Categorized | National News


The Member of Parliament for Englerston,  Glenys Hanna Martin is calling the  Heads of Agreement between the Bahamian people and Disney laid in Parliament last Wednesday by the Prime Minister “pathetic and shameful.”

“The reasons stated by Dr. Hubert  Minnis for excluding the media and thereby not informing the Bahamian people that the Agreement was being or had been executed is juvenile and disingenuous.,” she said.

The former Minister of Transport in the former  Progressive Liberal Party government  in a press statement said, “ this administration has failed miserably to negotiate a fair and equitable arrangement for the Bahamian people or to ensure that opportunities are maximized for the Bahamian people.

“In light of our previous experience as a nation in these matters and the pre election pronouncements by this administration, we would have expected more and not less in protecting and promoting the economic interests of the Bahamian people.

“A project which was chosen over a competitor with Bahamian involvement and which attracted so much controversy and which encompasses perhaps one of the most beautiful spots on earth should have been diligently negotiated to yield high performing economic opportunities for our people and contained stringent environmental provisions,” said the MP.

“The agreement lacks transparency in that it does not disclose the amount of crown land by way of seabed being leased for 100 years to Disney.

The fee charged under the lease is the nominal sum of $1,000 per acre with no stamp duty attached.

“This is essentially a giveaway to Disney,” she added.

“Further, the reference to Oxford economics on the economic impact is misleading unless it also factors in the value of the many concessions made from the Public Purse to Disney, a multi biliion dollar international corporate entity; but even on the face of it the sum of $805 million projected GDP impact and $357.5 million in revenues over a 25 year period is far from spectacular especially when considering the concessions that are being given.

The agreement gives concessions and exemptions to Disney from real property tax for 20 years with the right to extend for multiple 10 year periods: it appears there will be no VAT payable by Disney on anything, nor on any single aspect on revenue or earnings received from its operations or its amenities and services: further, Disney will be permanently exempt from business license fees.

“It appears that the agreement contemplates Disney running its own water and electricity plants.

By contrast the benefits to the Bahamian people seem peripheral and couched in vague and indeterminate language.

There is no secure and firming protection of any economic benefit to the Bahamian people,” Mrs Hanna Martin said.

She said, “the agreement purports to secure at least 120 construction jobs but the ratio of foreign to Bahamian labour is subject to the exigencies of the project such as so-called expertise and technical demands, timely completion etc.

Our experience tells us what this can mean.

“There is no guarantee in the agreement for the use of a Bahamian contractors and it seems safe to assume that a foreign contractor is contemplated.

“The permanent involvement by Bahamians appears to be :-
1) 150 jobs (with work permits anticipated) and
2) access by Bahamian vendors of t-shirts and souvenirs and retail items etc, the number of vendors and type of merchandise ultimately to be at the discretion of Disney.

“There is no provision allowing participation in any shops and restaurants as at least one minister previously touted: this is an area reserved for Disney.

“The stipulation to acquire local agricultural produce at 5 per cent is tepid at best.

“Tour excursion offerings by sea and by land are stipulated for Bahamians but only subject to the determination by Disney as to quality and skill, failing which the agreement seems to contemplate non-Bahamians participating in areas which are strictly reserved for Bahamians only,” said Mrs Hanna Martin.

She called it  “ an unprecedented departure from the norm of securing the interests of Bahamians in these industries in such agreements.

“This agreement exclusively reserves for Disney the rental of non motorized water sports equipment to the exclusion of Bahamians

“It will also allow Disney to engage in other undefined recreational concessions and operations possibly areas reserved for Bahamians only.

“Opportunities for Bahamian artists and musicians have not been firmly secured and in fact many of the provisions are vaguely worded and provide no firm commitment nor do they definitively or actively promote Bahamian art and culture in the ongoing concern; for example there is provision for live entertainment only when the developer elects to feature live entertainment and at “reasonable” cost and on a determination of “standard”.

“The provisions for employment of Bahamians utilize language which gives considerable wiggle room to the investor to exclude Bahamians.

“The requirement of “meaningfully” contributing to initiatives to meet local community needs is vague and in some instances non committal.

“The commitment for training etc is non substantial in the area of $20,000 a year for 5 years,” she stated.

The MP protested saying, “there is no claw back for concessions given if Disney fails to meet its commitments to employment or access or anything other than the initial investment commitment.

“The provisions to protect the environment are not as stringent as they must be.

“The agreement only makes the developer liable for damage caused by its “negligent” acts whereas the liability should be strict in that any damage caused by Disney or its contractors whether by negligence or otherwise should be the responsiblity of Disney for mitigation and remediation: it appears this places this burden on the Bahamian people:

“The Best Commission must have the right to immediately enter and inspect where there is a violation of the environmental management plan and not restricted to “reasonable notice” as the agreement stipulates.

“This is particularly of concern considering the substantial dredging, drilling and boring expected in the construction of the pier.
This is an unacceptable restriction.

The provision for so-called “non commercial” access to the Disney resort should have been more clearly defined.
Does this non commercial access mean a Bahamian cannot enter the premises to buy a soda?” she asked.

As it relates to that part of Lighthouse Point which is being conveyed to the Bahamian people under this agreement, Mrs Hanna Martin said, “the Bahamas government must make it clear and at all times protect and promote the unhindered access of the “Bahamian people to this land and ensure that it does not by happenstance become an exclusive feature of the Disney plant.

“The observations of Re Earth as to environmental concerns of this project including reference to the actual track record of Disney at Castaway Cay must be given full weight and careful consideration.”

She  noted  that the Developer has been given at least 24 months before the project begins in earnest and so any economic benefit may very likely be long in coming.

The Englerston MP said, “ just as this administration failed to protect the economic, social and environmental interests of the Bahamian people in the Oban deal, so again we see the interests of the Bahamian people being horribly mismanaged in the hands of this Minnis administration.

“This could have been an opportunity to hold the Bahamian people high and guarantee a greater share of the economic pie in deals with foreign investors, the likes of billionaire multinational giants such as Disney.
Sadly, it is not”, she said.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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