Secrecy, China and the proposed Andros land deal
Published: Nov 03, 2016
We were surprised when the governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) tried to discredit this newspaper over the proposed Chinese agriculture and fisheries deal on Andros. On Tuesday we published a story on the proposal, which was developed between The Bahamas and China. Via the working draft, China would provide $2.1 billion of funding, equipment and expertise over 10 years to 100, 50-50 joint venture companies. The companies would be half Bahamian and half owned by the Chinese government. The deal also would initially include 10,000 acres of Crown land with the option of this increasing to up to 20,000 acres.
We wrote this story based on a copy of the draft proposal in our possession. We could not make it up. Skilled people from both sides clearly developed the idea over months.
The fact that the governments of The Bahamas and China were working on a business idea is not extraordinary. Countries engage each other in this manner. While we do not think this is the right deal, with the right country at the right time, such discussions happen. We expected the government to acknowledge the working document and simply say that when the idea was fully developed Cabinet would have its say. That’s not what happened, however.
When the story broke on Tuesday the PLP went into panic mode. Alfred Gray is the minister of agriculture and marine resources. He spoke to reporters outside Cabinet Tuesday seemingly before the handlers got to him. He acknowledged the proposal that was written about in our story.
“I felt as minister, it was a good thing if we can get them to invest in agriculture because agriculture is one of those industries in The Bahamas where Bahamians seem to lack interest generally speaking,” said Gray before going into Cabinet.
Gray also said: “I know the newly appointed ambassador to China approached my ministry with a view to finding out whether it was okay for them to enter into discussions with respect to Chinese investments in The Bahamas in fisheries, factories and agricultural pursuits.”
Throughout the day Bahamians expressed outrage on social media and on talk radio at the idea that China could be part of a deal that would take over so much of Andros. The PLP felt the heat.
Gray then changed his tune in the afternoon, contradicting himself and questioning our credibility.
“The story appearing in The Nassau Guardian under the headline ‘China in $2 bil. deal proposal • Govt eyes agri-fishery plan with Chinese in Andros • Project calls for lease of 10,000 acres of Crown land’ is utterly false,” he said in a statement.
“The government is not considering the grant of Crown land nor any other matter as set out in the article.”
Gray saying our story was untrue was an untruth uttered by him to the Bahamian people. So, we published on Wednesday his letter detailing his knowledge of and involvement with the proposal. In a letter to Bahamas Ambassador to China Paul Andy Gomez, dated October 3, Gray acknowledged that the initiative calls for Crown land leases. He also indicated that he thought the proposal was a good idea.
“The ministry believes that this initiative, which has been developed by the Embassy of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas to the People’s Republic of China in consultation with certain Bahamian governmental agencies, is very progressive,” the minister wrote.
The PLP has lost touch with the people. All it sees is a pile of money and a way to make deals. While we do need investment and expertise in agriculture, certain aspects of China’s foreign policy offend Bahamians. When China invests in the developing world it makes as a condition of its investment that its companies do the work with Chinese labor. Thousands of Chinese built Baha Mar. Hundreds of Chinese built the parking lot at The Pointe. This happened in a country that has had a double-digit unemployment rate for nearly a decade.
Bahamians think China’s economic ambitions here are eroding our sovereignty. Bahamians think the PLP cares more about China than its own people. In the Baha Mar bankruptcy matter the PLP administration and a Chinese bank locked arms and agreed to hide the deal to sell the resort from the Bahamian people. The deal remains sealed before the Supreme Court.
Bahamians are sick and tired of PLP wheeling and dealing with China. Bahamians are sick and tired of the PLP saying things that are not true. Even when caught, PLPs prefer to sell fiction rather than be honest.
Since the PLP thinks we made this all up we today publish the whole proposal with China. The Bahamian people can see if The Nassau Guardian was telling the truth, or the PLP. We know Bahamians believe us over a governing party that has no credibility left. But, just to emphasize the point, you can read for yourselves what your government was considering in your name.