Sen. Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson Speaks in the Senate


allyson-at-par-2006<<< Sen. Hon. Allyson Gibson.

We support the arrival of cruise ship passengers to The Bahamas as a key area of growth in the tourism sector.

Especially at his time of unprecedented debt, we believe that governments like citizens must prioritize and ensure that every dollar is well spent i.e. that returns on the dollar are maximized on behalf of the people.  The IMF essentially said the same thing in its recent country assessment.

There are many reasons why we believe that at this time, this harbor dredging is not the best decision on behalf of Bahamian people (now and future generations).

First, it does not significantly contribute to Vision 2020 about which I spoke in the Budget Debate (Vision at appendix).
The majority of the capital investment of $50 Million is leaving the country (just like the New Providence Road Improvement Program). Why are we borrowing money to improve the lives of non Bahamians? At a time when we should be investing in our future…

It is not evident that there has been any or any proper analysis as to why there could not be tendering of the 12,000 passengers could bring every trip. Tendering would have created a new business opportunity for Bahamians.  Cruise ship visitors quite happily go ashore by tender  in Belize.  Why not The Bahamas, at least for a while?

In this economic environment, will these ships actually come to The Bahamas after we have spent $55 Million dredging the harbour? There is no evidence that these 2 ships (there are only 2) will actually come.

Where is the written evidence of the commitment to come?
o We have enough capacity now for the existing cruise ships
o We could tender, for a while
o They are watching their bottom line, why aren’t we
o What if we dredge and they do not come
o What if any of the cruise lines goes into Chapter 11?

We have been giving concessions for 14 years.  I know that we have not been doing cost benefit analyses.   In 2002 we met a situation where the cruise business was in crisis.  The cruise lines were very concerned about the state of Prince George Dock. Used car tires were being used for bollards etc.  It was in a shocking state of disrepair. An FNM Cabinet Minister had signed an agreement to give incentives with the cruise lines without the consent of Cabinet. As well as the repair of Prince George Dock that had not been budgeted, we had to find money to honour the commitment, improperly made by the Cabinet Minister, and not budgeted for (neither the Prince George Dock development nor the FNM improperly given cruise incentives has been budgeted in the Budget we met that had been prepared by the FNM).

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We committed to dredge the harbor. The economic times were different then.  We support the dredging, NOT NOW.  We also say that when this amount of money is being spent, there ought to be proper planning for the benefit of the Bahamians whom we now serve and for future generations.

We just gave concessions to night clubs all of which NEED cruise ship visitors to come there to survive economically.  Now we are decreasing the time they need to spend in port
o Down to 13h from 18h
o The ships can and will  leave at midnight
o Passengers will not take a chance getting left
o Passengers will not stay beyond 10pm at night clubs as they need to get transport back to ships and get on board for midnight departure
o Under existing concessions, they could leave club at 1am and get back for 3am departure
o This creates a major difference in revenue potential for clubs
o Continuing to allow casino to stay open in port, even on the cruise ship owned Islands also does not encourage passengers to come ashore.
Is this giving with one hand and taking with the other?

The Caribbean is the most popular destination for cruise ship visitors.  Cruise ships ask our countries to pay for passengers to come there. It may be worthwhile for us to incentivize visitors, but for how long? These incentives were put in place by the FNM in 1995. 14 years. Under existing incentives we have granted cruise lines well over $133,000,000 (which is calculated at 1 million passengers per year since 1995).  We’ve had an average of 2 million per year since then so this figure could easily be doubled to $266 Million (almost $300 Million) over 14 years.  Without any evidence of proper cost benefit analysis.  I am emphasizing this point because when we negotiated concessions, we ALWAYS did the cost benefit analysis. This enabled us to so significantly reduce the percentage of concessions to investment on Atlantis Phase 3.  The FNM when granting the Atlantis Phase 1 gave 45% concessions to cost of development; the FNM also granted 38% in Phase 2. Our approach was to have a careful cost benefit analysis done.  This enabled us to bring Phase 3 concessions down to 18% of cost of development and when Atlantis increased to size and scope to make it a $1 Billion development to 20%.  18% lower than Phase 2.  25% lower than Phase 1. The record will reflect that we spent the people’s money wisely.

Under proposed incentives for cruise lines, (increased to 6 years rather than renewals after analysis and if necessary, after every 3 years) the FNM continues to make significant grants:
ß Not explained to the public
ß Diverting money that could be spent on national development objectives
ß Under the present FNM plans FNM special interests are being guaranteed that their pockets will be lined for 6 years.

We ought to, through Caricom, negotiating with the cruise lines. They have their association- The Florida Caribbean Cruise Ship Association. They NEED to visit the Caribbean to justify their existence and get profits. We should also be negotiating in a bloc. The IMF has just said that we need to carefully evaluate concessions given.

We are also concerned about the lack of Bahamian access to entrepreneurship on the Cruise line owned Islands. We have included cruise line owned Islands in this incentive package. These genesis ships (that can hold 12,000 per trip) and the existing ships bring more than 2 million passengers per year. The cruise lines on their privately owned Islands:
o Run the water sports business
o Serve food
o Provide the entertainment.

With guaranteed access to 2 million people, most banks would fund Bahamians
o In the water sports business
o In the food business
o In the entertainment business

On the usual retort about insurance, we say, Bahamians every day buy public liability insurance.

Note the FNM approach to FNM special interests.  The FNM will not invest in a Straw Market Plaza for $23 Million for the benefit of Bahamians and tourists alike. The FNM will spend public money to benefit FNM special interests in the harbour dredging and at Arawak Cay and the Woodes Rogers to Armstrong St. expansion.

The point is that the FNM vision is for FNM special interests.

As Bahamians are paying for these cruise ships to come, why can’t our government insist that these opportunities for Bahamian entrepreneurship be provided to Bahamians?

There ought not to be any controversy about these important decisions. There is controversy about this FNM decision because it is clear that it is being made to support FNM special interests.

The dredged material is being pumped to the Arawak Cay expansion it will also be used for the waterfront expansion along Woodes Rogers Wharf to Armstrong St.
o Citizens are paying to:
ß Dredge the harbour
ß To fill in Arawak Cay for the use of the FNM special interests
ß To reclaim Woodes Rogers Wharf waterfront to Armstrong St. to benefit FNM special interests who will convert their private property, improved at taxpayer expense to retail, marinas, accommodation etc. the foundation capital expense for which will be paid for by the Bahamian taxpayer

The move to Arawak Cay benefits FNM special interests
o Their space downtown to retail, marinas, living and entertainment
o They own the Arawak Cay Port
o They do not want the Straw Vendors to have the Straw Market Plaza . THE FNM’S PROPOSAL IS FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT FROM THE PLP’S. Under the FNM’s proposal the Anchor tenant shifts from the Straw Market Plaza to the retail etc. at the Eastern side of Bay St. owned by the FNM special interests, the foundation of which will be paid for by the Bahamian taxpayer.

The Arawak Cay expansion is another secret FNM deal
o No MOU
o No EIA
o No EMP
o Conflict of Interest
o Bahamians are entitled to know.
o If these documents exist, table them AND post them on the internet
o No hiding
o No secret deals behind closed doors
o Flush out the conflict

It is not a part of an economic stimulus package to:
o Give jobs now
o Grow Bahamian entrepreneurship now and  into the future
o Strengthen other  sectors of the economy now and in the long run
o  support generations  to come

The Woodes Rogers to Armstrong St. expansion is another FNM secret deal.

What should have been done differently?
• Follow the Master Plan of the Mackey and Solomon and unanimously approved by all stakeholders
o The plan was SRC and 2 years later is being followed except for the SW Port
o We involved ALL stakeholders in the plan Ministry of Tourism sat on this committee
• Design a downtown Nassau
o 7 Districts
• The stakeholder committee (Mackey and Solomon) supported by national and international town planning experts said that rather than have the Port at Arawak Cay leave the containers where they are on Bay St.
o This was said by the Bahamian stakeholders on the Mackey and Solomon Committee
• In May 2007 we were going to start the implementing the plan with the SW Port
o The Port at the SW where the economic and environmental experts said that the Port is sustainable
o That Port was SRC
o It could have been well on the way by now
o It was an economically feasible Public Private sector Partnership
o Contractors now having hard times could have been engaged and giving employment
o An inland Port is desirable…and sustainable…and positive economic impact was undeniable
o Bahamians would have direct and indirect benefit from a Port that is sustainable NOW and well into the future.

Simultaneously with this the Adelaide beach would have been redeveloped by the Albany developer, who had committed to do so.

We had already given a contract for the Straw Market Plaza …the anchor tenant of Bay St…
o That too was SRC

Then there would have been the Arawak Cay and Beach Redevelopment
o “The Arawak Cay Beach Project includes a diverse series of connected parks ranging from an expanded beach area, recreational fields, and overflow parking…includes a private resort on the western end, a public marina village, an eco park and lagoon, national fair grounds, a shopping village and expanded fish fry…and a fast ferry port and terminal….revitalizes the area of west of downtown to make it more inviting for Bahamians and tourists, creating a western gateway to Bay St….will transform this area into a unique destination attracting new crowds and Bahamians and visitors alike…” (quoted from the Mackey and Solomon Report)

Beaches should be redeveloped. By the way, engineers say that the “sludge” that Senator Foulkes laughed at is used as the foundation for groins and breakwaters, much in the same way as it is now being utilized for the benefit of FNM special interests at Arawak Cay and the Woodes Rogers to Armstrong St. expansion.

The revitalization of 11 new beaches was studied and planned…already studied and planned…including the wave motion and other environmental factors
i. Delaporte Park, Caves Point, Orange Hill Beach and Gambier Beach
ii. Browns point to Goodman’s Bay (Go Slow Bend)
iii. Bar Point to Saunders Beach
iv. Arawak Cay and Long Wharf Beach
v. Montagu Beach and Bay
vi. East End and McPherson’s Bend
vii. Yamacraw Beach
viii. South Beach West and South Beach East
ix. Coral Harbour Beach
xi. Clifton Beaches (Flipper Beach and Jaws beach) – INDEPENDENTLY FUNDED

The Arawak Cay redevelopment would have been underway by now
o $1,755,000 the cost of  which could  be paid for by the cut in the Gussie Mae Cabinet
ß 940 meters (over 3000 feet)  of redeveloped beach at the cost of $1.7M
ß This is now SRC due to FNM greed and accommodation of FNM special interests
ß Fitzgerald has already spoken (as have I) about the fact that the DPM Chaired the Committee meeting where the decision was made to go to Arawak Cay
ß DPM has clear conflict: he has an interest because the containers will be removed from his site on Bay St. to Arawak Cay and he has not denied that he and or his family have an interest in the Arawak Cay development as proposed by the FNM

o Straw Market
o SW Port
o Adelaide Beach redevelopment – privately paid for
o Jaws and Flipper Beach redevelopment – privately paid  for
o Arawak Beach redevelopment
o Arawak Cay/Fish Fry improvements

The redeveloped straw market would have been a significant attraction for cruise visitors as would the redeveloped Arawak Cay/Fish Fry.  The redevelopment of the SW Port would have had considerable direct and indirect impact, being a PPP. For that Port could be:
o All the support businesses for a commercial port
o New transport possibilities to other islands.

If the SW Port had been combined with a new land policy to subsidize Bahamians moving to the Family Islands, there would be a significant multiplier effect on the magnitude of the impact. SEE BUDGET CONTRIBUTION ON THIS AS APPENDIX.

The Saunders Beach Redevelopment will no longer be possible due to erosion, the causeway and the other environmental impact
o 880 meters or almost 2,900 feet
o $2,700,000
o Would have been half way paid for by the cut proposed in the Gussie Mae Cabinet

Bahamians should note that, based on current plans, this Independence and this Discovery Day will be the last time that you get to enjoy Saunders Beach without a causeway to Arawak Cay and without unsightly containers on Arawak Cay.  Is this why people have been forcibly retired?  In this era of hard times, people are just too tired to fight back.

The FNM has ushered in an era of unprecedented levels of unemployment, feeling of victimization, economic hardship, misery index, crime (1 murder per week) and suicide (including suicide related behavior (2 per week).  It is unprecedented for people to have worked for government for 19 years and to be called to be told that they have to leave their job that day; the very same day.  What about their plans for their future, their pensions, medical insurance, children’s school fees, mortgage payments, and other living expenses? All of this while the Gussiemae Cabinet rides around in cars with a/c piping, paid for by the Bahamian taxpayer and completely out of touch with the suffering that their policies are causing to Bahamians.

As a matter of interest the cutting of the Gussie Mae Cabinet could have also paid for the East End McPherson’s Bend Beach Redevelopment
o 550 meters almost 1900 feet
o $1,500,000
o Almost totally paid for by the proposed cut in the Gussie Mae Cabinet

We do not oppose the growth of the cruise ship visitors to The Bahamas. We say that:
• proper cost benefit analysis, without a gun to our heads, must be done
• these decisions ought not to be controversial and ought to involve all stakeholders (proper consultation)
• Bahamians should fully understand the reasons for the decisions
• Publicize the cost benefit analysis, economic projections, Environmental Impact Assessments, Environmental  Management Plans, Memoranda of Understanding, Heads of Agreements, the names of the developers, the contractors, etc all should be posted on line and tabled in Parliament
• Why 6 years for the extension rather than the usual review after 3, especially when the IMF has just said we need to look carefully at concessions
• We should negotiate concessions as a Caricom block
• We condemn the FNM for acting to benefit FNM special interests rather than planning and acting for the long term benefit of Bahamians.

PLP plan, SUGGESTED AND APPROVED BY THE MACKEY AND SOLOMON COMMITTEE [entirely open and transparent process] was to start the Straw Market, the SW Port and the Arawak Cay/Fish Fry projects together with the beach improvements. All of these CLEARLY benefit ALL Bahamians and tourists alike.

The FNM plan [done in secret and not open and not transparent] is to implement and amended Mackey and Solomon Plan. Amended to benefit FNM Special interests. How?
• Arawak Cay Container Port owned by FNM special interests (capital foundation paid for by the Bahamian taxpayer as a part of the harbour dredging contract)  instead of SW Port
• Improve the Woodes Rogers to Armstrong Street waterfront at the expense of the Bahamian taxpayer,  as a part of the Harbour Dredging contract
• Extend the concessions to cruise ships for 6 years not the usual 3
• Do not build a Straw Market Plaza so that visitors will be attracted to the retail, marinas, etc on Eastern side of Bay St. owned by the FNM special interests rather than to the straw market, no longer an anchor tenant as the Straw Market Plaza would have been at the Western end of Bay St.

VISION 2020 is not advanced
1. Ownership of more than 50% of the tourism product
a. This proposal does not give Bahamians entrepreneurial access to more than 2 million visitors on the cruise line owned Islands in The Bahamas
2. 100% growth in Bahamian entrepreneurship
a. See comment at (a) above
3. E Government on line and all agencies integrated and easy access to all persons desiring to do business with government, full access to information impacting government decisions (planning, environment, economic projections etc. + engineers, architects, etc on board early on) and appointment of a E Czar
a. Arawak Cay expansion not on line:
i. MOU
ii. Cost
iii. Environmental Imact Assessment
iv. Environmental Management Plan
v. Shareholders
vi. Contractors
vii. Contract opportunities
viii.  Woodes Rogers expansion the same items are not on line

We believe that this entire matter ought to have been approached in a collaborative and consultative fashion.   In this way all of the people’s representatives would be acting in this vital sector for the benefit of the people.

1. Ownership of more than 50% of the tourism product
2. Ownership of more than 50% of the financial services product
3. 100% growth in Bahamian entrepreneurship
4. To locally grow 50% of our food needs
5. The national average in English and Math to be B rather than E. And the national average overall to C
6. A national plan for training, retraining and equipping citizens for cutting edge, value added, 21st century service
7. Universal health care for all Bahamians including a national plan for good health, including parks, recreation and beach access
8. A legal system where all matters are brought to trial within 2 years
9. A system of governance where routine applications, and major policy decisions are depoliticized. One all requirements are met, the licence, permanent residence or any permit is automatically granted
10. A system of governance where the people elect all persons who will make decisions on their behalf e.g. all boards will be elected rather than appointed
11.  Reliable and affordable supply of all utilities and 50% decrease on fossil fuel dependence
12. E Government on line and all agencies integrated and easy access to all persons desiring to do business with government, full access to information impacting government decisions (planning, environment, economic projections etc. + engineers, architects, etc on board early on) and appointment of a E Czar
13. Universal access to the world wide web
14. A land policy that ensures access to Bahamian land and
patrimony for future generations.
15. Policies evaluated to measure the extent to which they
positively enhance and strengthen family life.

It is shocking to see the government bragging about the new housing and enterprise in the South West New Providence when it cannot RIGHT NOW provide for adequate BEC; WSC; BTC; hospitals; schools for the existing population of New Providence. Why is the government building on a “broken foundation”?  It is time to invest in the future. The government should subsidize Bahamians moving to the Family Islands. Right now it is government policy to subsidize land ownership by underwriting the cost of a low cost home.  Take this policy to the next level.

We propose that the government should:

• GIVE Crown land to any Bahamian prepared to move to and live in a Family Island
• SUBSIDIZE the construction of residences whether they are government built low cost  homes or privately built residences
• SUBSDIZIE Bahamians prepared to invest in the transport business to transport people from Family Islands to Nassau for the morning and afternoon commute.
Think about the following:

• Around the world people commute to and from work and school. In places like New York and Washington D.C. the commute could be as much as 2h each way
• The South West Port would be the ideal landing point for those commuting by sea.
• Public and or Private transport businesses in Nassau would develop to serve this new market
• The construction business, the foundation of our economy, (as is the motor car business in the US) would be significantly stimulated
• Other enterprises would develop in these growing communities and new opportunities would flourish
• Persons commuting from Andros by sea would arrive at work faster than those commuting by car from Fox Hill.
• Islands near to New Providence such as Andros, Abaco and Eleuthera would be ideal starting points for this new initiative.

All studies commissioned showed that the SW Port is true stimulus; it is a long term sensible environmentally sound investment that can and will pay for itself, it will serve The Bahamas for more than 50 years (it will not outgrow demand as Arawak Cay will); it can pay for itself; it opens up opportunities for NEW BAHAMIAN ENTREPRENEURS and it will achieve many of the 2020 goals.