By QUINCY PARKER Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham tabled seventeen heads of agreements executed between the Christie Administration and various foreign investors intending to pump billions into the Bahamian economy through tourism and second-home developments over the next two decades or so.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham tabled seventeen heads of agreements executed between the Christie Administration and various foreign investors intending to pump billions into the Bahamian economy through tourism and second-home developments over the next two decades or so.
By tabling the documents in the House of Assembly, Mr. Ingraham made the documents available for public scrutiny – the first time most of these documents have been made public after they were signed, usually with much fanfare.
The heads of agreement between the government of The Bahamas and the developers of the Ginn project contains a number of so-called “special concessions,” which include the right to relocate of a portion of a public road and to privately own and operate an airport.
The agreement also contains commitments from Ginn to the West End community.
Ginn-LA, the Bahamian company formed to oversee the development, has not yet applied for the concessions enshrined in the heads of agreement, and the concessions are contingent upon the approval of the relevant government authorities.
That means, according to officials in the Ministry of Finance, it’s possible that the developer may not get all the concessions that were agreed to in the document.
Among the licenses the Christie government agreed to grant Ginn is the license to develop and operate a privately owned airport facility.
The Ginn airport would include “a fixed base operation and all auxiliary services such as fuel, aircraft maintenance and charter services, subject to the approval of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (presumably now the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation), Ministry of National Security and all other relevant government agencies.”
As well as costs, the agreement makes Ginn responsible for compliance with all current and future Bahamian, International Civil Aviation Organization, Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Safety Authority laws and regulations relating to aviation facilities which are also ports of entry of The Bahamas.
At the time the heads of agreement was signed – December 9, 2005 – there was a public “right-of-way” (a stretch of road) connecting Queens Highway and Bayshore Road that bisected the portion of the land for the Ginn development north of the highway.
The government agreed to take the necessary measures to convey right-of-way to Ginn, in exchange for Ginn providing the government with a new right-of-way to connect the highway and Bayshore Road.
Another special concession enshrined in the agreement has to do with a gaming license for the Ginn casino.
“Upon the construction by Ginn of at least 1,000 bedrooms (inclusive of rooms and units 800 of which will be within the condo-hotel ‘rental programme’ or within a non-condominium hotel), the government will grant simultaneous and/or subsequent approval for the construction of an American style casino having a minimum of 20,000 square feet gaming area, in addition to its related facilities,” the document reads.
The approval would be “subject to the casino being managed by a reputable and well known casino which meets all the requirements of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas for the issuance a Certificate of Consent and a Casino Management Agreement,” among other strictures.
“It is agreed that government will not grant any other casino licenses west of the port area during the term of this heads of agreement (20 years), provided Ginn has opened the above casino within six years after the date of the sale of the first lot in the project.”
The Ginn development encompasses two marinas.
In the agreement, the Christie Administration agreed to fast-track review and approval of the marinas, and to grant “any cuts or jetties necessary for such marinas and access canals, and will cause to be granted to Ginn any Crown Grant and/or any supporting seabed leases to cause such development and sales to occur.”
The government also promised to “expeditiously” review, approve and issue all licenses and leases needed to mine sand from the seabed in order to facilitate the renourishment of the beaches within the Project.”
Another “special concession” granted to Ginn-LA is a promise that the government will use its “best efforts” to cause Ginn to be allowed to establish up to five artificial reefs in the vicinity of West End.
The artificial reefs are to be created “for the purpose of creating increased reef habitat, and for the establishment by Ginn of an official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather station for the Northern Bahamas.”
The government also agreed to allow Ginn to create a landfill to service the Ginn-sur-mer project, the West End area and the adjacent areas, to be owned and operated by Ginn.
Among the commitments Ginn made to West End in the document are the creation of a fund to undertake public improvement projects in the area, initially to be funded to the tune of $3 million, with an additional $20,000 per lot sold added to it once certain conditions have been met.
Ginn also committed to building a sewer treatment plant, and a reverse osmosis plant to accommodate West End as well.