PETER Turnquest, FNM MP for Grand Bahama, finds it a “bit obscene” that the government would consider agreeing to a foreign entity not only redesigning, but actually owning much of downtown Nassau – the very centre of our government.
Considering the controlling interests that Chinese government-owned and private businesses already have in New Providence and Grand Bahama, Mr Turnquest fears that one day Bahamians might awaken to discover that their country has been sold to a foreign government.
In an interview with Tribune Business last month, Mr Turnquest told our business editor that the Bahamas had to guard against foreign entities, controlled by a single sovereign state, gaining too much power and influence, not only over our economy, but over other key sectors of our country.
Reported Tribune Business:
“China State Construction, apart from being the main contractor for the $2.6bn Baha Mar project, also has a $150m equity stake in the project. And the Beijing controlled China Export-Import Bank is Baha Mar’s main debt financier, having provided at least $1.9bn to the development.
“This effectively makes China owner, financier and contractor for the Bahamas’ second mega resort/casino development, which is being counted on to play the lead role in turning around this nation’s moribund economy and high unemployment rate.
“Along with China State Construction’s interest in the British Colonial Hilton, it is also one of the remaining bidders on the Bahamas Electricity restructuring. If successful, it would be a major player in the utilities and hotel industries — two of the major sectors of the Bahamian economy.”
The Tribune was recently told that the Chinese have not only offered government a plan for Bay Street, but “want to do a lot more acquisitions on east Bay Street”.
It is understandable that Prime Minister Christie, anxious to get the economy moving, is very interested in the sale of the British Colonial to China State Construction.
Unfortunately, Mr Christie, the politician, is thinking only of the next election, rather than being concerned about the next generation.
Mr Turnquest, in making it clear that he was not in favour of a foreign government- controlled entity taking over downtown Nassau, then asked the question: “I wonder what the end game is?”
To find the answer, all Bahamians have to do is dust off their World Atlas and follow China’s footprints across the globe to understand the end game. The name of the game is world domination.
We have been concerned about what this might mean for the future of the Bahamas from the day in 1995 when Hutchinson Whampoa partnered with the Grand Bahama Development Company to create what today is a most impressive facility only 100 miles off the port of Miami. Freeport’s container port has been described as “the deepest container terminal in the region and is a major transshipment hub”. Even Mr Christie has referred to it as “one of the largest man-made harbours in the world”. In fact, it is a development of which any country would be proud.
In addition to this development, Hutchison has other interests in Freeport, among them the 370-acre beachfront resort, Lucaya, and the 11,000 ft long international airport, which, like Nassau airport, has US pre-clearance facilities.
However, lurking in the background is one reservation that could spell difficulty for this country. In October 1999, a declassified report by the US Southern Commands Joint Intelligence Centre, prepared in October 1999, said that “Hutchison Whampoa’s owner, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing, has extensive business ties in Beijing and has compelling financial reasons to maintain a good relationship with China’s leadership.”
In other words, the suggestion is that Beijing could have some influence in decision making in our hemisphere.
Dr John Meredith, who has been Deputy Chairman and a non-executive Director of the Trustee-Manager Hutchison Port Holdings Trust since February 2011, has been quoted by NewMax.com as saying that comments made about Hutchison have often been erroneous and “outrageous”.
However, in addition, one of Hutchison’s subsidiaries, Panama Ports Company, completed the encirclement of the American Basin by securing long term leases of both ends of the Panama Canal – enclosing America in her own sphere of influence between the Atlantic and the Pacific – Freeport on one side and Panama on both sides.
We have often wondered what the Bahamas would do if these two giants — the US and China — clashed in the UN, for example, and the Bahamas had to take sides in voting on whatever was in dispute. On whose side would our man at the UN vote?
Geographically the Bahamas is an extension of the United States, our ideas, our belief in democratic freedoms, our way of life are those – not of Beijing– but of the Western world. However, one day we could be faced with a crisis if we have to take sides and find ourselves as a country compromised because we have sold out to Beijing.
This statement is in no way to deny the Bahamas’ deep gratitude to China for the $30m Thomas A Robinson National Stadium, which Ambassador Hu Shan said could “surely be regarded as a symbol of the development of our two countries’ friendly relationship”. In making the presentation, he noted that the stadium is “a very important platform” to enhance bilateral exchange in the fields of sports and culture. “This is why,” he said, “the Chinese government and people present the stadium to the Bahamian government and people.”
This gift is not the same as a Beijing-controlled company obtaining large tracks of Bahamian land and becoming entrenched in Bahamian businesses.
We only have to look at what is now taking place in Hong Kong – a former UK colony returned to China in 1997 – to understand what could happen if Beijing became too deeply entrenched in our affairs. In Britain’s handover, it was agreed that Hong Kong would enjoy a “high degree of autonomy”, including democratic elections of its own leader. However, Hong Kongers have now been told that they can only vote for their leader from a group of candidates approved by Beijing. This has set the island aflame. Thousands of Hong Kong students have quit classes to protest losing what they consider their democratic rights.
And then there is the quarrel between Japan and China over eight uninhabited islands in the East China Seas. These islands lie cross important shipping lanes. In 1895, Japan determined that these islands were uninhabited and incorporated them as part of her territory. Now, that their potential worth is fully understood, China wants to claim them as her territory. And so the conflict has erupted.
Years ago, when some of our Bahamian politicians would puff their chests out and encourage Bahamians to believe that no matter what they did, they would always be number one in the world of tourism, the late Sir Etienne Dupuch reminded them that they were only a “pimple” – and a very tiny one at that – on the back side of the world. He warned that if they did not pull up their socks they would be pushed out of the contest. Today, this little pimple must understand that it is very much a part of a very complex world, and that its leaders would be wise to look to the left and right of them and understand the world in which they live, before they make any weighty decisions that could compromise our position as a part of that world. Otherwise, the Bahamas as we know it today, will not be inherited by our grandchildren. They will have been thrown into an impossible cauldron of controversy because of the shortsighted vision of today’s politicians.