By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
LOCAL officials preparing for an upcoming Inter-American Development Bank conference at Baha Mar said they have no concerns about the resort’s ongoing deadlock overshadowing the $6m event which will see 5,000 international delegates enter the country.
State Minister of Finance Michael Halkitis explained that the government budgeted the $6m for the conference and expects to see significant economic return from the hefty investment.
Officials began planning for the conference three years ago.
The unopened resort is said to be 97 per cent complete.
Mr Halkitis admitted to having initial concerns about the convention centre being ready for the conference, but his worry vanished when he saw the facility on Monday.
He added the government intends to redeploy any equipment that it purchases for the four-day event into the public system. It is slated for April 7 - 10, 2016 and will also involve officials of the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC).
“When I had the opportunity to have a tour of the facility on Monday, my immediate response was just one of amazement as to the quality of the facility, the professionalism of the staff and how we were received,” Mr Halkitis said at a press conference at the Baha Mar convention centre.
“When I walked in, any iota of concern that I had vanished because as you can see its is 97, 98 or 99 (per cent complete) but the bulk of what I can see is for us (to do is) to put in the temporary offices and I’m very confident that we can get them ready. My feeling is one of being impressed with the facility.”
He added: “This process began approximately, I think it was three years ago and we have budgeted a total of approximately $6m over those three years to deal with anything from accommodations, the setting up, making sure that we have all of the offices set up and equipped furniture to IT.”
Janeen McCartney, project coordinator for the event, said only small tweaks are needed in the convention centre. She suggested that the ongoing Baha Mar impasse was “something else” that had nothing to do with the success of the IDB conference.
She said: “No, we’re not concerned. I think having you here today as you can see the property we were told is 98-99 per cent complete and it is a work in progress and it would be completing the little things and tweaks. As you use the facility you find things that work and doesn’t work.
“So this is our opportunity. We are meeting here now so we are using the infrastructure so that we can test all of the cabling, the other facilities and the bathrooms. So we are not concerned about the overshadowing. The Baha Mar story is something else. The Bahamas has committed to hosting this meeting and we’re going to deal with that aspect and provide for a successful conference.”
As none of the conference delegates can be housed at Baha Mar, they will be spread out across New Providence at major hotels including the Atlantis resort, the Melía Nassau Beach Hotel and Island House.
Baha Mar was initially expected to open in December 2014 but has faced numerous delays and setbacks. The resort’s developer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a United States court in June 2015, however the cases for Baha Mar’s Bahamian companies were later thrown out of court.
The resort was placed into receivership last October at the request of the Export Import Bank of China.