First Mr Izmirlian, now Dr Minnis. Malcolm J Strachan says the PLP must take responsibility for what is happening at Baha Mar, not pin it on others . . .
Much has been said and much has been written about Dr Hubert Minnis’ comments a week ago regarding the possible sale of Baha Mar.
Much of what was said and written about these comments were pure distortions of Dr Minnis’ actual words and points. Most of the diatribe against Dr Minnis was made by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) - after all it is the political season, and the future of Baha Mar deservedly so is very much an issue for the Government and our country.
There are two points, however, in the PLP’s criticism of Dr Minnis’ remarks which are particularly unfair and frankly downright hypocritical: the false assertions that Minnis is talking about “nationalising” Baha Mar, and that his talk will chill foreign investment coming into the Bahamas. Both are manipulative distortions by the PLP to avoid accountability and responsibility for its bungling of Baha Mar to the detriment of the country.
Any fair-minded reader of Dr Minnis’ words would surely conclude that he was not suggesting nationalising Baha Mar. He was saying simply that government has a responsibility to ensure that any commercial transaction that is undertaken of this magnitude not be adverse to the interests of the Bahamas and that a transaction such as Baha Mar did deserve public accountability given the issues that have plagued the project have had clear national implications for all of us - economically, socially and politically.
Of course, it is interesting that the PLP plays the “nationalisation” card. Is it that the Christie administration is so sensitive about enormous assets obtained and controlled here in the Bahamas by Chinese enterprises, in particular by entities that are virtual proxies for the Chinese government?
After all, Baha Mar is owned at present by the Export-Import Bank of China, which, in turn, is owned by the Government of China. The general construction contractor of Baha Mar is China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CCA), which too is owned by the Government of China. It is CCA which arguably must be held responsible for Baha Mar not already being opened - having repeatedly missed schedule deadlines it set itself and having lost, more often than not, independent arbitrations about it overcharging on the project.
It is this same CCA which also owns the massive project in downtown Nassau -The Pointe - which itself is a situation of ongoing controversy. It is CCA which has insisted on importing and using primarily Chinese labour, while taking much needed work away from the Bahamian labour market.
It is the Chinese to which the Christie administration appears to be constantly bowing and doing their bidding, claiming Chinese investment - and indeed plenty of it - in the Bahamas is good for our country. But is it? Or is the Christie administration facilitating a substantial and potentially irreversible Chinese nationalisation of the Bahamas? And where will the Chinese take their profits from their Bahamian involvements? Will they be reinvested here in the Bahamas or will they be shipped off to China - to these entities’ owner, the Government of China.
Nationalisation is an interesting concept - but not one put forward by Dr Minnis. Rather, the reality of what we are experiencing today is the Christie administration aiding and abetting the Chinese nationalisation of the Bahamas!
And the assertion that Dr Minnis, through his comments about reviewing the possible sale of Baha Mar to Chow Tai Fook, would, if implemented, chill foreign investment in the Bahamas is both absurd and hypocritical. The Christie administration already has chilled foreign investment through its mishandling of Baha Mar. Its use of the Bahamian courts to sabotage the Baha Mar Chapter 11 reorganisation proceedings in the US court undercut a valid common commercial action, causing the court to be unable to proceed because its rulings would not be recognised in the Bahamas.
That sabotage, fully supported by the Chinese bank and the Chinese construction company, destroyed the ability of many of Baha Mar’s largest creditors - which are based outside the Bahamas - to be paid from the monies they had laid out for the project or to have a viable legal remedy to pursue their claims. In fact, within the Chapter 11 proceedings, the Committee of Independent Creditors had fully supported the Chapter 11 reorganisation plan.
But the PLP won’t tell you that. They will simply continue with their worn out and tired line that they had “rescued” the resort from bankruptcy. What utter foolishness!
With that poorly thought out precedent established by the Christie administration, what foreign-based party, other than the Chinese with this PLP government, would seriously consider having investment exposure in the Bahamas?
It was Prime Minister Christie, who, on the heels of the Chapter 11 filing, made a primetime evening address to the nation asserting, in often strident tones, the Bahamas’ sovereignty was at stake because a private commercial transaction had pursued a very available and not unusual legal path without first going through what would have been a highly unusual, and not legally required step of gaining the approval of the Prime Minister. This was followed virtually days later by one of his ministers challenging the right of the project’s original developer, Sarkis Izmirlian, a long-time resident of the Bahamas, to even be in the Bahamas. Why does this kind of behaviour from the government encourage any non-Bahamian party to invest in or do business in the Bahamas?
That was three years ago.
Dr Minnis’ recent comments did not cause over this time the sharp drop in foreign investment in the Bahamas.
Dr Minnis’ comments did not cause the Bahamian unemployment rate to become so dangerously high.
Dr Minnis’ comments have not caused many expatriate workers, who had been at Baha Mar, to be stiffed on monies they are owed because they made the mistake of trying to work in the Bahamas.
Dr Minnis’ comments did not cause many second home owners to sell their homes and leave this country. That, is the handiwork of the PLP.
Chilling foreign investment in the Bahamas? The PLP and its Christie administration need to look no further than to their ill-conceived actions and often misleading rhetoric these past several years. The answer on foreign investment is right there in front of them and for all to see. Under their leadership our nation’s international credit rating has sunk like a stone to an incredibly low and dangerous level.
PLP: it is you who are creating a nationalisation of our country’s assets to the Chinese and it is you who have made our country unattractive for foreign investment.
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