By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
BAHAMAS Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation Chairman Gowon Bowe suggested that if the government was not prepared to fully disclose all of the details regarding the new deal to open Baha Mar, officials should not have publicised movement on the negotiations until they were prepared to fully act transparently.
He told The Tribune yesterday that at this point there was a distinct need for the details surrounding concessions, any land related matters, taxes and fees regarding Baha Mar as this country does not have the proper policies in place for Bahamians to feel comfortable in the absence of this information.
Mr Bowe added that while there are those who remain jubilant that the wheels appear to be moving on the West Bay Street development, Bahamians must be objective and see this as “just as announcement” at this point.
“In the Bahamas we get very high on highs and very low on lows, but it’s best not to get too jubilant at this point in time,” he said.
“In this situation we have to remain objective. What we have really at this point is just an announcement. There haven’t been payments made to my knowledge or actual activity at the development site. What we should do is digest the news and then critique what we know and analyse what the intentions are.
“On the other side, not having the information is not a matter of trust. We are at an age where people can evaluate merits and demerits on their own. There has to always be the belief where the government will do what’s in the best interest of the people.
“However it makes it harder if I don’t know the information to believe that versus me knowing the needed information so that I can give an educated observation.
“I would certainly encourage that information be disclosed and I do respect the receivers and their position that there are certain things they wouldn’t want out there.”
He added: “There is the distinct need for the details of this new deal like the concessions and other information that might have been foregone in terms of taxes and fees and other money owed to the government.
“We don’t have land or economic development and direct investment policies that are widely propagated. So it is hard to be able to judge where there are breeches.
“This is the largest project since Atlantis and if you look at it we were negotiating with one hand behind our back. The good news was that there was no barrier to negotiations but the bad new was that there was also no barrier.”
On Wednesday, Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said the Official Opposition is “shocked and dismayed” the government sanctioned the decision to seal the Baha Mar court documents, adding that should the party become the next government, it would cancel parts of the agreement it found to be against the best interests of Bahamians.
Dr Minnis added that only dictatorial and corrupt governments carry out the work of the country in the “dark of night.”
Shadow Minister of Labour Loretta Butler-Turner also castigated the Christie administration over the decision to seal the court documents relating to the new deal to open the shuttered resort, branding this as “deceptive” and “reprehensible” on all levels.
On Monday night, during a nationally televised address, Prime Minister Perry Christie said an agreement had been reached between the government and the Export-Import Bank of China to remobilise the resort.
Under the terms of the agreement, Bahamian contractors still owed money will receive a significant portion, if not all, of their claims, while thousands of former Baha Mar employees will receive outstanding amounts due to them, he said.