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PM’s praise at road project

PLP had rejected road project loan
  • From left, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis; Director of Works John Canton; and Chinese Ambassador Hu Shan cut the ceremonial ribbon to commemorate the official opening of the Airport Gateway. TORRELL GLINTON

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 11, 2013

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Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday he was “pleasantly surprised” at the level of Bahamian labor involved in the Airport Gateway Project.

In September 2010, the Progressive Liberal Party’s parliamentary caucus rejected a resolution to borrow nearly $58 million at a two percent interest rate from the Export-Import Bank of China to construct the highway.

At the time, the then opposition said it could not accept the loan requirement to bring in 200 Chinese workers to build the roads.

Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis told The Nassau Guardian that fewer than 20 Chinese laborers actually worked on the project, although he did not have the exact figure available.

An official from China Construction America Inc. said 500 Bahamians were employed during the project.

The $72 million project was primarily funded by the loan signed by the former administration.

In his keynote address during the road opening ceremony, Christie noted that he was against the plan when it was introduced.

“In the House of Assembly when the package was first proposed, it attracted considerable critical observations from myself and others because at the time, we thought that the roadways could have been built by Bahamian contractors,” Christie said.

“We thought a golden opportunity would be missed [to enable] those Bahamian contractors to participate in the roadways.

“So much to our pleasant surprise that [their participation] became the result. Instead of China Construction Company Inc. being the contractor, Bahamians became the active sub-contractors to the work down here and to a very great extent were able to deliver on the promise that Bahamian contractors...had the capacity to do this work.”

Christie praised the Bahamian and Chinese laborers involved in the project, adding that the end result has surpassed his expectations.

Christie said that approximately $41 million was put directly in Bahamians’ pockets as a result of the project.

Davis, who is minister of works, said during the peak of the project, more than 90 percent of the laborers were Bahamians.

The project encompasses approximately 6.2 miles of road, running from Windsor Field Road to the six-legged roundabout on J. F. K. Drive.

Officials say it is 99 percent complete with more landscaping and signage to be done.

Executive Vice President of China Construction America Inc. Tiger Wu said the project demonstrates a long-standing friendship between The Bahamas and China.

He thanked the utility companies for working with contractors to avoid disconnections as a result of the work.

Ground was broken in March 2011, five months after the Ingraham administration signed a $67 million contract with the Chinese construction company.

Davis said unforseen challenges drove the cost up to $72 million.

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