Monday, January 23, 2012 the end of the day, workers will be laid off if the Atlantis resort performs poorly... just like in 2008 with the onset of the global financial crisis

Politics and the Atlantis deal

Tribune News Editor

As is to be expected at this advanced stage in the election cycle, every issue with potential political mileage is going to be spun for all it's worth.

Just so with the collapse of the Atlantis ownership transfer deal. Mr Christie says Mr Ingraham should have been more forthcoming about the details, Mr Ingraham says Mr Christie's poor decisions in office created the conditions that led to the deal in the first place, and Branville McCartney says both men knew the proposal was bad for Bahamians, but kept this information from the public.

And, in another clear indicator of the times, even while politicking their hearts out Messrs Christie and McCartney have both sought to give the impression they are the only straight talker; the one not using the failed deal as a political stick to beat the others with.

The PLP leader has provided us with perhaps the most amusing quote, a classic example of political doublespeak.

Berating the Prime Minister for "playing politics" as the deal collapsed, Mr Christie said: "Atlantis is the nation's single largest private employer and thousands of Bahamian jobs are at stake."

Then: "We're told he found out on Friday that the Brookfield deal was going under. Did he tell the people of the Bahamas? Did he call union leaders or meet with workers? Did he start reviewing options for moving forward? No."

Let's see if we can follow his logic. The issue is too sensitive and too important for the Prime Minister to continue with politics-as-usual. To prove this, Mr Christie tries to scare the hell out of everyone ("thousands of Bahamian jobs are at stake"), then uses his alarmist interpretation to criticise the behaviour of his political opponent.

A political jab, disguised as a warning about making political jabs. Did Mr Christie think no one would see through his crafty trick?

His version is alarmist and inflammatory, because anyone with the merest hint of business sense - and I'm sure that includes Mr Christie - knows two facts to be true.

The first is that there is nothing the government can do at this stage about the underlying factors: Kerzner's inability to pay its creditors and the decision of those creditors to call in their loans.

The DNA may well be right, the deal would not have been ideal for the Bahamas; nevertheless, it was the only one on the table. What should the government have done, allow the largest private sector employer in the country to go bankrupt? Stage a $2.3 billion bail-out?


The second, more important fact, is that contrary to Mr Christie's assertions, the failure of the Brookfield deal has in no way rewritten the future for Atlantis workers.

That's not to say everything will necessarily be fine in the long-run, only that the probability it will has not been improved or worsened by the collapse of the deal.

This is especially the case, as while the transaction was scuppered by two junior creditors, the major players were all onboard, meaning a revised proposal with relatively minor changes could see the deal resurrected soon.

So, at the end of the day, workers will be laid off if the resort performs poorly - just like in 2008 with the onset of the global financial crisis.

If Atlantis does well, people will keep their jobs. Simple as that.

Now, no one is naive enough to believe the going will be easy; the creditors will expect hefty profit margins. After all, they're in it to get their money back.

But an essential ingredient in this formula is the product, which attracts the guests in the first place, and the new owners will know an understaffed resort is the fastest route to falling standards.

So, is it merely a case of much ado about nothing? Not quite.

What all the political gauze of the last week or so has managed to do, is obscure the real lesson of this "crisis" - the extent to which the notion has become imbedded in our collective psyche that as goes Atlantis, so goes the Bahamas.

The anxiety unleashed by this turn of events exposed how inextricably intertwined our sense of national well-being has become with the fate of a single entity.

Even those violently opposed to the pink monstrosity across the bridge have been lulled over the years into the assumption of its permanence, its inevitability.

Leaving aside arguments about whether the nature of our economy would have allowed for any realistic alternative, can it be healthy for a society to pin all its hopes on a single business, the ultimate fate of which is decided beyond our shores?

Of course, this leads us into a consideration of what the Bahamas would be today if Sol Kerzner had never come here in the first place.

When 800 workers were laid off from Atlantis in 2008, there was widespread concern that it would spark a crime wave. What would the other 8,000 employees be doing right now if history had taken a different course?

What other cracks in our society have been papered over by the existence of a mega-resort which just as easily, might never have been?

* What do you think?


January 23, 2012