Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Here follows a statement by Prime Minister Perry Christie released August 22 regarding the completion of the stalled Baha Mar megaresort project:
It gives me great pleasure to announce that the Government of The Bahamas, and the Export-Import Bank of China, signed an agreement under which the Baha Mar resort will be completed, and sold to a world-class hotel and casino operator.
Just after five o’clock this afternoon, The Supreme Court of The Bahamas approved these arrangements.
This agreement represents a signal achievement for The Bahamas, and a milestone in the troubled history of Baha Mar.
For some 20 months, I have been continuously focused, day and night, on efforts to find a solution for the completion of the Baha Mar Project.
Throughout this period, the Government has had Three Key Objectives:
Firstly, to ensure that construction at Baha Mar would be resumed as quickly as possible;
Secondly, to make every effort to ensure that the casino and casino hotel, the convention centre and its hotel, and the golf course, would open before the end of the 2016-2017 winter season;
And thirdly, to ensure that payment of claims to Bahamian creditors and contractors, who previously had little or no prospect of recovering anything from Baha Mar.
We have achieved all of these Objectives.
Under the Heads of Terms signed today by the Government and The Bank, the re-mobilization at Baha Mar will commence immediately.
Construction at the site is expected to resume within a few weeks, during the month of September.
The Bank has committed to fund all remaining construction costs to complete the Project.
China Construction will finish the works, and will resolve outstanding claims with its suppliers and sub-contractors.
The Baha Mar companies owed money to thousands of Bahamian creditors when they filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. 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 enable them to receive a significant part, and possibly ALL of the value of their claims.
Going forward, many of the same people and companies who were previously contracted, will be re-engaged to complete the Project.
The Government of The Bahamas and the Bahamian utility companies, such as BPL, will receive payment for some of their outstanding claims against the Baha Mar companies.
Throughout the negotiations, we have, first and foremost, been mindful of the impact that this stalled project has had on our people. Everyone involved in the discussions has been committed to this.
I am especially pleased to announce, therefore, that the thousands of former Bahamian employees of Baha Mar will receive the following outstanding amounts due to them: unpaid salaries, severance pay, accrued vacation pay, and notice payments due to termination. Additionally, sums deducted from employees and former employees’ salaries and pension contributions will be repaid.
Further, Bahamians holding commercial leases and concessions will be permitted to continue to hold them.
As it has been done with all major investments, The Government will extend 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.
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. 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 un-informed views were promoted in the media.
The last few weeks have involved a Herculean effort by many, many people. This has been made all-the-more strenuous by having to deal with partners in vastly different time zones, often working through translators. I am enormously grateful to and proud of everyone, who in these last days did what it took to dive across the finish line.
Participants in the negotiations have included the Attorney General, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology and my Senior Policy Advisor, supported by a technical team drawn from the Office of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Finance; legal advisors in the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs, Hogan, Lovells LLP (the Government’s US Attorneys) and Charles Russell Speechlys LLP (the Government’s UK Attorneys); and Mr. Grant Lyon, Liquidation Claims Advisor. The Chinese Ambassador to The Bahamas and the President of the Central Bank of China also have assisted. We are also grateful to the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of CEXIM, CSCEC and CCA.
I know you will have many questions as to the detail of what has been agreed. 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 still a raft of paperwork to be completed in order to implement this agreement.
The difficulties of a project this size has hit our economy hard.
But we will recover.
Over the coming months, economic opportunities will be felt in more and more homes.
The Government will redouble its efforts to continue the programme 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.