Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) supports the $2.6 billion Baha Mar project

Guardian Senior Reporter

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP)Leader Perry Christie last night threw his party's support behind the $2.6 billion Baha Mar project, while accusing Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham of seeking to negotiate a new Cable Beach deal on his upcoming trip to China.

At an hour-and-a-half news conference held at the PLP's Farrington Road headquarters, Christie stressed that the current economic conditions in the country call for the project to be embraced.

"It is in a very real sense, the only new substantial ray of sunshine that has presented itself. Nothing else holds out the kind of promise that Baha Mar does,"said Christie.

"It is not so much that it is the best big project that is available right now, the reality is that it is the only big project that is available to us right now. We do not have a choice. We do not have the luxury of choosing between the Baha Mar project and some other big project. Baha Mar is the only one that has the capacity right now to inject some desperately needed adrenaline into this anemic economy that is ailing us now."

Christie said it would be useless for Ingraham to negotiate a new deal with the Chinese without project developer Sarkis Izmirlian and his group at the same negotiating table.

"There needs to be a tripartite approach to this. Simple logic and plain, good sense demand it,"said the PLP leader.

"Suppose the prime minister negotiates a new deal that the Izmirlians cannot or will not live with? What then? What would he have accomplished then?" Christie asked." In that case, one foot forward would have been taken followed by two steps backward. That makes no kind of sense."

Ingraham is scheduled to leave for China today. He said earlier this week he would be meeting with China State Construction Engineering Corporation and the China Export-Import Bank to discuss the project the proposed contractor and financier of the project.

"I therefore call upon the prime minister to invite representatives of the Baha Mar group to join his meeting with the Chinese in China. It is, after all, Baha Mar's project. It seems only sensible and logical and appropriate to have the project owners at the table too so that everything can be settled all at the same time,"Christie said.

The opposition leader also criticized Ingraham for, what he described as, changing the requirements the developers must satisfy before the deal reaches Parliament.

"We don't have a hope in hell of being taken seriously by investors, especially in these very difficult times, if we continue to have a prime minister who keeps on changing the rules of engagement with investors, and who on top of that, believes in negotiation by press conferences,"Christie said.

"You cannot be calling press conferences to tell investors what they must do in order to win your favor. You cannot be telling them one thing in private and then call a press conference to lay down a whole new set of conditions."

Baha Mar's vision is to create a world-class resort destination, which represents the largest single-phase resort in the Caribbean.

Baha Mar has requested 8,150 work permits for the project. It is expected that the majority of the foreign workers helping to construct the project will be Chinese. The current deal requires that the core of the project be exclusively built by foreign labor.

The PLP's official 38-page position on Baha Mar was delivered by Bain and Grants Town MP Dr. Bernard Nottage.

While stating that the PLP supports the project, Dr. Nottage said they expect any deal would:

- Maximize the participation of Bahamian construction and related labor content, including both skilled and unskilled workers.

- Minimize the foreign construction labor content to that which is required for the successful completion and implementation of the project.

- Ensure training and skills transfer for Bahamian construction workers during the course of the entire project.

- Ensure that Bahamians are trained and available for permanent jobs in the operation of the resort.

- Ensure that there will be a myriad of opportunities for Bahamian entrepreneurs to benefit from in the resort when completed.

"The size and scope of this project represent the magnitude of what is needed to provide jobs for the vast number of Bahamian citizens who emerge onto the job market on an annual basis,"said Dr. Nottage.