A tragic option
Published: Mar 15, 2017
On November 18, 2010, after a hotly debated controversial resolution for Parliament to approve the issuance of work permits for 8,150 non-Bahamian construction workers, the House of Assembly took a vote.
One by one, each MP indicated whether he or she supported the resolution.
There were 35 yeas.
Among those who voted yes was Dr. Hubert Minnis, the Killarney MP who sat in Cabinet as minister of health.
Perry Christie, the Progressive Liberal Party leader, also supported the resolution, although the PLP had initially indicated it would not involve itself in the decision to allow thousands of Chinese workers to receive work permits.
There were no nays.
Four MPs were absent: Picewell Forbes, Shane Gibson, Melanie Griffin and Cynthia “Mother” Pratt.
As a minister in Hubert Ingraham’s cabinet, Minnis had no problem supporting the approval of more than 8,000 work permits for foreign laborers to build Baha Mar.
Now in opposition, and with his eyes on the prime ministership, he has declared that under his administration, only Bahamian laborers would be used to complete the project.
In an irresponsible and ill-considered Facebook post on Sunday, Minnis declared: “Your Free National Movement government will engage and execute a real sale of Baha Mar to a qualified and respectable purchaser who believes in Bahamians; a purchaser who will utilize only Bahamian labor to complete the resort, and will put Bahamians back to work with real jobs as quickly as possible.”
What is different now?
Minnis clearly has no real conviction on this issue. It is tragic that he remains the option to replace Christie, a prime minister who many are anxious to see sent into retirement.
As in many other instances, Minnis is merely pandering on Baha Mar.
Instead of seeking to engage the Baha Mar purchasers and understand what is going on, he is looking for headlines.
The headline on Monday made him look like a jelly back, ill prepared for the critical post of prime minister.
It is difficult to take much of what he says and does seriously.
In 2010, at a time when The Bahamas was still reeling from the effects of the global recession, Minnis supported a resolution to bring in thousands of Chinese workers for Baha Mar.
Now, as he promotes his “people’s time” message — a carbon copy of the PLP’s 2012 “Believe in Bahamians” slogan — Minnis is suddenly opposed to foreign labor on the Baha Mar project.
This is incredible and hypocritical.
Minnis reminds us once again why so many Bahamians are disillusioned by the current options on the political menu.
Many are sick of political leaders like him who vacillate, pander and shoot from the seat of their pants.
What we are lacking in this current political environment are enough men and women who think deeply and who act and speak responsibly and with unwavering conviction.
Minnis is not that person.
It is sad that in 2017, we face the possibility of a Minnis administration.
With so much disgust toward Perry Christie — a man with a selfish and insatiable lust for power — and the PLP, Minnis and the FNM have a realistic chance at toppling the current administration.
But it is hard to get enthused about Minnis. It is hard to view him as a leader who has the well thought-out solutions to solve the very critical problems that confront us at this juncture in our national life and development.
Bahamians who hold their noses and vote for him come election day, should say a sincere prayer as they mark their ‘X’.
Placing the country in the hands of an ineffectual leader like Minnis would be a significant gamble.
The lesser of two evils, after all, is still evil.
We have not even gotten to the most irresponsible element of Minnis’ Baha Mar statement yet.
Although he has not yet engaged with Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) — a serious and well-respected global conglomerate — he is making wild commitments to execute a “real sale” of Baha Mar, sending a clear signal to the purchasers and to investors generally, as well as prospective investors, that he would change the current deal, or find new buyers altogther.
It is a bad signal to send to the investment community.
What’s worse, National Review confirmed that CTFE has reached out to the FNM to engage its leaders, but they have apparently not been interested in getting a full understanding or appreciation of what it is they have been doing.
They are not demonstrating that they genuinely have the interests of Bahamians at heart.
What Minnis is interested in, more than anything, is proving that he can become what so many have said he cannot become, and that is prime minister of The Bahamas.
Instead of recognizing that it is a positive step that 650 Bahamians have so far been hired at Baha Mar, he is creating fears among Bahamian families that they need to worry about how long they will have their jobs.
Minnis said that “only” 650 of the promised 1,500 jobs ahead of the soft opening in April have been provided — as if 650 jobs is insignificant in this current climate of double digit unemployment.
Yes, there are thousands more who desperately need work, but the hiring so far has been encouraging.
FNMs should be embarrassed by Minnis’ latest statement, but of course, many are too blinded by their disgust toward Christie and the PLP to process the hypocrisy and the possible negative impact of his recent declarations on Baha Mar on the business and investment community.
While in opposition, Christie also sent a chilling signal to investors ahead of the sale of a majority stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company to Cable and Wireless Communications in 2011.
“If the FNM administration proceeds against the advice of the PLP and sells to Cable and Wireless, we put Cable and Wireless on notice of our central position that the sale to Cable and Wireless is not in the national interest. And when we return to government, we will re-examine all of the provisions of the deal, and we will aggressively renegotiate the terms of the agreement that we deem repugnant to the national interest,” Christie said.
Unlike BTC, Baha Mar is not a national asset, but Christie’s warning to CWC raised similar questions and concerns as those raised after Minnis’ declaration on Baha Mar.
CTFE has already executed a sales agreement. How exactly does Minnis intend to undo that, even if the deal is not yet closed if he becomes prime minister?
Of course, when Christie became prime minister, he did not meet his stated commitment in opposition to regain “control” of BTC.
He negotiated the return of two percent of CWC’s shares in BTC to the Bahamian people, we were told.
We do not know the details of the deal. It’s been two and a half years and Christie never made it public.
For sure, we should all be concerned that the details of the agreement to complete Baha Mar also remain secret.
We do not know what this administration agreed to on our behalf. There are still many questions about concessions.
Like others, Minnis should continue to demand that this government be transparent in its dealings.
As a national leader, Minnis ought to ensure as well that in his desperate attempt for power he does not write checks he cannot cash.
His Trumpesque approach to gaining political brownie points by making policy pronouncements on his Facebook page could backfire on him.
It again underscores his inability to portray himself as a serious-minded, thoughtful, responsible and capable leader who should be entrusted with the management of our national affairs.