By Geoffrey Brown
Nassau Guardian Business Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Political and private sector officials in The Bahamas have questioned the feasibility of a recently proposed $10 million “world-class” race track and motorsports complex in New Providence, arguing that the government cannot afford to “go on another spending spree”, given the state of the Bahamian economy.
Shadow minister of finance Peter Turnquest questioned the economic benefit of developing motorsports-based tourism in the country, citing the mixed commercial performance of the Bahamas Speed Week Revival over the past three years.
“The Speed Week that they’ve been having here has proven to not be successful, and we’ve spent a lot of money on promoting it. Before we talk about spending more government money, (the government) needs to present the feasibility of it.
“We can’t go on another spending spree… we don’t have the money for it,” stated Turnquest.
Minister of youth, sports and culture Dr Daniel Johnson announced the proposed track along with global and regional directors of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) on Tuesday, noting that the track would further boost sports tourism in The Bahamas while also providing a training space for police and medical personnel.
Johnson defended the government’s investment into the proposed track, stating that it could provide a “five-to-one return” on the government’s initial $10 million investment.
“It’s not about a one-off Speed Week… It’s an investment in the economy and an investment in the Bahamian people.
“We want to put The Bahamas on the world motorsports tour… This will be a fantastic opportunity for Bahamians,” said Johnson at the time of the announcement.
However, Coalition for Responsible Taxation (CRT) co-chair Gowon Bowe also expressed concerns with the proposal, arguing that it was better suited for private investment than direct government involvement, given the lengthy amount of time it would likely take the government to recoup its investment.
“They need to be looking at the feasibility studies. Really what they should be demonstrating is how (the government) would get that money back quickly, because the government shouldn’t be looking to spend its own resources for something that it’s not going to be able to recover in a short period of time.
“For something like (the track), it is ideal if they could get a private investor willing to lend the money and then use the proceeds from that to be able to pay them back.
“That’s one (development) that we need to very careful of, because while it may sound nice and it has potential to generate revenue in the future, can it generate sufficient revenue and enable the government to recover its investment? I think this is one that is more primed for the private sector than it is for the government,” said Bowe.
The $10 million complex will host FIA racing events while also offering a venue for government training and community outreach programs. However, the finalized location of the track and estimated date of completion were not provided.
FIA director for The Bahamas and Caribbean David McLaughlin said that the government and FIA were currently eyeing the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre and a yet-to-be-disclosed venue as possible locations for the track.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian