By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE shuttered $3.5bn mega resort on Cable Beach continues to be a major challenge as the government pushes for greater urgency from its Chinese financiers the EXIM Bank, Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday.
Mr Christie revealed he has had discussions with Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian, who is also pushing for the bank to consider proposals he has made.
The prime minister also told reporters that he was satisfied with meetings held with the governor of the Central Bank of China and other high-level Chinese investors at his office Sunday morning.
He underscored the level of urgency needed from the EXIM Bank to announce a new purchaser or move forward with construction amidst reports that five senior managers at Baha Mar were fired last week.
“We’re always saddened by people who lose their job and we have to truly work hard to offset whatever challenge people have as a result of losing their job,” Mr Christie said when asked for comment about the firings. “But having said that, the urgency for us is to get the bank either to announce a new purchaser - in that regard I’ve even had discussions with Sarkis Izmirlian who is in fact also concerning himself also with having the bank consider applications he has made.
“So going forward the challenge for the country is to get the bank to move more quickly to effect the resumption of construction and the opening of the resort.”
Mr Christie spoke to reporters on the sidelines of an event to launch the YES Bahamas campaign in support of the gender equality referendum.
“Baha Mar is a major challenge to the government,” he said.
“The fact that the convention centre has been completed and people are looking at it has even now underscored why there should be a major effort to get the resort open. All of the people who have come to this [IDB] conference have raised that question: given the beauty and magnificence of the convention centre, what is stopping construction from resuming?
Mr Christie added: “Today [Sunday] I met with the governor of the Central Bank of China, who’s visiting the Bahamas at the conference on his way to Washington and we had a very enlightened and full discussion on Baha Mar and I’m satisfied that the points that I made with respect to the urgency that was needed was understood.”
“With respect to any layoffs by anyone, the longer we wait to resume construction and open the resort the more likely are there to be layoffs because the bank is carrying a staff, and we are trying to push as quickly as possible to get Baha Mar opened meaning that construction to resume.”
On June 29, last year, Baha Mar and 14 of its affiliated companies filed for bankruptcy in a Delaware court, blaming the resort’s contractor, China Construction America (CCA), for the construction delays that caused it to miss previous opening deadlines.
The bankruptcy filing for Baha Mar’s Bahamian-based companies was later thrown out, and the government subsequently filed a winding-up petition against Baha Mar in the Supreme Court. The court later approved the appointment of the joint provisional liquidators, KRyS Global and UK-based AlixPartners.
Baha Mar was later placed into receivership with Deloitte and Touche’s (Bahamas) managing partner, Raymond Winder, and partners from the firm’s Hong Kong office being appointed receivers on behalf of the China Export-Import Bank. Last October, more than 2,000 employees from the resort were laid off.
Yesterday, Mr Christie said he was encouraged by meetings with high-level Chinese officials at his office yesterday morning.
“The meetings were very productive, I thought,” he said, “presuming we know whenever they return to China and the messages imparted and shared with the meetings reaches the people who make those decisions. I felt the meetings were very productive and I was encouraged by them.”