U.S. fears Baha Mar Chinese migration
NG Deputy News Editor
One of the major fears the United States has with the Baha Mar project at Cable Beach is that as a result of the large number of Chinese coming into the country to build the resort, the smuggling of Chinese into the U.S. from this country will increase dramatically, according to a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau.
“Regardless of whatever number of workers the parties agree upon, the continuous arrival of thousands of low-wage Chinese workers in The Bahamas will likely lead to a significant increase in illegal migration of Chinese from The Bahamas to the United States,” said the November 2009 secret cable obtained by The Nassau Guardian via WikiLeaks.
“The GCOB (Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas) does not have the institutional capacity to effectively monitor the movements of the Chinese workers nor effectively detect inauthentic travel documents.”
The $2.6 billion Baha Mar resort is being financed by the Export-Import Bank of China. The China State Construction Engineering Corporation is building the resort.
As a part of the deal, 8,150 foreign workers will help build the resort along with 4,000-plus Bahamian workers. The majority of the 8,150 workers will be Chinese.
Citing a conversation an embassy official had with former Chamber of Commerce president Dionisio D'Aguilar, the cable said that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was very wary of allowing that number of Chinese into the country, hoping only 1,000 to 2,000 Chinese would be needed.
Before the deal was sealed Ingraham publicly expressed his concerns about the labor component of the deal.
The Americans had intimate conversations with Baha Mar senior vice president Robert Sands on the Chinese laborer issue, according to the cable.
“Sands did emphasize that Baha Mar and the GCOB were concerned with [the] legitimacy of individual [workers], or those that would come to The Bahamas solely to illegally migrate to the United States,” said the cable.
“He noted that the workers would be ‘highly regulated, close to the site in a fully contained camp,’ though the men ‘will be let out occasionally.’ Sands indicated that they were looking into biometric identifications to help manage the workforce.”
According to the cable, at the time, Baha Mar wanted to establish a large work camp for the Chinese laborers at the Cable Beach Golf Course.
“Baha Mar executives and the GCOB are clearly cognizant of the negative message they will send to tourists, as well as the Bahamian public, by maintaining a 4,000-strong Chinese laborer camp in a highly visible and affluent section of town,” said the cable.
“Still, the GCOB believes that the completion of this massive project is a vital component of its long-term plan to provide thousands of new jobs for Bahamians.”
A February 2009 cable, also labeled secret, indicated that Bahamian officials were so concerned about the laborer issue that they approached the Americans for help.
“Senior GCOB officials expressed concern to the Charge’ over the Chinese request for foreign workers. They requested U.S. assistance with obtaining background checks and mused that it would be preferable if the Chinese workers were first routed through the U.K. or U.S. so that they would be properly vetted,” said the cable.
“Of primary concern is ensuring that…adequate accounting methods are in place to track that those that enter eventually leave.”
Timothy Zuniga-Brown was, and is, the U.S. Charge d’ Affaires referred to in the cable.
In 2008, Harrah’s Entertainment pulled out of an earlier joint venture deal with Baha Mar to develop the mega-resort. Chinese financing and partnership revived the Cable Beach redevelopment plan.
The Ingraham administration always appeared less enthusiastic to the Baha Mar project than Perry Christie and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). The last PLP administration began negotiations with Baha Mar.
A March 2009 cable, also labeled secret, said that Bahamian officials told the Americans they were not, at the time, enthused about Chinese involvement in the deal.
“Senior GCOB officials privately expressed that China is not their preferred partner and acknowledge that negotiations are difficult,” said the cable.
The Bahamian officials expressing that view were not named.
The cables also revealed that the Chinese expressed their concerns to the Americans about getting so deeply involved with Baha Mar.
“Chinese Embassy officials privately told (an embassy official) the China Ex-Im Bank would prefer another investor in the mix in order to diminish the financial risk,” said the March 2009 cable.
Baha Mar has said it will not comment on the cables.
The company has said 11,000 Bahamian jobs will be created as a result of the project. There will be 6,500 to 7,000 permanent jobs when the resort is completed; and 4,000 construction jobs for Bahamians will be created during the build phase of the project.
There will be six hotels at the property, almost 2,250 new rooms and condos, the largest convention center in The Bahamas, the largest casino in the Caribbean, a world-class golf course and a retail village.
Jun 10, 2011