A section of the Baha Mar resort.
By MALCOLM STRACHAN
WE HOPE that as our new Prime Minister gazes upon Baha Mar’s unfinished buildings this week — alongside representatives from China Construction America (CCA) — that he remembers the Bahamian construction workers and hospitality professionals who remain at home, unemployed, as a result of CCA not being held to fair standards.
Anyone who drives by the resort can see that there is much to be done before Baha Mar is complete — green fencing and balconies needing repair are in plain view of the road. We urge the new Prime Minister to take this opportunity to stroll through the entire resort, not merely the parts that are presentable to the press, and address the many questions that Bahamians still have for CCA given their work on Baha Mar.
First and foremost: What, Prime Minister Minnis might ask his CCA tour guides, has been done to remedy the thousands of defects in CCA’s construction work at Baha Mar, which have been documented both through the media and by third-party observers? Have they been fixed and inspected by an outside inspector? It’s not a doubt that they will find a convenient excuse. CCA has used the tactic of pinning its failures on someone else before — two weeks ago, they suggested that an order of lounge chairs might cause them to miss yet another invented deadline for opening Baha Mar.
Next, what has been done to ensure the structural integrity of the resort following significant wear-and-tear from Hurricane Matthew and standing idle over the last two-and-a-half years? Because of the previous PLP government, CCA has rested easy in Nassau for far too long and secured a position of power for itself—controlling the construction of not only Baha Mar but also The Pointe, two crucial destinations for The Bahamas’ tourism industry.
Throughout their time in our country, CCA has consistently shown their disrespect for The Bahamas. On Baha Mar, they have directly cost the Bahamian people hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue from delaying the opening of the resort to more than three years after their original deadline. Now, CCA has put construction at The Pointe on hold, blaming the change of government for the delay—a convenient excuse since former Deputy Prime Minister Brave Davis has already revealed that CCA didn’t even submit construction plans to the PLP for the project! The November 2018 completion date of The Pointe’s second phase is already looking like another false deadline.
Bahamians would be wise to study an event that occurred in Kenya earlier this summer. An important bridge—a potential economic sparkplug to Kenya—being built by a China-owned construction company and funded by a Chinese bank, collapsed just before it was finished. The bridge was being rushed to be completed before a large national election with the hopes that the government in power could take credit. Now, Kenya must start from scratch with a significant economic effect. How will the Chinese be punished for their role in this catastrophe? Since they are also building an important new railway in Kenya, the Kenyan government is unable to do anything. This all seems too familiar.
It was just two years ago — a month after CCA had previously scheduled the completion of Baha Mar — that Mr Davis flew to CCA’s new office in Panama for a photo opportunity.
“We are grateful for the contribution of CCA in our efforts to improve our economy,” Mr Davis exclaimed in a CCA press release. Two years later, what does The Bahamas have to show for the efforts of Mr Davis’ friends? A parking garage at The Pointe and a partially-opened Baha Mar riddled with unresolved work defects.
Our new Prime Minister’s tour of Baha Mar is an opportunity to take a long, hard look and hold CCA accountable for its work on the resort. The PM should not be led on a cherry-picked tour of Baha Mar but on a real walkthrough to see what work truly has completed and what needs to be done. Have the structural and other deficiencies of two years ago been cured? Is the work that is being done of the quality that will enable Baha Mar to be the originally-envisioned, world-class vacation destination? CCA’s poor record to date on this project puts all involved at risk — Baha Mar’s owners, our new government, the future of our economy. This tour hopefully should help our new PM to make sound decisions regarding Baha Mar.