Baha Mar To Benefit Bahamas Economy

"This one of a kind project is a godsend for The Bahamas." That was the message from Baha Mar chiefs as they revealed that phase one of the multi-billion dollar project will be given exclusively to Bahamian contractors.

After years of chasing their dream Baha Mar Resorts announced on Tuesday night that an agreement had been signed with Chinese partners to make the Cable Beach Baha Mar mega-resort a reality.

Part of the deal for $2.5 billion of financing with the Export Import Bank of China and China State Construction was for several thousand Chinese workers to be employed during the lifetime of the construction project.

However, on top of the 8,000 plus jobs in the hospitality industry when Bahamar is complete, Senior Vice President of External Affairs for Baha Mar Resorts, Robert 'Sandy' Sands, said there would be thousands of jobs for Bahamian builders.

He said: "The first phase of this project will be the re-routing of the West Bay Street road and the rebuilding of the commercial village and that should cost approximately $200 million and 100 percent will be allocated to Bahamian contractors.

"Our contract calls for the utilization of Chinese workers, but let me re-affirm our position as a company. Our company has committed to the government and to the people of The Bahamas that we will ensure that every qualified and skilled construction worker will be given the opportunity to work on this project.

"This project will require in excess, over the life of this project, up to 10,000 workers, there are going to be tremendous opportunities for Bahamians. We have committed to a minimum of 3,300 Bahamians during the entire life of this project.

"When we talked about those amount of persons there are not all going to be here at the same time.

"Baha Mar and the Chinese initiated dialogue some years ago when we were beginning to look for a construction partner and it evolved, the relationship first started with China State Construction Company and through osmosis grew to China Export Import Bank. We looked at multiple options and this is the best one that has worked for us.

"It could not have happened at a better time, I honestly believe it will go a long way to jump-starting the Bahamian economy. It will put a significant number of Bahamians to work, and it is the type of project that will continue to help The Bahamas to propel itself as a major player in the tourism industry going forward."

Baha Mar expects the project to be completed by late 2013 but when it breaks ground is dependent on how quickly the government approves the agreement, which has been two years in the making since American investors Harrah's Entertainment pulled out of the deal.

Sands said he hoped that could be soon, saying: "Government has been totally supportive, we have kept them informed every step of the way. The next step is for us to meet with the government to finalize our agreement with them.

"We have done our due diligence in keeping all interested parties addressed of this project. Once we receive final approval from the Government of The Bahamas then we will proceed. We have been assured that it will be a quick process."

When complete the resort will provide 6,500 direct jobs for Bahamians and a further 1,500 jobs in related industries. This will put some $7 billion in wages into the pockets of Bahamians.

The mega resort is expected to plough some $24.5 billion extra in visitor spending over a 20-year period, through spending and direct taxes, taking the total contribution for the resort to $33.6 billion over the next two decades. It is expected to boost the nation's GDP by 10 percent.

Sands said that Bahamar was a opportunity for many Bahamians to become entrepreneurs.

He said: "We see opportunities for artisans to participate in a much larger scale within our resort. There are going to be multiple services that would create opportunities for persons to form small companies and partner with us going forward.

"Existing companies which already provide those services will have to expand some of their capabilities to deal with a much larger facility.

"We are looking for opportunities for new entrepreneurs with bussing contracts that will bus employees from a check-in point to the resort because it is our plan not to allow the traffic into the resort but to allow the staff to go to an offshore location and bus in.

"There are multiple opportunities for Bahamians. Certainly there will be a number of expatriate work permits which will be required in the post construction phase but it will be minuscule compared to the amount of full-time jobs this will create."

Source: The Nassau Guardian