LONG Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner criticised the government for stalling its contractually obligated payment to Baha Mar for West Bay Street roadwork, adding that the money owed should not be “tied to any quid pro quo”.
Mrs Butler-Turner, former deputy leader of the Free National Movement (FNM), also accused Prime Minister Perry Christie of at times being too silent on the Baha Mar issue and creating more questions when he does speak about the matter.
Her comments came a day after The Tribune revealed that, according to a well-placed source in the government, the Christie administration is in talks to pay Baha Mar $21 million it is owed by government for roadwork associated with the project.
This money will be used to help fund Baha Mar’s operations and payroll for its employees, The Tribune was told.
According to the source, half of the $21 million will be paid on July 1 and the remainder in “mid-July”. However, the source, who spoke on condition on anonymity, said the money will only be paid “if Baha Mar can reach an agreement with China Export-Import Bank.”
Yesterday, Mrs Butler-Turner said the government must show stronger leadership on Baha Mar, given the thousands of jobs in the balance and the impact on this country’s economy.
“The opening of Baha Mar is critical for our economy in general and for Bahamian workers in particular,” she said in a statement. “There are thousands of current and future jobs at stake. The Official Opposition has often expressed the need for the government to do all in its power to ensure that the resort opens as soon as possible. Bahamians are rooting for the success of this vital project. Unfortunately, the Christie administration has added to the confusion over the opening of the resort.
“The government of the Bahamas was legally required to reimburse Baha Mar for funds related to infrastructural road work. The PLP has been late again and again in this matter. Three years after its election the Christie administration has not paid in a timely manner the full amount of money owed Baha Mar.
“The payment of these funds were owed Baha Mar and should not be tied to any new quid pro quo by the government of the Bahamas, as was suggested in a story in (The Tribune).
“At times, the prime minister engages in a deafening silence on Baha Mar. When he does speak about Baha Mar he often raises serious questions about his grasp of events related to the opening of the mega-resort. He adds to the confusion by making baffling statements which suggests that he is out of touch with reality.”
The Long Island MP added that because the project is financed by Chinese investors, the government should have appointed an ambassador to China to assist where possible in getting the resort open.
“Yet three years after coming to office and with China a major ally and investor, the prime minister has failed to cause the appointment of an ambassador to the People’s Republic of China,” she said. “This is bad for both foreign and economic policy. It is an undiplomatic slap in the face to the Chinese government.
It is also a sign of an incompetent and poorly run government with weak and distracted leadership unable to make decisions in a timely manner.
“With many jobs at risk at Baha Mar and with the economy needing the resort to open as soon as possible, it is past time for the prime minister and his government to demonstrate better leadership on the economy and in the protection of jobs.”
The Christie administration has already paid Baha Mar $28 million 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 $48.1 million to Baha Mar if the cost to reconfigure West Bay Street exceeded $70 million.
Since 2013, the government has wrangled with Baha Mar over how much it was legally obligated to pay the developers.
Baha Mar is six months behind its December 2014 opening and has missed a March 27 soft opening. A planned opening in early May has also passed without any new announcement on when the $3.5 billion property will be complete.