NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Various stakeholders are calling into question government’s recent Heads of Agreement (HOA) signed with Disney Cruise Lines to construct a $400 million-dollar cruise port and entertainment facility on Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera.
The deal was inked last week but was only made public on the weekend.
Not only are questions surfacing on why the deal seemingly took place behind closed doors, but also why the government appears not to be living up to its mandate of transparency.
Progressive Liberal Party leader Philip Brave Davis said the signing, which appeared to be “secretive,” is a disrespect to Bahamians.
“This is a government that speaks one thing and does another,” Davis chastened during a press conference on Monday.
“Hypocrisy has been the mantra of this government and the only thing clear, transparent and open about them is their hypocrisy on any number of issues and in the manner in which they have executed governance to date.”
The government announced Saturday that it signed a Heads of Agreement with Disney last week Thursday.
The prime minister made the revelation at a town hall meeting in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera over the weekend.
His announcement was followed up with a press statement issued from the Office of the Prime Minister to confirm the same.
The prime minister said the deal allows for low-density development and sustainable design, public access and economic opportunities for Bahamians.
The HOA outlines that Disney provides a minimum of 120 jobs for Bahamians curing the construction of the development.
The cruise line has also committed to aim for an overall ratio of 80 per cent Bahamian workers to 20 per cent non-Bahamian workers.
Jeff Vahle, President, Disney Cruise Lines told media on Monday that they are pleased to have finalized an agreement with the government of The Bahamas that will enable them to create new and sustainable economic opportunities for the people of Eleuthera while celebrating the natural beauty and culture of the island with its guests.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the private signing last week Thursday, Davis said government’s talk of accountability and transparency is a ‘joke’.
“Their track record for negotiating matters on behalf of Bahamians have been dismal and I trust that they would have learnt from their past experiences in negotiating to ensure that what they have negotiated in this arrangement is for the benefit of Bahamians and in particular the communities of South Eleuthera,” Davis said.
Eyewitness News Online also contacted Eric Carey, Executive Director of Bahamas National Trust (BNT) for comment on the contract signing.
Carey noted that BNT has requested the government to provide a copy of the agreement to review before it makes a public statement on the matter.
Meantime, Matt Maura, Executive Director of the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) told Eyewitness News Online Monday that they will continue to agitate for more transparency in governance.
“I think transparency is one thing, like accountability, that is easy to say and hard to actualize and when we are coming out of a culture of lack of transparency and accountability its tough to say it’s just going to happen right away,” he opined.
“But, we do need a more regularized and standardized process of public consultation so that it fully understood what something means, what’s the timing for it, when information will be released and when it will be available for the public to absorb and comment on.”
The prime minister confirmed that the multi-million-dollar development will begin in short order.