THINGS FALL APART
After weeks of selling the country false hope about the future of the Baha Mar property, Bahamians everywhere are now reading the writing on the wall. According to media reports, the government’s most recent attempts to broker a consensual agreement between Baha Mar’s stakeholders has failed miserably and now, weeks after the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in Delaware, things have seemingly fallen apart altogether.
On Thursday night, for the first time since the company began experiencing difficulties, Mr. Christie through a national address sought to lay out the “facts” concerning Baha Mar for the public, this despite numerous calls from the Democratic National Alliance and others for him to be transparent about the issues plaguing the development. In his address, Mr. Christie seemed to lay the blame for failed talks completely at the feet of Baha Mar’s CEO who, according to the PM, while asking for more than a half million dollars to complete the project, refused to drop his Chapter 11 filing, or his UK lawsuit against the lead contractor, a move which Mr. Christie called unacceptable.
In media reports from Friday however, Baha Mar executives suggested that the government abandoned its role as mediator in the matter in order to pursue its own legal recourse. The company further accused the government of significantly jeopardizing the future of the resort and nationalizing the assets of a private investor. These comments issued via a company statement paint a vastly different picture than the one presented by this government who, since the beginning, touted the need for good faith negotiations and pledged its commitment to ensuring that those talks succeeded.
In the face of those failed talks however, WHO ARE BAHAMIANS TO TRUST? The conflicting reports from both the government and the developer have done little to restore public confidence and faith in the viability of the project. The talks which had been meant to provide Baha Mar’s employees and the wider public with a sense of closure regarding stakeholders plans for the future have raised even more questions and destroyed the credibility of all involved.
Most notably though, the disintegration of those talks are a scathing indictment on this administration and in particular PM Perry Christie who from the beginning, and by his own admission, has been intimately involved in the process. It appears however that the PM was so desperate to use this opening of the mega resort property as the final feather in the cap of his political legacy that he simply chose to ignore the early warning signs. His account of the negotiations suggests ignorance about the true nature of the individual to whom he made a billion dollar commitment on behalf of the Bahamian people. One can only wonder exactly how much research went into choosing Izmerlian as a suitable investor for our country.
The government’s handling of this obvious national crisis is reminiscent of the way this Christie administration has handled all of the country’s major national concerns since coming to office; with the PM taking his usual reactionary position. While expressing a commitment to restructuring and opening the resort, the PM’s statement made no mention of what would happen to Baha Mar’s more than two thousand employees during this time. After setting what some called a dangerous precedent by paying workers at a private company, is the government prepared to continue doing so or will these hardworking Bahamians now be left in the lurch.
Also missing from the PM was any mention of the government’s plans to address the country’s wounded international reputation or the economic impact. As would be expected, the breakdown of negotiations in China will undoubtedly have far reaching and long-term economic implications for this government’s plans for projected economic growth and will send thousands more Bahamians to the unemployment line. The DNA has long advised against putting all of the country’s hopes of economic growth in the hands of any one foreign investor.
As it did with the botched Ginn Development in West Grand Bahama, this Christie led government based its entire job creation strategy on the developer’s ability to open this resort. The failure of these talks must now more than ever before lead to significant changes to the country’s policies surrounding foreign direct investments as well.
Without question, ALL BAHAMIANS had remained hopeful about the viability of Baha Mar. None of us wished to see the project fail however we can no longer ignore the writings on the wall.