EDITORIAL: Cautious reaction to RCI proposal

THE issues surrounding the approval of the Royal Caribbean beach club deal for Paradise Island are not as simple as a yes or a no.

In truth, the situation is like a series of dominoes falling into one another, each knocking the next down.

First, there is the plan filed by Toby Smith for the restoration of the Paradise Island lighthouse. For some years, Mr Smith found himself entangled with his new neighbour, Royal Caribbean, in a dispute over who was to receive Crown land that had been pledged.

That ended in court – although an appeal is always possible – with a ruling that Mr Smith’s claim was not valid because former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ signature was missing on a crucial document.

That may have played out separately in court but there is a perception among many that a Bahamian investor is not getting as fair a hearing by successive governments as overseas investors.

The truth of that is open to dispute, but the perception is unhelpful to say the least, and harmful at its worst.

As for Dr Minnis, he points to more dominoes – the deal he negotiated with Royal Caribbean, he says, would have been tied to the company’s involvement in Grand Bahama. Granting the revised deal gives Royal Caribbean what they want on Paradise Island but they are no longer bound by the obligation to carry out plans in Grand Bahama that would revive the island there, says Dr Minnis.

Then there is the neighbour on the other side for RCI, Atlantis, whose president has lodged concerns about the environmental impact of the development.

The RCI deal has been approved pending environmental assessments – but Atlantis president Audrey Oswell noted that some 50 questions had been raised regarding the environmental impact without a single answer received. Another domino, as RCI potentially impacts Atlantis.

All this is before we get to the change of heart from Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis, who opposed the RCI deal while in opposition.

Mr Davis’ press secretary, Clint Watson, says it is not a change of heart, it is a change of the plan itself, but that has not convinced many, with current opposition leader Michael Pintard saying it should not be down to the press secretary to address the matter, rather Mr Davis should speak to it himself.

Elsewhere, there are mixed views on the project’s impact. In Downtown, some are wary of the prospect of losing visitors to a ferry that would whisk them away before they spent money in stores and restaurants. Others are more positive, such as the top executive at the Nassau Cruise Port, Michael Maura, saying he is “absolutely not worried” about the project sucking passengers away – and that there are enough visitors to support everyone.

Finally, environmental campaigners have spoken up, raising concerns about the project’s impact.

So despite the approval – the yes from government, pending environmental approvals – it is not a simple, straightforward matter.

Mr Davis said ground would be broken “very soon”, despite the outstanding environment permissions – which raises questions over how seriously such a process will be taken if the work is already under way before the consent has been given.

The fact that Atlantis, of all companies, can seemingly not have enough sway to get a response to its environment concerns makes one wonder how seriously other voices will be listened to.

In this, you will note that there are a lot of voices talking about Royal Caribbean, but the company’s voice is quiet for now.

Royal Caribbean presumably just wants to go about its business – and finds itself at the centre of a debate that has grown hotter by the day.

The proper thing to do is make sure the environmental approval process is clear, transparent, and the views of all parties is considered.

Mr Pintard is right to ask for Mr Davis to give a full explanation of his change of heart – if the deal is the right one, a little daylight will show it to be so.

Such transparency will benefit Bahamian citizens, to see that all is being governed fairly, and to ease frustrations about favoritism towards foreign investors rather than local.

It will also benefit Royal Caribbean – to ensure that they are clearly seen to have gone about things the right way, and dispel the doubts that circle around on social media and over games of dominoes at bars.

The right thing is always to be more clear about why decisions are taken. Will we see such openness? We have our doubts, but we would be delighted to be wrong.


ThisIsOurs 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Debbie Deal raised a question that we need some serious uncorrupted answers to. She reminded us that Paradise Island has always functioned as a barrier Island protecting Nassau from storms, what will this development mean to that protection. It could have zero impact for all I know. I hope Brave Davis takes this seriously.


ThisIsOurs 2 months, 2 weeks ago

"That ended in court – although an appeal is always possible – with a ruling that Mr Smith’s claim was not valid because former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ signature was missing on a crucial document."

But is it, "the end of that"? To my understanding the lease "application" was not denied by the court. The court said, "*you dont have a lease... yet". All Brave Davis has to do is add the missing piece and sign the letter, he's the Prime Minister... isnt he? Toby needs the Prime Minister's signature, that's it


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