By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis has renewed calls for the government to fully disclose the details of negotiations with Chinese stakeholders to complete and open the embattled Baha Mar resort.
Dr Minnis insisted that the government was engaged in "desperate dealings" to jumpstart the shuttered $3.5bn project.
“What we have now is the PLP engaged in desperate dealings with the Chinese that are clouded in secrecy," he said in a statement on Friday.
"The PLP promised Baha Mar was going to lift our economy, that it would deliver 5,000 good paying jobs and help elevate our tourism industry. None of this happened, so why should Bahamians trust the PLP to negotiate a secret deal with the Chinese?
"What is this Government giving away? The Bahamian land, citizenship, taxes or what? The people have a right to know! Will Bahamians be employed to finish the construction? Will our Bahamian contractors get the money they are owed, or will the PLP sell Bahamians' birthright out to the Chinese? We don’t know the answers to these critical questions because the PLP is hiding the details of their negotiations from the people."
Baha Mar was initially expected to open in December, 2014, but the property is currently in receivership.
Last month, Mr Christie revealed that two firms, one with ties to Bahamian investors, have been shortlisted as the court-appointed receivers of the project move closer to deciding which entity will acquire the West Bay Street development.
However, he said the final decision is solely at the discretion of receiver managers who were in Beijing, China, at the time negotiating a contract to remobilise and complete the project as soon as possible.
Mr Christie said China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) along with the resort’s general contractor China Construction America (CCA), its subsidiary, were also participating in the talks.
On Friday, Dr Minnis pointed to revelations from the Department of Statistics that indicate the Bahamas has been in recession for two consecutive years, with the economy contracting by 0.5 per cent and 1.7 per cent, respectively, in 2014 and 2015.
“The Central Bank of The Bahamas confirmed what many of us already know - the continued failure of this Government to get Baha Mar open and operating is hurting our economy," he said.
"Their report noted many economic failings, including a real GDP decrease of 1.7 per cent, and placed the blame squarely on the Baha Mar debacle. It’s been over a year since Baha Mar went bankrupt, yet in that time this Government has only offered up more empty rhetoric and a series of broken promises.
"None of which has put the 2,000 people who lost their jobs back to work, nor helped the Bahamian contractors that are owed tens of millions of dollars get what they are rightfully owed.”
Dr Minnis lamented that the stalled resort has become a testament to the continued failures of Prime Minister Christie and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration.
“No doubt with an election around the corner they are in a feverish rush to seal a secret deal to get it open," he said.
"Yet what will they give away to do it? The Bahamian people are tired of the secret deals being made by the PLP and their continued empty rhetoric and broken promises. The FNM stands for transparency and accountability.
Dr Minnis added: "We will work every day for the Bahamian people and work to create the jobs they so desperately need and deserve.”