By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
WHILE he remained tightlipped over key details concerning the shuttered Baha Mar resort – among them the identity of the shortlisted potential buyer — Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday revealed that the “huge enterprise” has met the government’s requirements for a world-class developer.
Mr Christie said the principals of the would-be purchaser met with the government and shared plans to expand on the existing project, but are still in negotiations with project financier Export-Import Bank of China (CEXIM). It is also still to be announced, according to Mr Christie, whether the future developer will operate the entire resort or whether it will be managed by separate brands as was the original plan with Hyatt, SLS and Rosewood.
When asked by ZNS yesterday when contractors would begin construction on the property, Mr Christie said: “Now.”
Remarking on the tireless efforts of himself, and his team, in the face of naysayers and critics, he said: “For me, all of the correspondence, all of the efforts, all of the difficulties, all of the obstacles, are now behind us and we are looking forward now to this coming to life and Bahamians driving past and watching will see it come to life in a very meaningful way.”
He added: “Today for me is an extraordinary day because I must say that my team worked very, very hard, that many, many nights over many, many weeks I was battling on this when people least expected us to be able to succeed. And so for me it’s been a tremendous rewarding experience for me.
“I really want to thank Sir Baltron Bethel and Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson who were running up and down between Beijing and here when many people thought that it was just a waste of time and their efforts were proven to be the right efforts and successful outcomes.”
Following a tour staged to mark the remobilisation of the project, he expressed optimism that the buyer’s name will be announced “shortly” and that every effort was being made to meet the government’s expectations for a phased opening before the end of the winter tourism season.
However, he acknowledged that the timeline for opening was under the remit of the future owners. The winter season ends in March 2017.
“The Bahamas government has always expressed the view that we want it opened and we would like for every effort to be made to open before the winter season, at least one part of it, and we always said the casino hotel, the casino and the golf course at the very least,” the prime minister said.
“But that’s a matter for the owners and discussions with the owners,” he said.
“We’ve had preliminary discussions with them, we feel optimistic that they understand the interest of the Bahamas and we’re looking forward really to informed discussions with them. They are a huge enterprise worldwide and they are going to bring plenty to the table.”
Prime Minister Perry Christie announced late last month that a deal had been reached between the government and CEXIM to remobilise the stalled resort during a nationally televised press conference.
However the Supreme Court documents relating to this agreement have been sealed, which Mr Christie has said was done at the request of CEXIM.
Since his statement, no definitive timeline on construction had been given, or any clarity on a possible buyer or sale price.
The Official Opposition and numerous political figures have railed against the secrecy surrounding the deal, citing mounting public distrust in the Christie-led government amid speculation over the concessions given by the government.
Yesterday Mr Christie reiterated that he could not disclose further details for legal reasons, stating only that regular updates will be provided on the progress of implementing the agreement, and that more detailed information will be made once the Supreme Court order is unsealed. He noted that China Construction America was in the process of resolving outstanding amounts owing its suppliers and contractors. Jimmy Mosko, who represents the resort’s largest subcontractor, attended the tour and expressed his satisfaction with the prime minister’s efforts.
Speaking on his tour, Mr Christie said: “One of the fascinating developments is that notwithstanding what they have to pay for the resort, that you will find that they themselves have a vision that really includes expanding what exists here. So I am very, very happy to know that not only will we look forward to it being opened but that it will be opened in a way that will stand an excellent chance of being a landmark resort for the country.”
Mr Christie said: “What I saw in there really underscores the confidence that I had in this and I’m looking forward really to when the operators are identified and they come in to begin the process of bringing life to the casino, to the casino hotel, and to other parts of this.”
Meanwhile, former employees with last names beginning with the letters A through F will collect outstanding payments today, those with last names beginning with the letters G through O will collect their cheques on Wednesday, and last names beginning with the letters P through Z will collect their cheques on Thursday from the Crystal Palace Training Hotel, Casino Entrance. Payment collection will take place between 7am and 7pm.