I had no idea. But I guess that's why it's good to get out of the office and attend the odd function.
The folks from The Bahamas held a get-together at the King Eddy (sorry, Le Meridien King Edward Hotel) on Wednesday night to showcase such projects as the $400 million they're spending on the airport (with help from the folks at Vancouver's terrific facility), $290 million on roads, $51 million on the harbour, etc... I might have a couple of those numbers wrong; it was hard to keep up with the deluge of financial information in the video they showed the media.
Tourism Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace called the current boost in The Bahamas "the greatest capital investment in our history" and one of the largest anywhere.
"It's not theoretical," he said. "It's real work that will make a substantial difference."
The biggest project is Baha Mar at Cable Beach in Nassau, just a few yards down the road from the wildly successful/crazy/over-the-top Atlantis Resort, with its massive outdoor aquarium and water slides and landscaping galore. It's not my cup of tea, having decided to spend my days in the Bahamas a year ago on quiet, and I mean QUIET, Long Island, with just two resorts on an island that measures roughly 130 km in length.
Anyway, there's a huge market for bigger and brighter and casinos and all that, and The Bahamas is providing that at Baha Mar. There will be a convention centre, large hotel-resorts (Hyatt has signed on for a 700-room Grand Hyatt and the Baha Mar folks also have partners in Rosewood Hotels and Resorts and Morgans Hotel Group) and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. And probably lots of places to sit under a palm tree and sip a Bahama Mama, and I'm all for that.
Vanderpool-Wallace said there's tremendous diversity amongst the 16 islands of the Bahamas and pointed out that many of the islands are bigger than some Caribbean nations.
He also got around, and rightly so, to playing up the impossibly blue/green waters of The Bahamas. He told the media that when astronauts go to space, they say they're struck most by being able to see the Wall of China and then the waters of The Bahamas.
I flew in a tiny plane from Nassau to Long Island on my visit, and got a first-hand view of some of what he was talking about, which you can see in the photo at right.
It's a pretty spectacular place, for sure. I even had a chance on Wednesday to chat with the Prime Minister, Hubert Ingraham. He talked about his favourite fishing haunts in Abaco and said he was a big fan of Long Island, as well.
He told me the investments being made - mostly from the private sector but with government help - is "absolutely essential."
"We've had significant economic problems, like a lot of places, but we have a relatively low debt burden. We have enough to increase our spending and create a stimulus."
The Prime MInister said they're "very environmentally conscious" and have Environmental Impact Statements done on projects to be sure they won't harm the natural beauty of The Bahamas. Some, of course, might dispute how environmentally friendly a massive resort would be on Cable Beach. But there's no disputing the economic impact from a project that large, and it certainly should help with jobs. A report circulated Wednesday said the Baha Mar project alone will "stimulate a cumulative $11.2 billion over the next 20 years in The Bahamas' gross domest product, including 12,000 new jobs."
Ingraham advises visitors to check out as much as they can, of course, but says he's partial to fishing at Grand Key and says his biggest catch there is a 60-pound tuna.
"I had help bringing it in," he confessed with a grin.