By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
WORKS Minister Philip “Brave” Davis confirmed yesterday that a possible deal is in the works between the government and Baha Mar to pay the $21m owed to the resort to cover the government’s portion of costs for roadwork associated with the development.
The Tribune understands the money is intended to assist Baha Mar in its stalled operations and to help pay the thousands of Bahamians currently on the resort’s payroll.
In an interview outside the Cabinet Office yesterday afternoon Mr Davis, who is also the deputy prime minister, said the dispute over how much the government still owes Baha Mar for the reconfiguration of West Bay Street is out of his hands and has been transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister.
When asked if the transfer means that the government intends to pay the $21m owed to Baha Mar, Mr Davis said: “The Office of the Prime Minister is dealing with that. Yes, a possible deal is in the works. I think so.”
On Tuesday, The Tribune exclusively reported that the Christie administration has agreed to pay the $21m owed to Baha Mar.
According to a well-placed source in the government, half of the $21m will be paid on July 1 and the remainder in “mid July”. However, the source, who spoke on condition on anonymity because the person was not authorised to release the information, said the money will only be paid “if Baha Mar can reach an agreement with China Export-Import Bank”.
The bank is the main financier of the Cable Beach development.
The Christie administration has already paid Baha Mar $28m over the past two years for its share of the re-routed West Bay Street costs.
Under an agreement with the previous Ingraham administration, the government agreed it would pay $48.1m to Baha Mar if the cost to reconfigure West Bay Street exceeded $70m.
If the figure was less than $70m, the government would only be obligated to pay 50 per cent.
Baha Mar officials claim the road re-routing cost $118m, but the government has argued that this work was only valued at $58m.
The government and Baha Mar have been unable to agree on how much money was still owed to Baha Mar since 2013.
The news comes as Prime Minister Perry Christie is embroiled in mediation between Baha Mar and China Export-Import Bank.
Work at the Cable Beach resort has come to a standstill due to a dispute with the developer and the resort’s main contractor, China Construction America (CCA).
Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Perry Christie said he received “encouraging” news about a possible impending resolution to the Baha Mar deadlock.
He said the news would hopefully bring a swift end to the impasse.
Meanwhile, 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. A new opening date has not been announced.
The resort is expected to hire 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 of the positions for which they were hired – such as clean up and security watch.
Last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie acknowledged that the continuing impasse at Baha Mar could result in the resort eventually lacking the capacity to pay the thousands of people currently on its payroll.