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2004-08-19 15:53:51

Chinese Flights May Come

The Chinese government has promised to look into offering flights from Beijing to The Bahamas as part of its plan to strengthen ties with the archipelago.

Minister of Financial Services and Investments, Allyson Maynard-Gibson revealed The Bahamas/China travel connection Tuesday in an interview with The Guardian from Fazhou, China.

She was giving an overall update on investment opportunities brokered between the two countries, as part of a weeklong state visit to that country, headed by Prime Minister Perry Christie.

"At the Prime Minister's request, the Chinese government promised the possibility of the establishment of direct flights to The Bahamas," she said.

"And the impact of this visit on investment in the country is going to be felt for decades to come," she added.

She said Chinese officials wanted The Bahamas government to know that they supported investment in The Bahamas.

She further indicated that a major Chinese shipping company, COSCO, the world's third largest, had invested in The Bahamas, the results of which would have a profound impact on the economy.

COSCO, a $17 billion company, had already registered three of its largest ships under the Bahamian flag, and also indicated that it would commit to assisting the Grand Bahama shipping industry. COSCO specialises in freight services, ship repairing and rebuilding, terminal operation, container manufacturing, trade, financing, real estate, IT and contract employment.

"There will be created, in Grand Bahama, a dry dock of sufficient size to accommodate the largest cruise ship, like the Queen Mary Mary II, the largest cargo ship, like the MV ships that are coming out," the minister said.

The delegation also met with the chairman of CITIC Development Company, a $6 billion electronics firm in China. The company, the third largest of its kind in the world, is planning to construct a distribution centre in Freeport to assemble electronic goods for export to the United States. With its head office in Beijing, China, CITIC has invested and established more than 150 wholly owned locations.

Minister Maynard-Gibson said the delegation then met with representatives of the world's third largest electronic company. She said the Prime Minister indicated to the company executives that benefits could be derived for The Bahamas in forming a relationship with the company.

Chinese assistance was also offered in other areas of the Bahamian economy to include souvenir and furniture manufacturing, handicraft, agriculture and fisheries.

These new initiatives followed a grant of US$30 million from the Chinese government to design and construct a 15,000-seat state-of-the-art national stadium in New Providence. The donation was described by the Prime Minister as the largest nation-to-nation gift ever received by The Bahamas.

Apart from Minister Maynard-Gibson and the Prime Minister, the delegation included Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, Minister of State for Finance, James Smith, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ronald Thompson, Under Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Philip Miller and Freddie Tucker, the Consul General for The Bahamas, in Hong Kong. The team is presently in Shanghai and is expected to return to The Bahamas on Aug. 23.

Mindell Small, The Nassau Guardian

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