|PM wants more Bahamians on Baha Mar project|
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Jun 26, 2012
Prime Minister Perry Christie raised concerns yesterday about the level of Bahamian involvement in the billion-dollar Baha Mar development, which currently employs about 1,000 expatriates.
Christie and his cabinet met privately with Baha Mar executives yesterday morning to discuss their concerns.
This was the first meeting that the government had with Baha Mar executives since coming to office last month.
“We in the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) met with them (Baha Mar executives) while in opposition, we met with NCTU (National Congress of Trade Unions) while in opposition, we met with TUC (Trade Union Congress) when we were in opposition, all to discuss training on this project. And we met with the contractors association to discuss training and the involvement in the project,” Christie told reporters following the meeting at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort.
“We are in a position now as the governing body [where] we want to see the full implementation of all that we said should happen here.
“This is an outstanding project going on and what we want to do is maximize the involvement of Bahamians in the project, either contractors or workers.”
While he acknowledged the large number of expatriates engaged in the project, Baha Mar Senior Vice President for External and Governmental Affairs Robert Sands said a large number of Bahamians have also benefited from the project so far.
“We advised the government today that Baha Mar has created close to 1,700 job opportunities for Bahamians and we currently have approximately 1,000 expatriate work permits,” Sands said. “Of that we have approximately 800 Chinese workers on-site.”
Asked for his thoughts on the ratio of Bahamian workers to foreign workers, Christie said he thinks there are opportunities for more Bahamians to be engaged in the development.
“We are never pleased in the sense that every Bahamian who we can get to have a job here it would be a plus for all of us, but the point is we are satisfied with the spirit and the relations that are established,” the prime minister said.
“They clearly want to be able to [along] with us ensure maximum returns to the Bahamians and The Bahamas.”
In additional to the Bahamian work component, Christie said the government also wants to ensure that it is kept abreast of all of the developments of the project.
“An enterprise of this kind, multi-billion-dollar development requires the developers and the government to be in partnership,” he said.
“This developer proposes that The Bahamas government spend a lot of money, many, many, millions of dollars in pursuit of enforcing or interpreting and actually implementing the agreements signed between Baha Mar and the Government of The Bahamas — marketing, for example.
“A huge sum of money is to be expended and therefore the first order of business is that we express the need for very close cooperation and collaboration.”
Christie said the government wants to be satisfied that it is being closely consulted on all of the marketing decisions.
“I’m hoping that both of us in the same spirit that we began our discussions will forge a very close relationship that I think will be for the greater benefit of tourism in The Bahamas,” he added.
Sands told reporters that Baha Mar has heard the government’s concerns.
As it relates to the Bahamian component, Sands said, “We heard them loud and clear.”
Baha Mar is carrying out a $2.6 billion development at Cable Beach, slated for completion in 2014.