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Contractors Urge Better Policing' Of Investments

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

THE Bahamian Contractors Association's (BCA) president has called for stricter "policing" to ensure developers adhere to the terms of their Heads of Agreement.

Leonard Sands, pictured, told Tribune Business that the BCA, which has repeatedly raised concerns over the ratio of Bahamian to Chinese labour at The Pointe development, reiterated the position that government should have revisited the tax incentives afforded to the developer.

He argued that this was highlighted by the fact that Labour Minister, Dion Foulkes, recently told this newspaper that The Pointe Heads of Agreement had been "poorly drafted".

"One of the things we would have hoped is if they saw that the agreement needed to be revisited in any way, that they would have done so and looked at the concessions," Mr Sands said. "To continue with the concessions under the circumstances is not good.

"Again, we do not take aim only at the Pointe development. We recognise and acknowledge that there are other Heads of Agreements not being lived up to by other developments in The Bahamas. All of them call into question who was there policing the Heads of Agreement? We need to police these Heads of Agreements and ensure that they are being followed, given the concessions that are being granted," said Mr Sands.

The BCA chief had previously blasted as "hogwash" the Government's finding that The Pointe was not in breach of its Heads of Agreement on labour ratios. He rejected "outright" both China Construction America's (CCA) explanation for the ratio of Bahamian versus non-Bahamian workers currently at the site, and the notion that qualified Bahamians cannot be found to perform the work.

Ministry of Labour officials met with Daniel Liu, The Pointe's president, his vice-president and legal counsel to discuss a report that found the ratio of workers at the downtown Nassau development was 75 percent/25 percent in favour of Chinese employees. The Heads of Agreement calls for a 70/30 split in favour of Bahamians, meaning the ratio has been reversed.

The developer's explanation was that at the present stage of construction, the erection of the superstructure requires specialised post-tension concrete structure workers to complete the phase in a very short timeframe.

"We began speaking out because we felt that we were not getting an opportunity to be involved at the ground level as part of the development," Mr Sands said. "Someone should have ensured that we are represented. We are not coming after the development, we're not upset with minister, we're simply saying that if an agreement says there should be a 70/30 ratio, someone should ensure that we are represented."

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