FNM Press Conference Statement after Baha Mar Bankruptcy Announcement
Minnis: Christie Government flatfooted and in the dark yesterday when news of Baha Mar’s bankruptcy filing broke
Nassau, Bahamas – The following is a press statement released at a press conference held by the Free National Movement on Tuesday, June 30th:
The FNM is deeply concerned with developments at Baha Mar. We are especially concerned for the 2000 plus employees of the Resort whose continued employment is in jeopardy. And we are concerned for all the Bahamian contractors engaged by the developers who have no idea when Baha Mar will be in a position to make good on monies owed to them for work completed and continuing up to a few days ago.
The FNM is alarmed that the project agreement originally negotiated by Christie and rescued from disarray by the last FNM Government is now unravelling before our eyes.
Prime Minister Perry Christie and his Government appear clueless as to their next move. They were caught flatfooted and in the dark yesterday when news of Baha Mar’s bankruptcy filing broke in the news media. Why? And this after months of assurances from Mr. Christie and several of his Cabinet that a resolution was at hand.
We in the FNM renew our call for the Government and very particularly for the Prime Minister to come clean with the Bahamian people and to state factually and succinctly the exact circumstances governing developments at this major development.
The Prime Minister has for weeks now assured the Bahamian people that a resolution to the problems at the Baha Mar construction site were imminent.
Early this year the prime minister travelled to China to meet with the project financiers. He returned to Nassau giving assurances that all was on track for the March opening of the resort. He never told the Bahamian people exactly what the China Export Import Bankers told him. And he never told the Bahamian people exactly what the China Construction Team told him either. Just “good news” is all that he said.
We understand that as early as that trip the prime minister undertook to pay Baha Mar the outstanding $21 million owed by the Government for infrastructure development. This was not reported at the time and the Government did not pay the moneys either.
Prime Minister Christie subsequently toured the Project site with his Cabinet Ministers and members of the media in tow. At that time he and his Government continued to buy into the developers’ and contractors’ story that after two announced delays in the opening of the Resort all was then well and on schedule for a March 2015 opening.
Many in the public, looking at the site from the outside, had their doubts but some trusted that the Prime Minister, who was on the inside, must know more. And they accepted that if Mr. Christie said all was well, it must be so. Well Mr. Christie either did not know or understand or he chose to mislead!
Then on 14th May the media reported that the prime minister had assured reporters from both national newspapers that a shortage of funds was not the cause for the impasse at Baha Mar. This notwithstanding reports also revealed in the media that someone in the Christie administration had indicated that the “developer did not have the cash to finish the project or pay the contractor”.
Now we know it is a money problem plus…!
On May 21st it was reported that the prime minister was involved in another round of talks with all the parties to the dispute. At that time he told reporters he was hopeful that a resolution would be found but on the 26th May, the Minister of Tourism was advising Baha Mar in the press that the company ought not announce another opening date
Over the past two months the prime minister has repeatedly told the Bahamian people that he was on his way to or from a meeting with representatives of the developer, the construction company and the banker. He has been “fervently” hopeful for a resolution to the problems affecting the development or excitedly waiting for confirmation of “good news”.
As recently as in his Budget Communication Mr. Christie, in his capacity of Minister of Finance, spoke about his great expectations for the Resort. One evening, in the midst of heated debate on the Budget, Mr. Christie advised that he had to make a phone call or meet with the representatives of the China Exim Bank; then he had to speak with Mr. Izmirlian who was just returning from meetings with the Bank and always this was in anticipation of “good news” relating to the project.
On 1 June the Nassau Guardian asserted: “Christie told us, as far as he knew the issue of withheld payments to the general contractor has been resolved but he said that ‘other issues’ had come up…”
Prime Minister Christie is also reported as advising the Guardian on 1 June that “the government’s outstanding issue with Baha Mar over payments for the government’s portion of the costs associated with the new West Bay Street and related infrastructure had been resolved.” This was not mentioned in the Budget Communication.
Then the media heralded reports that the Government would “give” or pay its $21 million debt to Baha Mar connected to the road and infrastructure but suggested that this was in some way connected to the payment of salaries of Bahamians engaged at Baha Mar.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fred Mitchell, who had earlier travelled to China with Christie re-enforced this belief as late as in this morning’s newspaper – though today’s report indicates that Mr. Mitchell spoke to the media before the news of the bankruptcy filing broke in the US media.
As the governments obligation to pay its share of costs for the construction of the road and related infrastructure is a part of the Heads of Agreement and has nothing to do with the payment of salaries at Baha Mar, it is unlikely that the China Exim Bank or the China Construction Company would be minded to accept Mr. Mitchell’s contention that the $21 million to be paid by the Government would be assigned to salary payments.
As is now abundantly clear none of Mr. Christie’s announcements of resolution and good news were based on believable facts. Mr. Christie needs to explain why he willingly became the purveyor of untruths on the status of this project to the Bahamian people.
It is now time for Mr. Christie to come clean with the Bahamian people and on the behalf of the Bahamian people I demand that he tell us the truth.