By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts branded Democratic National Alliance Deputy Leader Chris Mortimer a “political novice” who is “in need of light and understanding”.
Mr Roberts was responding to Mr Mortimer’s statements on Tuesday that the government’s recently announced plans to request funds from China to help restructure the country’s national debt has turned the Bahamas into a “beggar nation”.
Mr Mortimer also suggested that the move could have “serious ramifications” for the Bahamians.
“Obviously Mr Mortimer is a political novice and is in need of light and understanding,” Mr Roberts told The Tribune.
“Does he put that same characterisation on the gymnasium that (China) donated to the Bahamian people? Not only to the Bahamian people, they donated gymnasiums throughout the Caribbean.”
Last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie, with Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin, travelled to the People’s Republic of China for the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) forum in Beijing, China.
During the trip, Mr Christie announced plans to seek funding from China’s US $3bn investment fund to support the national budget; refinance and restructure the country’s debt.
However, Mr Mortimer said the move was the government’s way of asking China for “help” in rescuing the country from “30-40 years of corruption” in government.
He also said the decision could have “serious ramifications” for Bahamians.
“The United States is our largest trading partner,” Mr Mortimer said on Tuesday. “The questions that I have, because I think they are serious questions, is if the government believes in supporting China, are we now going to be supporting their position with respect to Russia over the US? Are we going to be supporting their position on Libya over the US? Or all the world nations when it comes to where they stand versus where the US stands?
“This is a serious issue,” he added, “because 80 per cent of (our) trade is done with the US. And I would expect that before making some determination, just because you have made us a beggar nation, that you would take into consideration the ramifications of what that could possibly mean.”
Mr Roberts dismissed Mr Mortimer’s concerns.
“China happens to be the largest loaner country to the United States of America,” Mr Roberts said, speaking on the sidelines of a press conference at PLP headquarters earlier this week.
“Mr Mortimer needs to do his homework, and as I said, I characterise him as a political novice.”
While making his inaugural address as chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to delegates in China last week, Mr Christie said the $3 billion fund was a “commitment on China’s part for investment on concessional terms.”
He said the government proposes to use some of that funding for “budget support, as well as debt restructuring and refinancing.”
He also noted that China is a “significant source of investment capital” and has “established itself as a worthy economic partner.”
The investment fund is available to other countries as well.