FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis has again called for full disclosure from the government in the Baha Mar matter, questioning what “side letter agreements” the Christie administration made with Chinese officials to remobilise the stalled resort.
Dr Minnis referred to aspects of the original Baha Mar deal negotiated by the first Christie administration that he said did not come to light until the FNM won the 2012 general election and uncovered the details.
He questioned if concessions agreed to by the government in connection to the new Baha Mar deal would remain hidden unless the FNM won the next general election.
His comments come as the Christie administration faces mounting backlash over the fact that the court documents relating to the government’s agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China (CEXIM) over the new deal have been sealed.
“In the first Baha Mar agreement, there were side letter agreements for deferment of casino taxes and we didn’t know that until we came to office,” Dr Minnis said yesterday.
“There was also an agreement to make additional marketing contributions from the government.”
He said the Christie administration already has a deficit of trust with the public due to reneging on its promise to abide by the results of the 2013 gaming referendum, withholding the Rubis oil spill report for more than a year, the failed mortgage relief plan and the fact that the National Intelligence Agency is still operating without a legal framework in place.
He said despite attempts by Prime Minister Perry Christie and other government officials to assuage fears over the deal, the Bahamian people want to know what the government has agreed to.
“The question now is what about the side agreements? Are there any side agreements like you did with the original Baha Mar deal? The question is how many side letter agreements do they have now?
“The side letter agreements were not made public, not until we came in,” Dr Minnis said. “Are they giving away land to the Chinese? Is that a side letter agreement or is it in the original agreement that has been hidden?
“Would land in Andros be a part of a side agreement, to provide the Chinese (with an avenue) to do farming for their developments like Baha Mar and The Pointe, compromising Bahamian farmers and establishing a monopoly by the Chinese?”
Last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the Baha Mar court documents were sealed at the request of CEXIM. He told the House of Assembly such a process was standard and that global businesses cannot be expected to conduct their “sensitive negotiations” in the media.
He said the Supreme Court would lift the seal “if and when it deems it right.”
On the controversial issue of concessions, he said China Construction America (CCA) will be given the same concessions by his government that were given under the Hotel Encouragement Act by the former Ingraham administration.
“My advisors instructed me to be cautious about what I say given the court order. I can say that CCA was given Hotel Encouragement Act concessions (for construction) by the FNM and will be given the same concessions to complete the construction by my government,” Mr Christie said last week.
In late August, the government shot down claims that inducements of citizenships and private islands were offered to kick-start construction efforts at the stalled $3.5bn Cable Beach property.
“The government will not be distracted from its efforts and will continue to work for and on behalf of the Bahamian people,” the government said in a statement released by Bahamas Information Services.
“There have been allegations that we have offered citizenships. This is false. There have been allegations that we have given away or sold islands. This is false.”
“Nothing has been given by way of concessions that has not been offered before to previous investors,” the government’s statement added.