The Ever-Changing Baha Mar Deal
In January 2008, nine months after the General Election, the FNM Government signed a new agreement with Baha Mar Ltd. referred to as the ‘Executed Supplemental Heads of Agreement’ confirming the FNM Government’s support for increasing the planned size of the room count at the Baha Mar Resort by 1,200 new rooms or more than 50 percent over what the PLP government had signed in 2005!
The FNM government also agreed to increase the size of the planned casino and double the size of meeting room space. The government took the Development Bank and the Gaming Board properties out of the land to be transferred to Baha Mar.
In September 2010 the FNM Government brought a resolution to the House of Assembly which sought to confirm that the House of Assembly supported the Government issuing 8,150 work permits to Chinese nationals.
It must be obvious, to even the most casual of observers, that this meant that the FNM Government supported the employment of 8,150 Chinese workers to build the 3,500 room Baha Mar resort project.
Now, Hubert Ingraham seeks to have it both ways on the Baha Mar resort project Both the Tribune and the Guardian recently carried front page stories on Ingraham in China and his comments about conversations he was expecting to have with Chinese Government Agencies.
He is engaged in setting the stage for an announcement when he returns to the Capital after his sojourn in China, claiming that he has gotten a ‘better deal’ for Bahamians from the Chinese with reference to the Baha Mar resort project.
The Guardian of October 27 2010, carried a front page story, under the headline: “BAHA MAR DECISION ‘BEFORE YEAR’S END – PM: Gov’t not budging from position that acceptable amount of Bahamian labour be used.”
In the story under this caption the newspaper said “he (the Prime Minister) made it clear that the government was not prepared to budge from its position that an acceptable amount of Bahamian labour be incorporated as part of the Cable Beach project, and that the project be carried out in a phased manner.”
The Prime Minister is quoted as saying that “We don’t drag things out.”
When Hubert Ingraham assumed office in 2007, the FNM government met in place a Heads of Agreement between the government and Baha Mar Ltd. which was signed in 2005 and called for the sensible development of the new Baha Mar resort. The FNM, less than nine months after the election, signed an amended agreement which required a much larger casino, twice the meeting room space and more than 1,200 new hotel rooms added to the 1,100 new hotel rooms that were included in the 2005 agreement.
The FNM more than DOUBLED THE TOTAL NUMBER OF NEW HOTEL ROOMS TO BE BUILT BY BAHA MAR.
Mr. Ingraham and the FNM Government did this knowing what the developers wanted their new resort TO LOOK LIKE. The 2005 agreement called for the renovation of the Nassau Beach Hotel.
This was changed in the 2008 Agreement to tear it down and build a replacement hotel.
A few months after signing the new agreement the Prime Minister said, in the House of Assembly, in early 2008, that he did not have confidence in the ability of the partners in Baha Mar to complete the project. Shortly after this announcement by Ingraham one of the major partners in the project, Harrahs, pulled out of the partnership. A few months after this breakup in the partnership, the principals of Baha Mar announced that they were in negotiations with the China Import-Export Bank for a development loan.
In October 2009 a document showing how the resort was to look and the plan to use 8,150 Chinese workers in the employ of the China Construction Company was published. The FNM government may have known of this document at the time or they may not; but, they should have known because they should have made sure that they were kept abreast of negotiations that the privately owned Baha Mar Ltd. was having with the sovereign state of the Peoples’ Republic of China about the granting of work permits by the sovereign state of The Bahamas.
The FNM government did not do its job.
The government allowed rumours about Chinese labour to build the resort to abound.
Government Ministers even participated in public discussions about how many foreign workers might be required. Initially they talked of a “few thousand,” then “up to 5,000” and then the Prime Minister announced in September 2010 that the number of Chinese workers would be 8,150. The Prime Minister introduced a resolution in the House of Assembly on September 8, 2010 which clearly confirmed that the FNM government supported the Baha Mar plan to build the resort as described in the October 2009 document prepared by Baha Mar and the Chinese government banking and construction agencies.
Just a few weeks later, on October 6, 2010, the Prime Minister said that he could not agree to the development as it is presently planned even going so far as to say where hotels could be built instead of where the developers planned to place them. Six weeks ago Mr. Ingraham had no problem with 8,150 Chinese workers; now he says that he cannot agree to so many. Now, Ingraham says that he will insist that there are fewer Chinese workers and more Bahamian workers.
Hubert Ingraham says that he has problems with the Baha Mar development plan. Could it be that he finally understands that the Agreement signed in 2005 between the PLP government and Baha Mar made sense and would have been very good for The Bahamas?
In his typical fashion he decided to change the agreement in a hurry so he could claim to make it better; but, he made it worse and now he is trying to run away from his and the FNM government’s foolish and hasty decisions.
Let me make it very clear: the Progressive Liberal Party should stand in support of the plan as described in the 2005 Heads of Agreement signed between the PLP government and Baha Mar. It would have been very good for The Bahamas. But, this has been changed and we have to deal with what is before us.
Yes, there are problems surrounding the Baha Mar project; but none that a caring and progressive government can’t find solutions for in order to provide critically needed jobs for unemployed Bahamian workers and to add much needed impetus to the economy. Bahamian entrepreneurs and professionals should have opportunity to bring their skills and ingenuity to bear on the project to maximise benefit to our community.
The Prime Minister should stop trying to pass the buck and making excuses. It really is time to come clean or, as some say, to “man up” and take responsibility as a leader of government should.
By: Philip P. Smith
Source: The Nassau Guardian