A Comic’s View: Hard Card Sharkis, Air Miles Allyson And Carnival’s Chinese Arithmetic
As I look back over the past few days, I must admit as a professional stand-up comedian, the greasepaint was free flowing, so to speak.
So let’s have a look at the final portrait of the week that was.
A Shark is Born
It’s safe to say Baha Mar is everywhere. Not only can you see the paused paradise from multiple vantage points throughout New Providence, everybody has an opinion on how this bad “soap opera” is playing out.
In this week’s episode, Sarkis Izmirlian, despite his “paper Bahamian” status, proved he might have ventured under a dilly tree or two before and learned to play the game like a “real Bahamian” with his shrewd manoeuvring.
Bold moves – including published letters and a radio interview – got the public’s attention and judging by Facebook and Instagram (which are never wrong) many young Bahamians who were on the fence before are now beginning to root for him.
Basically, Sarkis Izmirlian has positioned Prime Minister Perry Christie between a rock and a great wall, forcing his hand like a cagey card player.
If we are talking a game of dominos, it seems Sarkis holds the key and by signalling his willingness to put up an additional $200 million and insisting “Bahamian” contractors and construction workers finish the project, he has made a play that equates to a masterful move. In others words, “he just jook hard card, in Perry backyard”.
The offer to employ Bahamian contractors does seem the sensible play at this point, especially in light of a fellow Caribbean nation like Guyana making the audacious move to suspend construction work on an airport project contracted to a Chinese firm – and backed by a China EXIM Bank loan – in which questions of quality and safety have come to the forefront.
What bold moves do our leaders have up their sleeves?
Besides all the ‘Legum Baccalaureus’ scurrying around like white-wigged worker ants before a tornado, trying to grab some of the alleged $4 million plus spent so far on all this legal jousting, little has been accomplished.
So I would hope to see Prime Minister Christie and Mr Izmirlian kiss and make up, and work together toward restarting the stalled Baha Mar project – no more crazy talk, no more “sleeping on the couch”, no more bad “fortune” cookies.
But if the games continue, I hope the Prime Minister’s advisers have examined this administration’s cards closely: you can’t simply dismiss Mr Izmirlian as an “outsider” because generations X, Y and these pesky, social media savvy Millennials and their “Twitter fingers” do not see him that way.
Despite their shared Armenian ancestry, he’s no Kardashian (Sarkis actually graduated from Georgetown University, without having to “date” the entire varsity basketball team in order to do so) but is more like a card shark, who is betting on Bahamian contractors and his so-called Baha Mar citizens.
Mr Izmirlian (who could have bought a few NFL franchises and a baseball team or two for what he has invested here) struck a chord with the young populace this week by “keeping it real” with his blunt statements, and despite his being somewhat soft spoken I think you can now call him “Sharkis,” “Megladon” even! (In my “Snagglepuss” voice.)
Allyson in Wonderland
I’ll be honest, there’s not enough pork fried rice in all of China to make me undertake the fatiguing mission our Attorney General, Allyson Maynard Gibson, has been on with her back-and-forth continent crossing these past few weeks.
Not only has the Prime Minister relied on her legal expertise in negotiations, but the government has also called on her top diplomatic skills as she tried to cut a deal – two big jobs for one “iron lady”.
Fast forward a billion frequent flyer miles and a million man hours and we still don’t have a single steamed dumpling to show for it. But I don’t blame the Attorney General. Many in the media – particularly the talking heads – have given her a bad scorecard for her efforts but, personally, I think she should be commended.
She’s carried an entourage the size of Eleuthera with her (which is no doubt costing us a few trillion a day) whom she has relied on and managed, while getting orders from Nassau which may, or may not, make negotiating easy.
Why can’t the China Construction America, China EXIM bank and Baha Mar officials meet here in the capital? We’ve now sent a delegation twice, which has no doubt cost us a gazillion dollars, and as someone somewhere said before, this is all about … “sovereignity.”
So, with that in mind, we cordially invite all interested parties to move the party from Beijing back to the Bahamas.
Besides, we need better Chinese cuisine here anyway, so add a few chefs to the entourage from China please. Use your frequent flyer miles if you need to.
Carnival – who’s counting?
Carnival has come and gone … and so has our money. Juicy Lucy, you have some explaining to do!
If I knew that hitting “da road” and all that dancing and gyrating was shaking the dollars from the public treasury and the pennies from my pocket, I would have stayed home. No wonder there were masks everywhere during Carnival; it feels like a big time stickup went down.
After months of waiting, we finally got some numbers in from Mr Paul Major, Chairman of the Bahamas National Festival Commission, and as many guessed weeks ago we took a giant L on this one (aka Epic Failure).
Not only did we go over our $9 million budget by $3 million, we failed to generate the kinds of returns on our investment we were led to expect.
I’m no mathematician but, according to reports, more than $12 million grew artificial, glittery feathers and flew away, and apparently over $4 million of those aren’t flying back.
What happened to the “projected” $50 million that was to be made from Carnival? Somewhere in “de fete” I guess.
There’s a lot of blame to go around for this one. Was it the government’s fault for this half-baked Junkanoo Carnival idea? Was it the commission’s fault for not securing that big name artist that could be marketed globally? (FYI, you can’t book an A list “headliner” six weeks out.)
We spent $13 million to make $6 million. What kind of Chinese arithmetic is that?
Was it Mr Major’s fault for not providing proper leadership on a project so important, and in need of professional guidance on its inaugural run?
The truth is, I don’t know who should tote the most blame, but some blame needs to be toted.
What I do know is that Bahamians should be applauded.
If the numbers are true, over 115,000 Bahamians supported the various Carnival events despite many having misgivings about attending.
Sadly, here we are again though; holding the (empty) bag on another failed government initiative.
Just ask the “vendors” and musical artists who won their various categories, who are still waiting for their money, if you don’t want to take my word for it.
I don’t know where the government stands on the future of this event but one thing is certain: you cannot run a Junkanoo Carnival the way you did this time around and, above all, you cannot go over budget.
My advice is to start making some cuts this very minute, and the top is always a good place to start.
• Inigo ‘Naughty’ Zenicazelaya is the resident stand-up comic at Jokers Wild Comedy Club at the Atlantis, Paradise Island, resort and presents ‘Mischief and Mayhem in da AM’ on KISS FM 96.1 from 6am to 10am, Monday to Friday. He also writes a sports column in The Tribune on Tuesday. Comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.