Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bahamas Government plans resolution in Parliament on 5,000 Chinese workers to help construct the $2.6 billion Baha Mar project

Govt still planning vote on 5,000 Chinese workers
Tribune Staff Reporter

GOVERNMENT still plans to bring a resolution to Parliament prompting all members to vote for or against the work permit approvals of some 5,000 Chinese workers to help construct the $2.6 billion Baha Mar project, said National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest.

While the arrival of so many foreign workers in the country may be a bitter pill for some to swallow, Mr Turnquest said the long-term job opportunities and economic stimulus for Bahamians could be a big enough impetus to support the work permits.

"They propose to build six hotels providing 3,500 rooms, convention facilities, casinos, golf courses, a retail village. They propose to have I think it's 7,000 permanent jobs at the end and 3,300 temporary jobs during construction. So all of that will have to be factored in. It also has to be factored in that this is a period of high unemployment and that has to be taken into account.

"We're the government but we believe that members of Parliament who represent the people of the Bahamas ought to have a say in an unusual labour component," said Mr Turnquest, referring to the Progressive Liberal Party's opposition to the vote being brought to Parliament.

He added that although Baha Mar was given approval last month by the Chinese government for its redevelopment of Cable Beach it still has several conditions it must meet before its luxury project can begin. Mr Turnquest, who is also the leader of government business in the House of Assembly, declined to reveal those conditions when speaking to The Tribune earlier this week.

Chinese Ambassador Dingxian Hu is expected to present Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham with the official documents outlining the Chinese approval when he returns from China on August 18 or 19.

"The prime minister will meet with him then, when we expect to get the formal approval from the Chinese government. There are some conditions to the Chinese approval taking effect, from the Baha Mar's point of view.

"Once Baha Mar has fulfilled all its obligations the only question remains is if government agrees to provide work permits for Chinese workers," said Mr Turnquest.

There has been speculation in some quarters that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham will not approve the deal even though it was green-lighted by the Chinese.

However, Mr Turnquest dispelled the conjecture saying the government will respect the deal the developers signed with the Christie administration before it was voted out of office in 2007.

"The government has agreed to honour the deal," he said.

According to the developers, Baha Mar will employ approximately 4,000 Bahamians over the life of the construction period, expected to last almost four years.

Once the resort is fully operational, approximately 98 per cent of the staff will be Bahamian.

August 09, 2010