National Address by Leader of The Opposition on Baha Mar

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July 20, 2015

My Fellow Bahamians,

It is appropriate for me, to address the nation this evening, to express the DEEP CONCERN of Bahamians, OVER THE FAILURE OF THE PARTIES TO the Baha Mar resort project, to REACH A SATISFACTORY AGREEMENT, that would ensure the timely completion and successful opening and operation of the $3.5 billion dollar Baha Mar mega resort project on cable beach. The opening of the Baha Mar resort is a matter of utmost national importance.

We, the opposition Free National Movement, cannot overemphasize the enormous impact that its failure will have on the economy of The Bahamas, resulting in social dislocation, pain, and suffering, which would be experienced by the thousands of Bahamians left unemployed, and in despair, as the unemployment rate in The Bahamas, already at 15.7% percent would continue to climb.

On behalf of the official opposition Free National Movement, I wish to assure the employees of Baha Mar that we understand and empathize with their plight, though no fault of their own.

My Fellow Bahamians,

We, the official opposition Free National Movement care deeply about our Bahamian people and their well being. We will be watching carefully to see what measures Mr. Christie and his government will take to protect the employment of Bahamian workers, and to provide interim relief, so that school preparation will not be adversely impacted.

The completion of the Baha Mar development is critical to the enhancement of our tourism product, particularly at this time when stop over visitors are static, and Cuba’s entry into the American tourist market will create greater competition for The Bahamas.

My Fellow Bahamians,

We call on ALL INTERESTED PARTIES to redouble their efforts, and to continue working diligently to ensure the completion AND SUCCESSFUL OPENING AND OPERATION of the Baha Mar resort as soon as possible. FAILURE TO reach a negotiated settlement WILL HAVE adverse NATIONAL CONSEQUENCES FOR OUR Bahamian ECONOMY, the lender, China Export-Import Bank, the general contractor, China Construction America, and the developer Baha Mar:

 The construction company, the bank, the developer and the Bahamian people will all suffer great loss if they are unable to find a quick and workable solution to this dilemma.

 The Construction Company, many Bahamian sub-contractors, and business investors will not be paid in full, monies owed and earned by them.

 The bank will not receive repayment of its $2.6 billion dollar loan on a timely basis, if at all.

 The developer will not recover his substantial investment; and

 The Bahamas government will face rising unemployment, and a possible downgrade by the international credit rating agencies of its sovereign rating.

Thousands of Bahamians, who are depending on the opening of Baha Mar to earn a decent living, and to be able to send their children to school, and to improve their quality of life will lose the opportunity to do so.

It is for these reasons that we implore the parties to continue working together, to resolve their disputes by mediation rather than litigation through the Courts. My Fellow Bahamians, The dispute which arose between the developer, and the general contractor has resulted in construction works being stopped. Baha Mar has shut down the project and filed for bankruptcy, and initiated legal proceedings against the lender, China Eximbank, and the contractor, China State Construction.

To protect its interest, Baha Mar has filed a Petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States. The petition would allow Baha Mar to RESTRUCTURE its debts while CONTINUING to operate and carry on as usual its daily operations.

The developer has proceeded to seek recognition of the U.S. Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection by application to The Bahamas Supreme Court. The proceedings, at the request of Baha Mar are scheduled to continue to be heard tomorrow morning.

My Fellow Bahamians, The Government, to protect the interest of the Bahamian people has filed a winding up petition in The Bahamas Supreme Court against Baha Mar.

While we respect the decision taken by the government, we urge the Prime Minister to explain the full ramifications of the liquidation process to the Bahamian people. How long is the process expected to take? When is it likely that the resort will finally be opened? How will Bahamian jobs be protected in the interim? Will any jobs be negatively impacted during, or after the liquidation process?

We, the opposition Free National Movement urge the Prime Minister, to mobilize the resources of our government, to ensure that the children of employees of Baha Mar are not negatively impacted in their ability to enroll in, and attend school. The Ministry of Education, the Department of Social Services and all available government resources ought to be involved in protecting the future of our children.

My Fellow Bahamians,

While we respect and recognize the rights and legitimate interests of the key parties to seek legal redress, we caution that Court proceedings ought to be the last resort, as such measures are bound to be acrimonious, time consuming, and result in lengthy delays to the completion of the resort, and to the detriment of workers, contractors, sub-contractors and our economy.

We, the opposition Free National Movement urge all parties to do their utmost to negotiate an out of court settlement of their disputes.

A Negotiated agreement would recognize and respect the rights and legitimate interests of the key parties, including The Bahamas government, and the Bahamian people.

It would also allow the developer to speedily take control of the process, and, to work with the other key stakeholders to prepare a strategic and workable roadmap for the completion and opening of the resort in the shortest possible time.

My Fellow Bahamians,

Ensuring the completion and successful opening, and operation of Baha Mar are matters of utmost national importance. The fate of this Bahamian project, its Bahamian employees, and the international reputation of The Bahamas are in jeopardy.

We, the opposition Free National Movement wish for the best possible outcome for our country and our workers. We encourage the government -- to ensure the protection of the Bahamas’ international reputation, as they continue to work towards a solution to this dilemma.

We, the opposition Free National Movement deeply regret that this mega development project has come to such an impasse; however, we remain hopeful. We join with every well meaning Bahamian in praying that the completion of construction and the opening of Baha Mar are just around the corner. Any further delay will inflict untold hardship on our people, and produce disastrous results for our fragile economy.

My Fellow Bahamians,

This is indeed a teachable moment. The compelling and urgent lesson is that, the time has come for us to decrease our dependence on mega anchor projects to sustain and grow our economy.

It is time for us to look within ourselves for solutions to "jump start" our economy, and empower our citizens.

Developing our economy, requires that the government invests in our local small and medium sized businesses. When granting economic concessions to investors, we must level the playing field. The small and medium sized Bahamian investors must be able to walk on the same welcoming red carpet

laid out for foreign investors, foreign businesses, and not be shoved through the side door, to be left frustrated and feeling disenfranchised. The combination of direct domestic investment, coupled with direct foreign investment, will help to build and sustain a stronger and more vibrant Bahamian economy.

My Fellow Bahamians,

To build A NEW AND BETTER BAHAMAS, we must employ strategies that will make us less reliant on direct foreign investment.

We must create more opportunities for ordinary Bahamians to own more of our economy, and we must empower more Bahamians to own, and drive economic development in our own country.

The real challenge to A NEW AND BETTER BAHAMAS is for its LEADERS to provide more of our citizens with the opportunity to discover the leader that they possess within themselves.

We are a talented people, yearning to utilize our God given talents, to contribute to our society, and A NEW AND BETTER BAHAMAS built on hard work, talent and fairness.

An equal opportunity society, a society built not on seniority, not on who you know, not on which family or political party you belong to, but a meritocracy built on qualifications, hard work, determination, and performance. With God’s help and your support we dedicate our lives to building a just society in our NEW AND BETTER BAHAMAS.

Thank you.

May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

News date : 07/20/2015    Category : About Bahamians, Politics, Press Releases

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