Rt. Hon. Perry Christie.
Nassau, The Bahamas – Following the latest twist in the Baha Mar Deal fiasco, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham came to the House of Assembly to reveal that he was made aware of Harrah’s impending departure from the project but he kept silent. This admission by Mr. Ingraham of his knowledge of this development prior to bringing the matter to the House may show a deliberate attempt by the Prime Minister to short circuit the biggest development deal in Bahamian history for the simple fact that the PLP left it in place.
Thousands of Bahamian families will be affected by this blunder.
Today, PLP Leader the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, a key player in the negotiations for the Baha Mar deal, issued the following statement that puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of one Hubert Alexander Ingraham.
NEWS STATEMENT BY THE PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY
Delivered by the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie MP
Leader of The Opposition
11th March, 2008
On The Baha Mar Project At Cable Beach
The worst fears of the Progressive Liberal Party and its supporters, and Bahamians everywhere have now been confirmed. Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham through the words and documents spoken by him and laid on the table of the House of Assembly yesterday is responsible for major damage to the Baha Mar project at Cable Beach.
The Prime Minister misled the country in this matter. His own words spoken yesterday 11th March betray him. He said he came to the House on 5th March, knowing that the deal was in trouble. By his statement yesterday to the House, he became aware of the problems on the 3rd March. Yet he came to Parliament on the 6th March to ask for the deal to be approved by Parliament acting as if nothing had happened.
Now that the deal has gone sour, he argues that his ill-considered language on the 5th March was used to lower the public expectations because he knew the deal was in trouble. The Prime Minister should have come clean on the 5th March, postpone the House and work with the joint venture partners to ensure that the deal would succeed. That is what a real Prime Minister would do. Instead, he sabotaged the deal.
Further, the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of his having doubt in Baha Mar’s ability to implement the project, was a lack of good faith by the Government, as a joint venture partner with Baha Mar; thereby, undermining the confidence of other investors in The Bahamas. To request the Parliament to authorize the transfer of public lands to the Baha Mar project, while voicing a lack of confidence in the project, demonstrates that either Mr. Ingraham lacks the sound judgment expected from a Prime Minister or that he is motivated by something other than the national interest of The Bahamas.
Try as he might to twist the story and make it the fault of the PLP, the Prime Minister must own up to his faults and his ill-considered language spoken in Parliament on the 5th March. He must accept the blame and responsibility for setting back, if not killing, what promised to be the largest single development in our history.
The Progressive Liberal Party takes no comfort in this fact. We warned the Prime Minister that his language would have such an effect. The record shows that our warning was ignored. It is now clear if the Cable Beach project fails, it will be Mr. Ingraham’s fault.
The incontrovertible evidence is there in the letter to Baha Mar dated 6th March 2008 and signed by Charles L. Atwood on behalf of Caesar’s Bahamian Investment Corporation. Mr. Ingraham was forced to lay this letter on the table of the House yesterday.
The fact of the matter is that in his anxiety to show that he was smarter than the PLP and could come up with a better deal, the Prime Minister may actually have ended up pronouncing a sentence of death on the whole Harrah’s/Baha Mar joint venture, by fundamentally changing the approach to the land transfers.
Indeed, Harrah’s hints at this very strongly in their termination letter, the implication being that the project had been rendered ‘unbankable’ by the position that Mr. Ingraham and his government had taken on the conditions for the land transfers coupled with the fact that certain land transfers would no longer be taking place at all. Mr. Ingraham miscalculated the effect of this change-of-position very badly and as a result, the whole joint venture has come crashing down to the grave detriment of the entire country.
The letter reads in part:
“When coupled with Prime Minister Ingraham’s comments to the House of Assembly yesterday, we do not believe that the land will be delivered to the joint venture as planned.”
It reads at another point:
“As of today, several conditions remain unsatisfied and the Prime Minister has now publicly stated that he questions your financial wherewithal and ability to meet the deadlines imposed by the government both of which are crucial to the success of the project.”
The Prime Minister’s action in the House of Assembly was the critical element in the decision of Harrah’s to leave The Bahamas. There were other factors, but Mr. Ingraham’s intemperate language and the fear that the land conveyances were in doubt were the straws that broke the camel’s back.
Yesterday’s statements in the House can only be described as a transparent attempt to cover up, confuse and gloss over the truth. Mr. Ingraham wrecked this deal.
We feel for the Izmerlian family, the primary investor in Baha Mar who have invested close to 500 million dollars in this project. We are also gravely concerned for the contractors and artisans, including masons, carpenters, plumbers and labourers and businesses in The Bahamas who were counting on this project. We are also deeply concerned about the present employees at the Casino at Cable Beach, some of whom are now working just two days per week. We must also consider the fate of those thousands of high school leavers who look forward to the jobs that this project was to create.
We urge the media of this country not to fall prey to the Prime Minister’s spin trap, which seeks to assign blame where it does not belong.
When we lost office in 2007, we warned the FNM that they ought to move with speed to conclude this agreement with Baha Mar. They did not. Instead, the FNM delayed and dithered. The ball was squarely in their court and they dropped the ball.
No matter what the Prime Minister and the FNM now say, the project is in deep trouble. The PLP nurtured this project, kept the parties together, and kept the deal alive. Within ten months the government of stop, review and cancel has now placed the livelihoods and well being of tens of thousands of Bahamians at risk simply because they could not see their way clear to approve a project left behind by the PLP.
The PLP wishes to encourage the primary investors to stay the course. We think that notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s odd and intemperate behaviour, overall we are still a good country in which to do business. For our part, we will do all we can to encourage other investors to join the project. This project cannot and should not fail.
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