Contractor chief challenges ‘short sighted’ stadium deal


Tribune Business Editor



Leonard Sands

THE Bahamian Contractors Association’s (BCA) president yesterday argued it was “short-sighted” not to ensure the national stadium’s overhaul involves skills and knowledge transfer by the Chinese.

Leonard Sands told Tribune Business that the Government should have “structured the deal” thus to provide long-term benefits for the Bahamian construction industry knowing that Chinese contractors would perform the majority of the $36m repairs to the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium.

While acknowledging it was inevitable Chinese labour would be hired given the Beijing government is covering 100 percent of the cost, he nevertheless asserted that this nation appears to have “learned nothing” from previous construction dealings involving both Baha Mar and the British Colonial/The Pointe resorts.

“Is it that again in the sense, Neil, that we have learned two things” Mr Sands told this newspaper. “We have learned nothing and done nothing since last time. Any time you have a business relationship with the Chinese, who I love......

“I love the People’s Republic of China. They are the most advanced society in the world, and figured out technology and how to do things better than anyone else, including exporting their capital and labour. But, in response to doing business with them, we have learned very little from this amazing world leader and economy.”

The BCA president said it was a given that Chinese labour always follows that nation’s capital investments, as has occurred previously in The Bahamas. He emphasised that he was not opposed to the stadium repairs and Chinese involvement, and added that this nation should be grateful for the Beijing government’s “gift” in funding the work which has saved the Government a multi-million sum.

However, Chinese contractors and workers are doing the majority of the work, with Mario Bowleg, minister of youth, sports and culture, affirming that the stadium workforce is two-thirds Chinese with some 150 workers. The Bahamas is supplying 75 workers.

As a result, and to compensate for the fact that no Bahamian contractors and fewer workers are benefiting from the $36m project, Mr Sands said this nation must do a better job in ensuring local professionals at least benefit from skills, knowledge and technology transfer.

“From the BCA standpoint, while we’re happy with the gift, while we’re happy with the arrangement to improve the stadium and all they are giving The Bahamas, we must be satisfied that at least there will be an opportunity to be trained by this very skilled society, and learn in terms of the knowledge and skills these technical people have,” he told Tribune Business.

“This speaks to the short-sightedness of the Government of The Bahamas with respect to its own citizens. If you don’t put yourself in a place where your citizens can benefit from such an arrangement it’s short-sighted. The gift will be beneficial, but the knowledge transfer will not happen and that’s to the disadvantage of men and women who can learn something from these amazing skills.

“I hope we can do it differently, but all I can do is hope. Since we are getting assistance with the stadium, I believe these people have amazing technology that can assist The Bahamas if we ask for it. Simply ask for it. We’re still here struggling how to build public buildings without the cost doubling, whereas they’ve constructed some of the world’s most amazing buildings.”

Mr Sands argued that The Bahamas failed to place sufficient value on the relationships it has built such as the one with China, and reiterated: “Structure the deal where there’s at least skills transfer. At least do that. There’s no consideration for skills transfer at all.

“That has to change if we want to talk about the present Bahamas, and where we expect it to be the kind of Bahamas where the Prime Minister is talking about energy this, eco-friendly that and sustainability this. We are less than third world in our dealings with people who have the ability to teach us this. We are archaic at best, we are neanderthal at best. It’s embarrassing. We need to do better.

“Before I go, here’s a novel idea. I throw it out for free. They should set up a whole technology exchange programme where the Government ensures for every Chinese on that site we have someone between the ages of 18 and 25 shadowing that person for the life of the project,” the BCA president continued.

“It makes sense to me. At the very least we would have created a whole cohort of persons capable of maintaining the facility post-construction, but I gather that’s not in the thinking of persons at the table and I’m not invited to give them an opening to think about it. It is what it is.”

The stadium repairs are expected to be completed 14 days before The Bahamas hosts the World Relays on May 4-5. Dai Qingli, the Chinese ambassador to The Bahamas, said: “The rough estimate made by the Bahamas government when they put forward the project proposal was like $28m, but because of this urgent nature, it became an urgent project so the cost went up by a few million dollars.”

Ms Qingli said the repairs are a symbol of friendship between both countries. “We have been working on this stadium project for many months now, since last year,” she said. “This is a collaborative project between our two governments. We have been able to secure a Chinese government grant at the request of The Bahamas government.

“We all know the importance of this stadium to the Bahamian people and we see this as a symbol of friendship between our countries, so we want this symbol to stand tall and proud and especially to be ready in time for the World Relays.”

Mr Bowleg added: “It’s our job that we maintain and upkeep these facilities to ensure that they can be of great asset to us in the long run.”


realityisnotPC 2 months, 2 weeks ago

"I love the People's Republic of China"? I guess Mr. Sands doesn't value things like freedom of speech, freedom of association and democracy!

BMW 2 months, 1 week ago

The bahamas are suckers for punishment. There is not a whole bunch to love about communism! Maybe Mr. Sands should visit Japan where they have a very respectful people, a garbage free country and great buisness accumen.

jamesg30 2 months, 1 week ago

At least we know the PRC is doing all of this out of the goodness of their hearts. Such loving, free thinking, pluralistic society and government. Is this payback for screwing Izzy over? Why would we expect China to not only have "gifted us" this sports venue, but to provide perpetual care for it? Has all the similarities to what is expected when you burry your loved one in a cemetery. Someone will always cut the grass. Only this is the government of China. What are they expecting in return? Anyone ever ask that basic question? Something is so off with this whole thing. From its construction, to now us having to grovel for funds from them for repairs.

ThisIsOurs 2 months, 1 week ago

It's the War of the Worlds. It's always been the War of the Worlds. The goal of every super power since the dawn of man was to conquer more land especially resource rich lands and strategically placed lands. China gets a bad rap understandably, they have some human rights issues behind the curtain, but every super power is in this War. It's the conjoined twin of something called diplomacy

birdiestrachan 2 months, 1 week ago

But the Bahamian contractors say they can only find Haitians to work or foreign labour , that is what they say I am trying , What is the point

DiverBelow 2 months, 1 week ago

There should be an agreement for training interested Bahamians, if & when found, via direct on the job apprentice activy or technical school support. Understandably, when on a tight schedule, who needs to slow down with a blundering apprentice with F-Grade skills? At least insist on the apprentice passing a set skill level in the appropriate trade. Bahamian, Haitian, or Whomever... Who is not an imigrant? No Lucayans around here to demand priveledge! What about the Great Bahamian Brain Drain of Government Financed University educated who stay abroad! Are they reimbursing the people for capital spent? Another drying teat.

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