By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie has praised Resorts World Genting Group officials for their investment to date of $500m towards the development of the public infrastructure and tourism locations in the island.
Mr Christie spoke at the official opening on Friday of the repavement of the King’s Highway and the North Bimini Ferry Dock, made possible by what Mr Christie called a “public-private partnership” with the Genting Group.
The ceremony came two days after Bahamas Telecommunications Company CEO Leon Williams announced the introduction of Internet Protocol Television to residents of Bimini and, by extension, The Bahamas.
As a result of the recent developments to the island, Mr Christie said the Bahamas was “in the midst of what is probably the most significant intervention in the history of this country in an island”. He also said the government would have to make “determinations regarding traffic” on the island.
“This particular development going on, where a developer can say to you, that up to this point in time, over these two years, I have committed of my company’s resources some $500m, half a billion dollars,” Mr Christie said. “For those of us who are Bahamians, the enormity of that commitment mustn’t escape us. And when you recognise that it is part of a public private partnership, anyone who talks of their resources, that kind of money, half a billion dollars, and invests it in an island like Bimini has decided to place his confidence not just in the government of the Bahamas, but in the people of the Bahamas. And when you ask yourself who are the people of the Bahamas who are directly involved in this investment, we are talking about the people of Bimini.”
According to Mr Christie, the government agreed with Resorts World, to “undertake the resurfacing of the main road, new street lighting, sidewalks, and informational signage.”
He said the “North Bimini asphalt works” consists of a one-inch overlay on top of the existing King’s Highway, from the Chalk’s Ramp to the Resorts World entrance gate. The ferry dock and the public dock were also repaved as a part of the exercise.
In addition to the road improvement programme, Mr Christie also announced improvements to the street lighting on the island. He said a total of $96,000 had been paid to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation for improving all areas of North Bimini.
He said the transformers, poles and conductors were on site in North Bimini, while the street lights have been ordered and should be on site “early next year”. He also said the controller of the Road Traffic Department, along with “his counterparts at the Ministry of Works, had recently visited the island, and would oversee the erection of street signs and road markings”.
Mr Christie said the Caribbean Civil Group Limited had also been contracted to carry out a “traffic monitoring study”. That study when completed, he said, would assist the government in “formulating regulations and policy relative to traffic management on Bimini”.
“Bimini will be challenged and plagued by traffic that reflects the growing and burgeoning economy,” he said. “The island, if you take it logically, will not be able to accommodate that kind of traffic and if you go beyond a certain number you’re going to destroy the ambience, the peaceful, serene, pristine feeling one gets in coming to Bimini. So we’re going to have to make some determinations regarding traffic on this small island. We have to determine the number of vehicles this island can handle. We have to determine the size of the vehicles to be allowed on the islands.”
Mr Christie said the “public infrastructural works” were being carried out at a cost of “some $10m,” which will be repaid to the developer by the government “over a period of time from casino tax deductions.”
Mr Christie also announced improvements to the South Bimini airport, such as extensions to the runway and parking apron. He added that an exit taxiway had been added, as well as lighting and navigational aids to permit night flying.
Genting Group Chairman Tan Sri K T Lim said Friday’s ceremony was another “milestone” in the development in the islands. He said “Biminites” must “do their best to ensure that tourists to the island feel welcome and safe”.