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OBA seeks reality check on entrepreneurship

Speaking out: concerned citizens against the commercialisation of Shelly Bay Beach are shown during a town hall meeting (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Government’s change of heart on plans for concessions at Shelly Bay “flies in the face” of its promise to back local businesses, the shadow tourism minister said yesterday.

Leah Scott said: “The Progressive Labour Party government is promoting entrepreneurship and they are creating all these opportunities; you can’t complain on the one hand that people don’t have jobs when people are trying to stifle the opportunity.

“If we’re creating entrepreneurship opportunities, then let’s be realistic in allowing those to happen.”

Ms Scott was speaking after the announcement last week that the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s plan to use shipping containers to house concessions at Shelly Bay had been scrapped.

Jamahl Simmons, the tourism minister, said that the move was made after a meeting with residents opposed to the BTA’s plan.

Four finalists in a tender process to operate at the beach — three food vendors and a beach and boat rental business — took part in a public event at the Hamilton Parish beach last week.

Ms Scott said the about-turn by the Government on the BTA’s plan for Shelly Bay Beach showed the “tenuous balance” of politics in Bermuda.

She explained: “You want to progress things, but we’re public servants. We’re here to carry out the agenda of the people.”

Ms Scott said that the Government’s decision to scrap the BTA’s plan should be “applauded” only if it had been based on real concerns rather than “buckling under the pressure”.

She added: “There is going to have to come a point where people recognise that we’ve got to do some things that are non-traditional.”

Mr Simmons said last week that the BTA was not at the meeting held with area residents. Ms Scott said it was “a bit disconcerting” to hear that the tourism quango behind the beach plan was not represented.

She explained: “As this was their project, I think there should have been some inclusion.”

Ms Scott said she applauded the BTA for its creativity in considering housing concessions at the beach in repurposed shipping containers.

She added: “The challenge is that Bermuda is just so conservative in some ways. We’ve got to get out of the rut.”

Ms Scott said that Bermuda’s economy could not be dependent on international business alone.

She added: “Non-traditional is going to be what people are not used to, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing.

“We can’t continue to do the same old thing. We have to do things that are going to entice people to come here.”

A group of residents opposed to the BTA’s plan last week unveiled their own proposal for the beach.

It called for the beach to be made accessible to people with disabilities, including a removable non-slip mat for wheelchairs down to the water.

Ms Scott said the group’s plan deserved credit for promoting the needs of the disabled.

She added: “We are not a very good country in supporting our disabled people.”

Ms Scott said she did not believe the group’s proposal and that of the BTA were incompatible.

She added that she expected that a “comprehensive summary” of the plans for the beach would be provided.

Mr Simmons was asked when residents might expect to know the specific plans for Shelly Bay.

A spokeswoman for the ministry said it would “provide further updates in due course”.

The BTA also declined to comment and added the quango would have further talks with the Government on the future of the beach.