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Baha Mar agreement, but PM gives few details

  • Prime Minister Perry Christie greets representative of the former Baha Mar employees Denise Abrahamsen following last night's announcement of an agreement that will see the Baha Mar development completed, sold and opened.

  • Prime Minister Perry Christie (center) announces an agreement that will lead to the completion, opening and sale of Baha Mar during a press conference last night. Photos: Torrell Glinton

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Aug 23, 2016

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Prime Minister Perry Christie announced last night that the government and the Export-Import Bank of China have signed an agreement that was approved by the Supreme Court yesterday afternoon that will see the derailed Baha Mar project completed, sold and opened before the “end of the 2016/2017 winter season”.

Christie said under the deal, former employees and unsecured creditors will be paid “a significant part, and possibly all” of the outstanding money owed to them.

However, Christie’s announcement, which he hailed as a “signal achievement for The Bahamas” requiring a “herculean effort”, was void of a named buyer, the cost to complete Baha Mar, what concessions the government had to concede to facilitate the deal, and how many of the former employees will be re-engaged.

At a press conference in the Cabinet Office which was carried live by the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas, Christie said the bank has committed to fund all remaining construction costs to complete the project and under the head of terms signed yesterday, remobilization at Baha Mar “will commence immediately” with China Construction resuming construction next month.

But questions surrounding the cost to complete the project went unanswered.

According to Christie, China Construction will also resolve outstanding claims with its suppliers and subcontractors, an announcement that was applauded by the dozens of local contractors in the room.

He said many of the people and companies previously contracted will be reengaged to complete the project.

Speaking to the concessions to facilitate the deal, Christie said, “As it has been done with all major investments, the government will extend the appropriate concessions to facilitate the construction and promote the successful future operation of the resort.

“The completed project will then be sold to a qualified world-class operator.”

There has been widespread speculation in recent months that the government was planning to give exorbitant concessions, including 500 Bahamian citizenship approvals to Chinese investors in exchange for restarting the stalled mega project, but Christie has dismissed this.

“My fellow Bahamians, there has been much gossip and speculation and downright false allegations made about the whole history and progress of the Baha Mar dispute,” Christie said last night.

“In such a sensitive negotiation, the government thought it wise not to offer a running commentary on the discussions, not to say anything that might put the future of the project in jeopardy.

“It is a shame that others were not so prudent and that so many uninformed views were promoted in the media.”

Christie said the government and local utility companies will receive payment for “some” of their outstanding claims against Baha Mar.

Baha Mar owes the government more than $58 million. It owes local utility companies, including Bahamas Power and Light, approximately $24 million.

“The Baha Mar companies owed money to thousands of Bahamian creditors when they filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy,” Christie said.

“Under their chapter 11 efforts, our people had little prospect of being paid anything.

“Under this agreement, made today, funds will be made available to them to receive a significant part, and possibly all of the value of their claims.”

Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian filed for chapter 11 protection in Delaware on June 29, 2015.

The government made a counter move in Bahamian courts.

All of the chapter 11 cases have since been dismissed.

Christie said throughout the negotiations, the government has been mindful of the impact the stalled project has had on people.

He said those who held leases with Baha Mar will be allowed to continue on with those contracts.

“I know you will have many questions as to the details of what has been agreed,” Christie said.

“Over the coming days, the government will make publicly available all of the key items of information, so that you can read for yourselves exactly what the facts are.

“There is a raft of paperwork to be completed in order to implement this agreement.

“The difficulties of a project this size have hit our economy hard.

“But we will recover.”

Christie added that over the coming months, economic opportunities will be “felt in more and more homes”.

He said, “The government will redouble its efforts to continue the program of modernization that we began four years ago.

“My entire public and political life has been dedicated to fighting for Bahamians.

“I give God thanks and praise that we have been blessed with this outcome.

“This is a good day for The Bahamas.

“This is a great day for Bahamians.”

The prime minister did not take questions at his press conference last night.


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