Another mega-deal in the Bahamas will see new residential development in central Nassau. But with the same Chinese developer already delayed with the Baha Mar project, some local politicians are raising concerns.
Following the sale of Nassau’s British Colonial Hilton to the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) on Friday, local politicans have been querying the wisdom of allowing one Chinese company to control so much of the Bahamas tourist industry.
Brent Symonette, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, said it was a worry that CSCEC have added the Hilton to the Baha Mar development, currently nearing completion. “It is potentially dangerous that you have a large sector of our major industry being controlled by one group,” said Mr Symonette, among others. In response, current Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe pointed out that it wasn’t the government’s decision anyway, “Except for we had to approve it at the end of the day and the government sees no difficulty with it. I see no difficulty with it.”
CSCEC are believe to have paid between $60m and $100m for the four-star British Colonial Hilton hotel in downtown Nassau, which was opened in 1923 and likes to think of itself as the “Grand Dame of all Nassau’s hotels”. It is on Bay Street, at the heart of the town, whereas other major resorts are slightly out of town, such as Atlantis Paradise Island, or Baha Mar a couple of miles away on Cable Beach. As well as the 288-bedroom hotel, CSCEC and its subsidiary China Construction America (CCA) will get 12.7 acres of land, of which six acres will be “built into a commercial complex integrating apartment hotels, quality retail stores, parking lots, yacht ports, cinemas, clubs and residences with seashore corridors and recreational centers.” CCA anticipates 250 local jobs being created during construction and 500 on completion.
CCA’s other major project in the Bahamas is the $3.5billion Baha Mar, whose 2,200 hotel rooms, 307 private residences and 9,300 square metre casino are expected to have a phased opening between this Christmas and late spring of 2015, thus missing much of the crucial winter trade. Construction has been by around 4,000 primarily Chinese construction workers, who have had their disputes with their own Chinese employees during the building process.
Given the delay, and concerns as to whether the Bahamas has the airlift capacity to fill so many rooms, the purchase of the Hilton is a strong vote of faith in the success of the Bahamas.
Responding to opposition to the deal from rival politicians, government member Bradley Roberts said: “I strongly advise these gentlemen to wake up to the realities of the real world and come out of their cocoon. Our strongest diplomatic ally and trading partner, the United States, owes China more than $1.3 trillion. China is the largest foreign holder of US debt.”
by Christopher Nye, Editor, OPP Magazine