By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
LONG Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner said yesterday she does not believe Prime Minister Perry Christie and his Cabinet have done all they can to ensure that mega-resort Baha Mar opens as soon as possible.
In an interview with The Tribune, Mrs Butler-Turner said she is saddened and disappointed that Mr Christie has not been “open” with the Bahamian people on what is happening with the negotiations between the developer and the property’s financier.
The opening of the resort has been delayed three times. Mr Christie recently said that despite meeting with Baha Mar executives “every single day” over continuing challenges with the completion of the $3.5 billion project, only resort officials can now say when the property will open.
Mrs Butler-Turner said if the government was serious about Baha Mar opening, it would pay the nearly $50m owed to the resort for Cable Beach road works.
“It is disappointing that the prime minister has not said anything more about what is happening. It is not just about employing people, but our economy is depending on Baha Mar being successful and opening. The number of persons that left their jobs and others who went there hoping to get a new start are depending on the government to get it right,” Mrs Butler-Turner said.
“Why hasn’t the government paid Baha Mar the $50 million for the work on the roads? They have been nitpicking and stalling. That money can help push the resort to open. The prime minister has a duty to make sure the developers and the financiers are on the same page. This project has to succeed or we will see a major collapse of our economy.”
The government is obligated to pay Baha Mar $47.8 million if the cost to reconfigure West Bay Street is no more than $70 million, Minister of Works Philip “Brave” Davis has said. However the government and Baha Mar have been at odds over this payment for more than a year.
Earlier this month, Mr Christie told The Tribune that he was “consumed” by the resort’s opening delay as he confirmed that work on West Bay Street’s mega-resort had come to a standstill.
When asked if he could update the public on whether an opening date for the resort was imminent, Mr Christie replied: “This is a major matter going on… only the Baha Mar people could tell you that and speak to the opening date.”
During his budget communication in Parliament last month, Mr Christie told parliamentarians that Baha Mar’s developer was nearing an end to talks with its general contractor on the completion of the project and the announcement of the resort’s opening date. However, he only gave the project a brief mention in his nearly three-hour long speech.
Baha Mar is nearly six months behind its December 2014 opening date and has missed a March 27 soft opening. The property was finally expected to open in early May, but issues with the resort’s main contractor have contributed to continued delays.
In a statement earlier this year, Baha Mar criticised the performance of lead contractor China Construction America, revealing that work at the property had not met the expected “standards of excellence” and was, therefore, not acceptable.
Baha Mar added that it had relied on statements from its construction manager and lead contractor when it had earlier announced a March 27 opening date.
Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian has repeatedly travelled to China for discussions about the project.
Baha Mar is expected to employ some 5,000 people when it is completely open. In the meantime, around 1,000 employees already working at the resort have been reassigned to areas outside the positions they were hired for – such as clean up and security watch.