By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The FNM’s deputy leader yesterday said it is “insulting and embarrassing” that foreign investors have forced the Bahamas to finally move on resolving the New Providence landfill’s troubles.
K P Turnquest told Tribune Business that the Government should have moved much earlier for the benefit of Bahamians, rather than be forced into action by Baha Mar’s new owner and other major foreign investors.
The Christie administration’s April 25 Heads of Agreement with Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) mandates that it remediate the landfill by year-end, and Mr Turnquest blasted: “I think that is just embarrassing.
“We have seen the terrible state of that landfill over the last five years. It is insulting for a foreign investor to come in for us to take action.”
The Baha Mar Heads of Agreement stipulates that any failure by the Government to resolve the landfill’s problems by December 31, 2017, will be treated as “a force majeure” event.
If that occurs, then CTFE and its Baha Mar-owning affiliate will be released from performing their Heads of Agreement obligations for as long as it takes to remediate the landfill’s problems, although the Hong Kong-based conglomerate will keep its investment incentives.
The Heads of Agreement’s clause 15.2 states: “The Government acknowledges, and will undertake to ensure, that the environment for the guests of the resort is pleasant and enjoyable.
“The parties recognise that the Government shall commence and diligently purse remediation, and improve operation and management of the Harrold Road landfill.”
Year-end 2017 is given as the date by which the Government must “address the foregoing concerns”.
The landfill heads the Government’s ‘infrastructure improvements’ commitments to CTFE and Baha Mar, which probably explains its haste to initiate the Request for Proposal (RFP) and give bidders just eight days to submit detailed management and remediation plans.
Tribune Business understands that the Government had been coming under pressure from not just CTFE and Baha Mar, but also the Albany developers, to address the landfill’s envrionmental and health hazards, which threaten to undermine the experience for their visitors and residents.
Mr Turnquest, though, said the Government should have acted earlier, and not just to benefit major developers and investors.
“We’ve seen multiple fires and health hazards as a result of mismanagement,” he told Tribune Business. “It is frustrating that we prioritise others enjoying our environment and clean air over us.
“It shouldn’t take for them to tell us what to do. These are problems that have to be rectified, but not for the benefit of Baha Mar per se, but for the benefit of the Bahamian people.
“For too long we’ve had this inadequate infrastructure plaguing Nassau, in particular, and need to do better. Hopefully we will get a true solution, and not a marginal deal that benefits those already benefiting, and creates a burden that we cannot sustain for the future.”
Kenred Dorsett, minister of the environment and housing, has confirmed that two bids were submitted for the New Providence landfill’s management and remediation by the deadline.
One of the bidders is the Bahamian Waste Resources Development Group (WRDG) and its partner, Providence Advisors chief, Kenwood Kerr. The other is understood to be foreign, and possibly originate from south Florida.
Branville McCartney, the Democratic National Alliance’s (DNA) leader, also said the Government has been “pressured by a foreign entity” to resolve the landfill’s woes.
“We have said over and repeatedly that any reasonable investor would not finalise a sale until that dump was fixed,” Mr McCartney added of CTFE and Baha Mar.
The landfill appears to have been prioritised above Baha Mar’s energy needs, which requires the Government and Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) to “address reliable and consistent supply of electricity on the island of New Providence, which will include the ability to meet the requirements of the project”.
This involves the installation “of all supporting infrastructure necessary to support secure and dependable electricity supplies to the project, without the need for unusual load-shedding or other interruption in electricity supply to the project”.
Again, this must be completed by December 31, 2017, which could well prove a tall order for the Government and BEC/BPL, given that both are cash-strapped, and based on the utility’s past performance.
Finally, in the list of extensive infrastructure commitments that the next government will be bound by, the Christie administration has pledged to complete a waste treatment facility from the Water & Sewerage Corporation - also by December 31, 2017.