NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A local entrepreneur said yesterday that his 10-year quest to secure Crown land for his beach club development and ongoing dispute with Royal Caribbean highlights why this nation’s ease of doing business ranking is so low.
Speaking with Eyewitness News following a virtual public consultation on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for Royal Caribbean’s $110 million Royal Beach Club project Wednesday night, businessman Toby Smith said: “I am absolutely disturbed by all of this.”
He added: “Only the Supreme Court has the authority to determine the validity of the lease. If Royal Caribbean thinks they can go full steam ahead, they are sadly mistaken.”
The date for completion of EIA public consultation is October 12, by which time all comments and questions about the project must be submitted to the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection.
Smith is seeking a Supreme Court declaration that he already has a valid and binding lease for some of the same seven to 10-acre parcel sought by Royal Caribbean for its development, which is scheduled to open in May 2023.
Smith has repeatedly questioned whether the company is in possession of a Crown land lease for its project and vowed to continue to pursue litigation over the proposed development. Smith has proposed a $2 million restoration of Paradise Island’s lighthouse.
“What I am going through is what thousands of Bahamians have gone through in the process of applying for Crown land in this country,” said Smith.
“This is part of the reason why we are so low when it comes to the ease of doing business ranking.
“I am in my 10th year of trying to get this project going and for the government to double deal on the same land is shameful. It sends a strong message to local and international investors and it’s not a good message at all.”
On the World Bank’s last Ease of Doing Business ranking, in 2020, this nation ranked 119 out of 190 countries. The World Bank has suspended the publication of its annual Ease of Doing Business ranking because of discrepancies in the data.