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Cabinet 'Still Reviewing' Baha Mar Deal

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Deputy Chief Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday Cabinet is still in the process of “reviewing” the Baha Mar deal.

Asked about the status of this aspect of national interest, Dr Minnis said: “We are still reviewing. We are still reviewing. And I want to speak from a position of facts.”

Earlier this month, newly appointed Attorney General Carl Bethel said the Minnis administration regarded the unsealing of the documents relating to Baha Mar’s sale as “very important”, but added that it was too early to reveal the avenue the government plans to take to have the deal made public.

Mr Bethel said at the time that he had not yet seen or reviewed the file and that any decision in this regard is not expected until the file has been looked at and discussed with his team at the Office of the Attorney General.

After repeated calls from the Free National Movement while in opposition and critics to reveal what was detailed in the deal, former Prime Minister Perry Christie in January assured Bahamians that the sealed court documents would be made public. However this was never done.

“I am just getting my first touch of the issue,” Mr Bethel said during a telephone interview earlier this month. “I haven’t seen the file as yet, although I did have my first verbal briefing on it. This is something that we do regard as very important. However, I have to review and then be briefed and we’ll go from there.”

On April 30, the former Christie administration released Baha Mar’s heads of agreement, which included several revelations, including a $4m annual bill for eight years by the government to help market the mega resort upon its opening.

The document, signed on April 25, also outlined a number of other concessions granted to the new buyer of the beleaguered resort, including value added tax (VAT) exemption for the project’s completion until the end of 2019 and write off of $10m in casino debts.

While stressing that there must at all times be “continued efforts” to maximise Bahamian employment at the resort, the government further allowed for the granting of up to 300 work permits for non-Bahamian workers in senior management positions, those with technical or specialty skills, including brand management, “where there is a demonstrable need and lack of qualified Bahamian applicants”.

The heads of agreement noted that after the first 18 months of operation of the resort and casino, work permit numbers are projected to drop to 200.

The resort also will be exempt from the payment of real property tax for 10 years “commencing on the date of opening for business of each facility within the project”.

The timing of the release of the heads of agreement coincided with the end of the government’s self-imposed deadline to push for the release of the sealed Supreme Court documents relating to the sale of the resort to Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE).

However, those documents remain under the court ordered seal and as a result, the sales price and other conditions involved in the process are still unknown.

Comments

Publius 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Asked about the status of this aspect of national interest, Dr Minnis said: “We are still reviewing. We are still reviewing. And I want to speak from a position of facts.”

Oh really? When was the full and true file unsealed by the Courts?

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TalRussell 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Comrade Minnis, whilst in opposition - never demonstrated that he could form coherent followup answers to questions he had been questioned on but days before. We have no other choice but to wait and see if he improves in the 'days, weeks and months' ahead as PM?

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cmiller 6 months, 2 weeks ago

As compared to Perry, who was eloquent and articulate, but lied so much!!!!

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alfalfa 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I guess the FNM should just agree with everything the PLP did and not question anything. Right. Don't sell them short on intelligence. They can hold their own in that department. Bahamar needs to be investigated fully, and if there are necessary changes, they should be done. Everyone is talking about Izmirlian and Minnis. Anyone remember the broad TV coverage given to him and Mr. Christie, standing behind the old P/M's office on Cable Beach and surveying jointly, this wonderful thing called Bahamar(this was just prior to the 2012 election). He was their dream boy then, but how quickly things changed. He crawled into bed with them, and got what the duck got.

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