scary scenario of grabbing millions of dollars from both “Peter and Paul” and leaving the country in total despair. During Reformation times, the Churches of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome and London respectively, were supported by taxes. Sometimes, the powers that be shifted the direction of the funds in order for both entities to co-exist as intended.
In our case, with a government seemingly unable to put right the financial ship of state, coming up with close to $70 million to purchase the Grand Lucayan, after prospective buyer the Wynn Group of Canada, bailed, would be disastrous. The 4.5 percent added for Value Added Tax (VAT) has been flowing into the Treasury since July 1 and there have been no indications of an easement financially for the government.
It’s early, but looking just like with the previous government that implemented the initial 7.5 percent VAT. The people asked: “Where did the VAT money go?”
What has happened with that extra 4.5 percent VAT thus far?
The expectation, justly so of the Bahamian people, given the explanation for the VAT increase was that it would lessen the national financial burden. The fear is that the extra VAT money would continue to be paid into the system and nothing much will change.
Accordingly, the government has a conundrum to deal with. D’Aguilar said as much. It’s a “vexing” issue.
Dr. Minnis and his Cabinet could decide to spend the millions to buy the hotel from Hutchison Whampoa and run the risk of having to apply more taxes to the backs of the people, while putting over 1,000 residents of Grand Bahama directly and in spill-over situations, in the way of steady employment.
Another option is to leave the situation as is and those who are unemployed, stay without work. It has come to this, because unlike what was promised, the FNM Government could not bring positive closure to the deal with the Wynn Group. The government failed.
D’Aguilar is quoted saying that the “goal posts kept moving” during the negotiations. It could also be that the FNM representatives around the table with the Wynn Group did not quite know not what they were doing on the field of play.
Could it be that they were just strung along and finally told that there was no interest in buying? In essence, the Wynn Group bailed because it didn’t seem to be worthwhile. The government could not broker a deal.
The FNM Government botched the deal.
Now, an island waits to hear what next will come from the government on this crucial matter.