Questions raised over government’s plans to purchase International Bazaar on Grand Bahama for $30M

Questions raised over government’s plans to purchase International Bazaar on Grand Bahama for $30M

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government aims to source $30 million to fund the purchase of the International Bazaar, Prime Minister Philip Davis revealed during his budget communication.

Prime Minister Davis did not specify where the government would obtain the funds or detail the plans for the site, which has fallen into disrepair. Davis stated: “This budget year, we expect to source $30 million to fund the purchase of the International Bazaar and the reopening of the West Sunrise Highway to accommodate the projected growth in tourism and economic activity over the next few years.”

The government has reportedly been considering acquiring the derelict site for a proposed African-Caribbean products marketplace. The Africa Export-Import Bank could be a possible source of funding although this remains uncertain. The Bazaar is owned by multiple entities, including the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU), John Bull, and the Chee-A-Tow family.

James Carey, President of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, told Eyewitness News that the bazaar site is valuable for development. “The Bazaar is dilapidated, has had a couple of fires, and has been a home for vagrants. It’s an eyesore. It’s right next to the two Princess Hotels, which are also in a state of disrepair. While they have not said what they will do, it’s a valuable location ripe for development,” said Carey.

“The Prime Minister also indicated that the government plans to restore the roadway, which was discontinued when Princess Hotels were purchased by Driftwood. I know the public would want the roadway restored for convenience. Since that closure, a number of businesses have sprung up on the detoured roads around, and we hope they would not be adversely impacted. I understand the need to restore the road and clean up the area.”

Carey noted there was no mention of the Grand Lucayan during the Prime Minister’s communication. “I know the government has stated that they will make an announcement when they have something definitive, but the Grand Lucayan needs to be reopened. The airport is a quiet subject as well.”

In November 2022, the government said its deal to sell the Freeport property to Electra American Hospital Ltd. for $100 million fell through and has made no announcement regarding the property’s sale since, although Prime Minister Davis expressed optimism in January that a deal would be concluded this year. The Minnis administration bought Grand Lucayan from Hutchison Whampoa in August 2018 for $65 million.

Carey further stated: “I didn’t hear anything about working with the Port Authority or the government’s vision for Grand Bahama. Prime Minister Davis noted that the 2024/25 budget estimate for total revenue amounts to $3.54 billion, which excludes reimbursement of $75 million from the Grand Bahama Port Authority during this specific budget year. The GBPA has strongly refuted the claim by the government that it owes $357 million as asserted by the government.”

Opposition leader Michael Pintard called the Prime Minister’s announcement regarding the International Bazaar “bizarre.” He said: “The reality is, the 427-acre Royal Oasis resort was bought by Harcourt in 2007 for $33 million. The bazaar itself is 9.5 acres. We don’t understand the math,” noting that the Opposition intends to investigate the matter.