NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Tourism & Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday defended the transparency of the Nassau cruise port deal, noting that Bahamians will benefit from a 51 per cent stake in the port.
Under the proposed ownership structure of Nassau Cruise Port, Global Ports Holding will own 49 per cent of the company, while another 49 per cent will be owned by the Bahamas Investment Fund (BIF).
BIF will serve as an investment vehicle which will allow Bahamians to become shareholders in the project.
The Fund will issue two share classes, A and B, with one representing debt and the other equity investments.
The final two per cent to be used to establish the Yes Foundation, a charitable fund that will support youth, education and sports programmes.
Mr D’Aguilar was addressing concerns raised by Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin, who has repeatedly raised concerns over the agreement with Global Ports Holding, the UK-listed, Turkish-headquartered operator of 16 cruise ports spread throughout the Mediterranean, Asia-Pacific and Atlantic regions.
Global Ports Holding was unveiled in February as the preferred bidder to take over Prince George Wharf’s management and operations, and oversee its redevelopment.
During last week’s Parliamentary session, Hanna-Martin questioned the relationship between Arawak Port Development and Global Ports Holding, referencing the appointment of former APD chairman Mike Maura who now serves as GPH’s regional director for the Caribbean and Americas.
Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest however dismissed what he described as “unfair innuendo” by Hanna Martin.
The Opposition has slammed the $250 million port redevelopment deal as a ‘giveaway’.
“I had not been made aware of anything that is left out,” said D’Aguilar.
“This is a very transparent process. The port operating lease agreement has been laid in Parliament. Everyone can see what is going on. Obviously there is a redevelopment that will take place of $250 million.”
He said: “I think they (the Opposition) are concerned about who is going to own it. The government has assured that shares will be floated and Bahamian people will own 51 per cent of that port.”
Pointing to the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) arrangement, D’Aguilar said, “The airport is 100 per cent owned by the government of The Bahamas but when you look at where the cheque goes every month to pay for it, 75 per cent goes out to foreigners.
“In this instance we want to develop a structure that when we cut a cheque at the end of the month for interest or for dividends it goes to Bahamians and 51 per cent will go to Bahamians.”
D’Aguilar added: “There is not a Bahamian with the exception of the member for Englerston who doesn’t think that the port needs a signficant reinvigoration and revitalization. The government doesn’t have the money to do it so we have to involve the private sector.”