The Pitter-Patter of 16,000 Chinese Feet

Wednesday 25th, August 2010 / 10:49 Published by

“Dey Comin’!!!” says Shackie, the character from Stan Burnside’s ‘Sideburns’ cartoon in the Nassau Guardian. Possibly up to 8,000 Chinese workers may be coming to New Providence to work on Baha Mar.

Many Bahamians have expressed their concerns. But according to accountant Raymond Winder of Deloitte and Touche, the deal is one of the best things that has ever happened to The Bahamas.

Mr. Winder says it would be impossible for Bahamians to complete the project on their own.

“One of the problems that The Bahamas has is that it doesn’t have a workforce that we can be proud of. I don’t think that there are many Bahamian construction companies that are building Bahamian homes that don’t have at least one immigrant as a part of their labour team. We don’t [even] have sufficient Bahamians to build Bahamian homes.”

Phillip Smith, a former High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, questions the ratio of Chinese workers to Bahamian workers, which is the highest ratio of foreign workers we can ever remember.

“Foreign construction workers building hotels, roads, docks, industrial plants and even private homes is not alien to our economy – just look around you. Chinese construction workers are not a bad idea in and of themselves but between 5,000 and 7,000?  This does seem to be the wrong ratio – one Bahamian job for each three Chinese workers?

“Will the House of Assembly be asked to review the individual files for every applicant with the attendant Ministry of Labour report, as one expects is done before a decision on whether or not to provide a work permit? Or, will the government give the employer what will effectively be 7,000 blank work permits and say ‘fill in the blank’?

“In the future, when the farm operator applies for work permits for a few hundred farm workers will the government bring the files to the House of Assembly for the review of members and their approval? Will the government bring the files of applicants for work permits in the hotel industry and financial services sector for review and approval by the members of the House of Assembly?”

Good questions. What kind of a precedent does that set for future work permit applications?

Is this a one-off occasion or just the first until another similar circumstance pops up?

Meanwhile, PUNCH columnist Nicki Kelly shared Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham’s concerns about the viability of the Baha Mar project.

Mr Ingraham has expressed doubts about whether the company had the financial resources to meet its commitments as prescribed under the terms of the agreement.

What Baha Mar cheerleaders have forgotten is that the company still owes over $200 million to the Bank of Nova Scotia.

The money was borrowed to purchase the govemment-owned Radisson/Sheraton hotel ($39 million); the Wyndham and Nassau Beach hotels ($165 million); and for refurbishment of the Sheraton ($90 million). Plus, accrued interest of $50 million.

Some arrangement would have to be reached with the Bank to free the development of any prior encumbrances, before construction can begin.

Ms Kelly sums it up this way, “In view of Baha Mar’s shaky history, Mr Ingraham is understandably cautious about this latest undertaking, because the last thing the Bahamas government and the Bahamian people need is the blight of another failed development, this one in the heart of Cable Beach.”

After witnessing the slow pace of construction for the National Stadium, many Bahamians are concerned that the Baha Mar project will put Cable Beach out of commission for years.

With extensive port holdings in Grand Bahama, coupled with the massive Baha Mar investment in New Providence, others wonder whether The Bahamas will become a Chinese colony.

Real Estate broker Pat Strachan had this to say:

“With reference to the proposed $2.6 billion project, it seems as if this proposed project was doomed from its inception. The original partners were run out of town. It was criticised by the government. Not one government minister was present at the signing in Miami, or at the announcement in China. I’ve also heard that the Chinese government wants the Bahamas government to guarantee the loan for the development.

“One vital question I must ask is what exactly is being proposed for Cable Beach?

“How will our access be honestly affected in the Cable Beach area?”

And, after initially saying the prime minister would be “on his own” in making the controversial decision regarding Chinese workers for Baha Mar, Perry Christie and the PLP had a change of heart.

Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly Tommy Turnquest, confirmed that the Ingraham administration intends to bring the labor resolution to Parliament on September 8.

Now may be a good time to let others, including your MP, know how you feel about the project, specifically the Chinese worker component.

Where do stand on the issue?  Please leave your comments below.

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28 Comments on “The Pitter-Patter of 16,000 Chinese Feet

  • we all can seat back an talk i have read most of the comment and no one are talking about their Behavior the Chinese behavior is the nasty i have seen i live in Canada I see this all the time they don’t know how to talk to people they spit every where,can you see what Nassau would look like if you have 8000 Chinese spiting all over the place.

  • I have read all of the above comments and hear a frustration that echoes across the Bahamas.

    Here in Exuma 120 miles SE of New Providence talk is the same. What appears to escape most of us is that while we talk about the government and what it is doing to our country we seem to forget that in the final analysis WE are the government. Nothing can happen in this country unless the Bahamian people condone it. And what HI or PC do, they do with our consent. We are so satisfied with that “potential” JOB that we are willing to settle for anything.

    Look, why do we need the Chineese to build Bah Mar? Because years ago we closed the trade schools that would have produced the necessary tradesmen… the very same skills that now have to be imported. And don’t fool yourselves.. if you are going to build anything of this magnitude you need to bring in these skills. Ask any contractor who has to build a home or anything for that matter….from laying blocks to tiling…. there are few Bahamians who can do quality work in any kind of time frame, if at all. The Hatian labourers have surpassed the Bahamian because when one tries to teach the Bahamian he says “I Know” and refuses to learn. He feels entitled to the “JOB” even though he has no idea what it takes to do the job. We have become “know it alls” and lazy to boot. So don’t blame the government for allowing these skills in. Even at the lowest level we pale when compared to other nations. We simply can’t cut it. That is why our country is being taken over by anyone who has a desire for our beautiful country. As the old saying goes:”If you don’t use it …you loose it.” DON’T BLAME HUBERT OR PERRY.

    We should know our system does not work for us. But we are reluctant to change it. Blaming the politicians is an escape that won’t fly. In other countries today persons are giving thier lives for not even a tenth of what we have. Yet we sit here and complain and do nothing. Dress up and drive a big car, owe the bank and live far beyond our means in an economy that is so false. Let’s face it. If foreigners pulled out of the Bahamas today we would not have a country. Sad but true.

    The Chineese are coming because the Government can’t do any better!!!! If the Bahamas is to maintain its position in the golbal economy it has to become more productive and since Bahamians are reluctant to shoulder this responsiblity elected officials are doing what they have to do; sell BTC for more efficiency, sell BEC, sell all our land. Why could not a couple of wealthy boys on Eastern Road buy Emerald Bay….. now we complain about Sandals being here. It’s high time Bahamians stop complaining and get involved in our country. Politicians are forced to build on sand because there ain’t no BAHAMIAN ROCK. I am not a politician although I am considering it for survival because we only seem to heed politicians.

    On another note I agree with those who question the validity of the Bah Mar project but for another reason. Why do we continue to force major development on New Providence when we have so many other islands that need help and development. When we can answer that question perhaps we’ll understand why we continue to get the crumbs from the table and are never asked to sit in council.

    So the Chineese are here. In Abaco, in Exuma, in Grand Bahama and now Big Time in New Providence. They will come to stay. We invited them. I guess if they can lend monies to the great US of A then they certainly can lend to tiny Bahamas. The difference is when America can’t pay, the Chinese will negotiate… when the Bahamas can’t pay the Chinese will domesticate. By the time they are through we may all look like the original Lucayans.

    Meanwhile, if this is not what we want then lets put in place positive planning for our future. I have contended for a long time that we don’t need these major developments since they only serve to further remove the Bahamian from participation in the trade. We should be building a Bahamian Tourism industry that is sustainable; owned and operated by Bahamians. In order to do this we have to have a paradigm shift in thinking and change the way we do business in our country. I ungently suggest you read Dr. Roger’s “Is it really Better in the Bahamas…for Bahamians”. It should get you started on the right path to understanding what it is we need to do to have a truly Bahamian Tourism Industry. It’s not enough to just ‘get a job man’. It’s high time we create the jobs.

  • Flagrante Delicto

    So let’s see… Atlantis has problems filling it’s own rooms… Baha Mar already owes $200 million dollar loan to BNS… there will be an importation of 8,000 Chinese slaves into a country whose history is based on slavery… and BahamaGov has no problem with this? People, your government sold you down the peverbial river. Your unique culture has forever been changed right before your unbelieving eyes. Every Bahamaian should pick up signs and picket this project.

    • why you do have to bring the slave card into it?? your forefathers were blessed by being bought to the bahamas you live in a beautiful country…you could still be in africa in war and strife and starving..irritating when i hear or read that its old news

    • you spelled PROVERBIAL wrong which irritates me but I agree with you. it’s simply to much risk and there’s way more benefit to the Chinese than to Bahamians. that’s not fair. This is our country this is our land. It’s desirable land and we could get top dollar for it if the government were so inclined. But like dogs they run after the first bone that is thrown their way, even if its barely enough to satisfy them.

  • If the Bahamians want to sit down and allow the Government to sell the land in the Bahamas then shame on them. I left the Bahamas 36 years ago, because of the Government, couldn’t get a job because my Mummy and Daddy wasn’t Mr or Mrs So & So, I saw it coming, and I took my baby and run like hell. I love my birthplace, but the way that people are treated by the Government is out right sinful. The Bahamas is a beautiful country, but the people in power. God help my people and allow them to stand firm for our Bahama land.

  • Can we bring in 1,000 skilled Chinese and train the other 7,000 Bahamian needed for the project? I’m sure we have lots of unemployed Bahamians that will benefit greatly from this project whose skills will remain at home ready for the next project (hopefully in Andros where we have much land and good water).

    Maybe there is no deal without offloading all 8,000 Chinese – take it or leave it package deal. We really need to look at the effects on the nation not just good numbers and braggin rights for Politics.

  • delano l saunders, esq

    If the Chinese want to invest, make sure the construction work is done by Bahamians alone. Exhort the labor force in Bahamas before bringing in a single Chinese contractor.
    Respect must be given for other business entities to verse there concern as to there prosperity and the effects of such a massive undertaking.

  • Be careful of bad Chinese working habits.. bad ethics. For example, Chinese drywall applications used to rebuild homes affected by Katrina in the southern states of America rot at the hint of moisture – thus creating long term health problems for society, the environment, and HUMANS. On an unrelated note, another example of bad ethics is that the same protein substitute (which is not even real, it’s manufactured) that Westerners allow in dog food are now being allowed in baby formulas (lol, and you wonder why doctors are NOW telling our mothers that breastfeeding is the better solution for healthy growing babies. Even scarier, what measures will the Bahamian Gov’t take to effeciently monitor 8,000 labourers – who are no doubt skilled in all forms of evasive/boot-leg identification technologies. And even if most do not have access to things like that, some will seek asylum eventually, some will disappear throught the cracks, some will have new Bahamian-born Chinese babies, some will look for entitlement. I’m sure there are construction companies in England, USA, and Canada who have crews sharing the mentallity of working and leaving as soon as their scope of the work is complete – they want to get back home to their families, to hunting, to skiing, to living the dream, etc. – they have nothing to run from (Chinese Gov’t, personal living conditions, but everything to go back to). Even more scarier, the speed limits in Bahamas are very high, and we all know “Asians” can’t drive or park for that matter. I’m just saying

  • If the Bahamian goverment is not careful, they will become slaves of their own greed, enslaving you as a people.

    Why can’t you lease your land and not sell it.

    Do you think the Chinese would sell their land to you, Oh! no, it’s good when you can remember your past, it should help you avoid the same mistakes. Who gives up surety for unsurety. You Bahamians need to wake up and and take control of your destinies, or your Prime Minister and his greedy followers are going to sell your entire country out to the highest bidder, and you will become the minority in your own country without a voice.

    Don’t allow the Bahamas to become BahChina right under your noses. Remember your Pime Minister and many others have the means (MONEY) to relocate, do you?

    Think Bahamians don,t fall for the banana in the tale pipe. The BAHAMAS Is your country treat her that way.


    • Why would you sell out the land thats being stupid.i would never sell land to foreigners,i would lease the land to them becausein doing so the country will always have an income off of land because the amount of structures that i see flying up so quickly in Nassau man u blink to fast and you will miss it.Bahamian people talk to your MP`s you put them there for a reason, its the people`s concerns that matters most and if they want to dictate to you then just have a re election.

  • The 8,000 jobs is secondary issue only if we allow this project to continue. The issue here is the project itself, again we must ask ourselves, can New Providence ( The Bahamas) substain this large injection of additional 6 large hotels? And the primary issue we Bahamain need to consider, the transfer of our land to foreign investors (persons). WHY? Must we gave our land away? Why can the Govenment lease our land in partnership to this project. Think People Think!!!!!!

  • I believe that’s exactly what is being done. About 5,000 Chinese are being brought in, with the full agreement of the union – which admits that there are not sufficient Bahamian workers to complete the job. Meanwhile the BCA is looking to train Bahamian construction workers if they can ensure funding for the programmes from the Baha Mar developers.

    • agreed cartwright & to add further..when negotiating projects of these magnitudes such as atlantis, road projects,albany,bahamar,etc..govt
      should have a clause to make investors put funds
      into engineering and or alternate energy programs or the like to educate/train bahamians
      to prevent scenarios of this sort to happen in the furture; school or full pledged programs @ c.o.b and or btvi

  • We really need the work to be done, however that a lot of Chinese.May be just over half will be sufficent along with Bahamian. We must put our people in the front line,also the person heading this project must look out for there countrymen, this is the only place we have as home.

  • Look like? What’s it going to smell like? The Cable Beach area already stinks like a sewer all the time. Just think what will happen when you have thousands of additional flushes flowing into the already overworked sewer system every day.

  • I can’t imagine what Nassau is going to look like with 8,000 Chinese added to the population. The scenery will change I can tell you that.

  • The claim that there are no/not enough skilled or trained constructions workers in The Bahamas is nothing more than the haves trying to control the haves’not. It is a filthy lie and they know it! The minority 2%-5% has gotten its way with all things Bahamian for far too long. You mean to tell me that only the ‘professionals’ have the training/skills? I am sick n tired of the manipulating rhetoric of the 2%-5% in this country; they need to be exposed for their corruption, lies and deception.

    Ain’t long now!

  • Well, some one has to be brought in… there are simply not enough skilled workers in the Bahamian workforce for this project and the Chinese labourers that Baha Mar is bringing in are highly skilled workers with experience in major construction projects like this one and bigger. Baha Mar needs to be a top notch quality job. Don’t worry fellow Bahamians, once Baha Mar is constructed it will open up plenty jobs for us all. I am honing my skills now for the job I want to apply for when they are ready to hire.

    • yes i agree with you to a certain extent that there will be plenty of jobs,but do you realize how long it will be before six major hotels are constructed?Bahamians need work A.S.A.P..Yes there are not enough labourers to take on this major job,but still,why not hire who we have and make up for the rest in chinese people.let our contractors work along with the chinese contractors. Things that we cannot do let the Chinese do and by far i know that their is very little that Bahamians do not know,We Bahamians are one set of people that learn very quickly and for that i am proud to call myself a BAHAMIAN, aren`t you????

      • Sure you can say you will be replying for job when the hotels are done but guess what? We will still have another problem and that is foreigners….they will have first preference to the jobs like always. they will be hired first then what ever is left then they will hire Bahamians.If our Bahamians have obtained a high position at any establishment there is a foreigner who is above them WHY??????

  • I think it is a disgrace….disgrace…With the current economic crisis i would think that one can find Bahamian workers. Maybe no one is looking hard enough to do so….. I remember the hassle everytime my husband’s permit was up for renewal what a hassle the government put us through and I am a Bahamian citizen and we have three children. finally it was just too much of a hassle and we finally left. Now we have the Asian invasion! Disgrace bigtime. Why don’t we just sell the Bahamas over to them and all the Bahamians just pack up and leave?

    All comes back to what the bible says: The yellow race shall govern us. We are having th same problem here in Greece. the invasion of the Asian, illegally of course and no one seems to be able to do anything about it all.

  • I don’t think 8,000 workers sounds like an overdose considering the magnitude of the Baha Mar project. I wonder how many were involved in the Atlantis project. I think it is a shame, though, that a larger portion of the Bahamian workforce is not prepared to benefit from this opportunity.

  • 8,000 workers? If they need that many workers to complete construction within the published time frame, then they must be planning on using low-tech construction processes, which are ideally suited for untrained workers. We have plenty of unemployed, untrained workers. Let’s use them instead. Or, are the Chinese trying to dump a load of “undesirables” on us while their trained workers work on high-speed trains back at home?


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