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FNM Leader Urges Gov’t to Settle Baha Mar Dispute Outside Court

While the parties involved in the Baha Mar debacle are expected to appear in court this morning, Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis is urging the parties to settle their dispute outside court.

During his televised national address yesterday on the Baha Mar debacle, Dr. Minnis warned the parties that court proceedings should be their last resort, “as such measures are bound to be acrimonious, time consuming,” and will result in lengthy delays of the resort’s completion.

He added that the lengthy delays will be detrimental to Baha Mar’s workers, contractors, sub-contractors and the Bahamian economy.

“We, the opposition Free National Movement urge all parties to do their utmost to negotiate an out of court settlement of their disputes,” Dr. Minnis said.

He explained that a negotiated agreement would recognize and respect the rights and legitimate interests of the key parties, which includes the government of The Bahamas and Bahamians.

“It would also allow the developer to speedily take control of the process and to work with the other key stakeholders to prepare a strategic and workable roadmap for the completion and opening of the resort in the shortest possible time,” Dr. Minnis added.

He expressed that failure to reach a negotiated settlement will have adverse national consequences on the Bahamian economy, China Export-Import Bank, China Construction America and Baha Mar.

“The construction company, the bank, the developer and the Bahamian people will all suffer great loss if they are unable to find a quick and workable solution to this dilemma,” Dr. Minnis said.

Also failure to reach a negotiated settlement will cause the construction company, the Bahamian sub-contractors and business investors not to be fully paid the monies owed and earned, Dr. Minnis explained.

In addition, he noted that the bank will not receive repayment of the $2.6 billion loan on a timely basis, the developer will not recover his substantial investment and the country will face rising unemployment rates, with the possibility of a downgrade by the international credit rating agencies over its sovereign rating.

“It is for these reasons that we implore the parties to continue working together, to resolve their disputes by mediation rather than litigation through the courts,” Dr. Minnis said.

Last week, the government filed a winding up petition in the Bahamas Supreme Court against the 14 entities that filed for Chapter 11 protection in the United States at the end of June.

This move made by the government is an effort to bring the Baha Mar project under the control of the Bahamas Supreme Court.

According to Prime Minister Perry Christie, during his national address last week, these compulsory or involuntary winding up proceedings are designed to work in very similar terms as a Chapter 11, but with the stark difference that they will be controlled by provisional liquidators under the supervision of the Bahamian courts rather than being controlled by Baha Mar’s CEO Sarkis Izmirlian.

“These liquidators, if appointed by the court, will be neutral and impartial professionals of the highest quality and of impeccable credentials,” he added.

However, Dr. Minnis said while he respects the government’s decision on this matter, he would like the prime minister to explain the full ramification of the liquidation process to Bahamians.

“How long is the process expected to take? When is it likely that the resort will finally be opened? How will Bahamian jobs be protected in the interim? Will any jobs be negatively impacted during, or after the liquidation process?” Dr. Minnis asked.

The Free National Movement leader also expressed that the Baha Mar debacle is “a teachable moment” for the government.

The urgent lesson the government should learn, according to Dr. Minnis, is that the time has come for the country to decrease its dependence on mega anchor projects to sustain and grow the economy.

“It is time for us to look within ourselves for solutions to ‘jump start’ our economy and empower our citizens,” Dr. Minnis said.

“Developing our economy requires that the government invests in our local small and medium sized businesses. When granting economic concessions to investors, we must level the playing field.”

He said the small and medium sized Bahamian investors should be treated the same as foreign investors and allowed “to walk on the same welcoming red carpet laid out for foreign businesses, and not be shoved through the side door, to be left frustrated and feeling disenfranchised.”

“The combination of direct domestic investment, coupled with direct foreign investment, will help to build and sustain a stronger and more vibrant Bahamian economy,” Dr. Minnis added.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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