Christie and PLP Flip-Flop on Chinese Labour Issue
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) may have had a change of heart as it relates to its stance on the controversial foreign work component issue surrounding the Baha Mar deal – which could result in as many as 8,000 Chinese workers being granted work permits.
Yesterday PLP Leader Perry Christie said despite indicating in June that the party would not involve itself in the decision to allow thousands of Chinese workers to receive work permits, he would do what is best for the country.
We have since met with the principle shareholder of Baha Mar and we were briefed by the top executives of the company,” Christie said.
“We are meeting this afternoon to, consider our position on the matter in anticipation of going back to Parliament.
“The Progressive Liberal Party is absolutely aware of the state of our economy – the deteriorated state of our economy and the urgency for there to be some kind of development.
“In that regard we are going to take a position based on the needs of the country. And we’re not going to be tied to anything that I may have said in the past in regards to the work permits. We want to be able to provide a very concerted view on the matter. We (the PLP) begin meeting on the matter at our parliamentary meeting today (yesterday).
In June, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said the approval of the “extraordinary” number of Chinese workers required to help construct the resort development would not be given without opposition support.
But at that time, Christie said the prime minister is “on his very own” as it regards deciding on the Baha Mar labor issue.
He said the PLP had not been given sufficient information on the deal and therefore would not involve itself. When speaking with the Nassau Guardian yesterday, Christie said he still has not spoken to the prime minister yet.
“I know representatives have met with the Chinese ambassador and I don’t know if the prime minister has some special information to provide me with, but I anticipate that if he has new information that would be provided to me prior to our going to Parliament. I have not heard from him yet.
Ingraham met with Chinese Ambassador Hu Dingxian at the Office of the Prime Minister in Cable Beach on Thursday to discuss the Baha Mar project.
Last week The Guardian also spoke to Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly Tommy Turnquest, who confirmed that the Ingraham administration intends to bring the labor resolution to Parliament on September 8.
The Guardian understands that since the announcement from the Cabinet Office late last month that the government of the People’s Republic of China had approved the Baha Mar deal, Baha Mar officials have been meeting with officials from the prime minister’s office to answer questions about the project.
Turnquest said the MPs would be allowed to express their views on the labor issue before the government makes a final determination. If a majority of MPs take issue with that component, he said the government would have to take that into consideration prior to making its decision. Turnquest said publicly that at the height of construction Baha Mar could have up to 8,000 foreign workers on the project.
Baha Mar has said that out of the 10,000 proposed construction jobs the project will create, at least 3,300 will be set aside for Bahamians. Eight thousand permanent jobs are also projected once the resort is completed. The proposed Cable Beach development would be financed by the Export-Import Bank of China and constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation.
If the project receives Bahamas government approval, Baha Mar’s first course of action would be to award nearly $60 million of construction contracts to six Bahamian contractors, representing early infrastructure works needed to prepare the site, Baha Mar’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sarkis Izmirlian said in a press statement last month.
By KRYSTEL ROLLE