Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 29th 2015 Contents You re due to open an
US$3.5 billion project on
Friday. On Tuesday, you
cancel; just three days to go.
Embarrassing? A touch. That
was the story last week with
the Baha Mar mega-resort in
The original date was Decem-
ber, just in time for the peak
winter tourist season. That tar-
get was abandoned late last
year. Now March 27 hasn t hap-
pened. It looks like early May.
The developers blame their
state-owned Chinese contrac-
tors. Said Tuesday s release: "In
setting our opening date for
March 27, we relied in good
faith on the representations of
the resort s construction man-
ager and lead contractor."
But "it has become clear that
the contractor has not complet-
ed the work with an attention
to detail consistent with Baha
Mar standards of excellence." By
corporate communications stan-
dards, that s blunt enough.
Those comments are "wholly
inappropriate and inconsistent
with the history of this project,"
says the contractor.
Stephen Wrinkle, past presi-
dent of the Bahamas Contrac-
tors Association, says: "We
shouldn t continue doing proj-
ects in the same manner as this
one, and expect different
results. It s not going to hap-
The contractors have a
US$150 million equity stake.
They re both insiders and out-
siders. The other US$850 mil-
lion is held by Swiss-Bahamian
investor, Sarkis Izmirlian. Then
there s a US$2.5 billion loan
from the Import-Export Bank of
Meanwhile, Baha Mar has
management contracts with big
hotel brands---Grand Hyatt and
Rosewood for starters. They will
not be delighted.
This is starting to look like
fun for the lawyers.
And the customers? Says
Baha Mar s Facebook page: "If
you currently have reservations,
please be assured that our team
is in the process of reaching out
Reaching out to a bunch of
angry pre-booked customers is
Says Joanie Antonacci: "I have
left messages, sent messages
and still waiting patiently since
yesterday. I would really like to
speak to someone regarding this
situation, I really hope that gets
resolved asap please call me."
The response: "Hello Joanie,
we are currently working
through the inquiries by arrival
date and will reach out to you
as soon as possible. We under-
stand your frustration and are
doing our best to compensate
you for your troubles."
And from Tipton Law Offices:
"I was booked for April 2-7.
Been looking forward to this for
weeks. $2,500 in non-refund-
able airfare. One week s
notice??? All I can say is
WOW!!! What a black eye on
this resort and PR nightmare."
There are other worries
besides the delay.
There s a neighbours dispute
with the adjoining SuperClubs
Beaches property. And a tiff
with the government over road
The resort will gobble elec-
tricity, with monthly bills of
perhaps US$3 million. Nassau s
creaking power system is
already plagued with blackouts.
And the murder rate last year
was higher than ours. Just last
Wednesday, the US State
Department warned that the
crime threat is "critical."
But to be fair, let s stand back
a bit. One year on, these trou-
bles may be ancient history.
This latest setback is around
A late start is better than
opening with last-minute mess-
ups, consumer complaints and
lousy reviews on Trip Advisor.
And the US consumer market is
on an upswing.
When it does open, Baha Mar
will be mega-glitzy even by
Bahamian standards. It will have
2,200 rooms in four hotels; plus
284 private residences, and 40
restaurants, bars and lounges.
It s a fair trek across this
1,000-acre site to get to the
beach, but there will be six
swimming pools, and a Jack
Nicklaus golf course.
And there s the casino. That s
100,000 square feet---around 2.3
acres, with more than a thou-
sand slot machines; plenty ways
to lose your money.
When it does open, the eco-
nomic whoomph will be enor-
The Bahamian economy has
been drifting. Tourist arrivals
are still below their 2005 peak.
Baha Mar will bring around
5,000 new jobs, almost all of
them for Bahamians.
Trouble is, there s some deli-
cate fine tuning. Airlift into the
Bahamas needs to be stepped
up in line with new hotel
Last week s cancellation will
annoy the airlines almost as
much as the displaced hotel
guests. Empty seats cost money.
Looking forward, Baha Mar
badly needs to keep June flight
On the upside, the resort has
been talking to two Chinese air-
lines about direct flights from
that fast-growing market.
But forget China for now. The
core market for Caribbean
tourism is the north-eastern
USA and eastern Canada. For
the Bahamas to benefit from
Baha Mar, its marketing blitz
will need to boost new traffic. If
it just diverts business from the
existing hotels, that will spell
trouble all round---not least for
the 3,400-room Atlantis resort
on nearby Paradise Island.
Your vacation plans not fixed?
Why not give it a whirl? The
Rosewood starts at just US$630
a night---and right now, says
their Web site: "The first night
is on us." When it opens.
Driving home in a warm
sunset I felt my heart lilt
with joy, rolled down the
car window. A group of women
spread their mats under a Poui
tree in the Savannah, blossoms
beneath, falling softly as the
breeze on them. I wasn t pre-
pared for that line of blossoms
across one stretch of the Savan-
nah. The hills olive green await-
ing the yellow to flower. An
artists dream. Family, food
cooked by loving hands at home,
warmth. But as the evening pro-
gressed, I felt my joy turn to dis-
appointment, anger and finally,
total disgust. I went to bed
How long can a country con-
tinue to run itself? It s an elec-
tion year and the leaders are still
treating us as if we are sheep,
unreflecting, living from day to
day, easily distracted by smutty
theatricals. How could they talk
of dog and cat when over
500,000 of us are functionally
illiterate? How could they talk of
"cowards" and innuendo on
"pipes" when we have the tenth
highest rate of murder in the
How could they stand up there
and simply have a nasty little
fishmonger s quarrel amongst
themselves, the ruling party and
the Opposition, about who is a
son of rape, and who they will
put in jail when we have fallen in
the world corruption index dra-
How could they move motions
of "no confidence" when actual-
ly no one seems to give a flying
f*** about the fact the country
runs without any systems, with-
out any checks and balances, in
every area from government con-
tracts to taxes, leaving the door
wide open for those in a position
of power to plunder or bully the
weak? And what happens to dis-
gust and misery when it finds no
We become depressed people
addicted to mindless games cre-
ated by politicians. We gather
around the arena of their vitriol
and it becomes our entertain-
ment. We are addicted to their
childish, vindictive statements to
escape our grim reality. We are
absorbed by mindless video
games where people kill one
We are so absorbed by abuse
that we are drugged to the point
of inaction. They know it s our
weak point. It s time to step out
of the game. To say stop . No
If you politicians are going to
lead us, then answer some proper
questions. What plans do you
have to improve healthcare? How
are you going to restructure the
police service so as citizens we
don t see them as scary men
with guns who don t solve
crimes? What are you putting in
place for economic growth, for
manufacturing and industry?
When will you turn our over-
flowing toxic dumps into land-
fills? How are you going to create
When will you stop the Gov-
ernment funded make-work
criminal gang industry and use
the money to tool and retool,
educate and train our young peo-
ple? When are you going to train
and educate teachers properly?
When will the EMA regulate
Point Lisas? When will you be
serious about straining an insti-
tute for artists to study pan, art,
costume? How will you rehabili-
tate our illiterate? When will you
train social workers to go into the
areas where the boys on the
block are waiting to become just
another generation of boys with a
short lifespan that will be filled
with brutalising our citizens?
When will we see transparency in
big government contracts? When
will you enforce litter laws?
Easter is a time for taking
stock, for looking at the polished
mirror. What we see is grotesque.
Taking stock. Last week, the
nation was brought to gridlock. It
was an analogy for a country
where the police show their
muscle by working , with the
shadow of a greater menace. If
they can hold the country
hostage like this, it s the fore-
shadowing of how much more
they can do. The power of guns.
Taking stock. We remain
among the most polluted country
in the world. We dump more
than 50 million plastic bottles in
our dumps and one million glass
bottles every month. Plastic
when exposed to heat creates
among the deadliest toxins
known to man.
In January 2010, three minis-
ters sat on the CNC3 set with
me and promised that soon, yes
very soon, T&T will be recycling
like Barbados, which recycles 70
per cent of its waste, like the rest
of the developed world, that we
will have a bottle bill. I visited
the Beetham dump. By Septem-
ber 2010 I wrote: "Sitting in an
air-conditioned van in the middle
of a sea of garbage, our view
blurred by thick raindrops on
glass. A seamless darkness spread
from sky to earth.
It was the stuff of nightmares.
Rain pelting down on a field of
garbage as far as the eye could
see: paper, plastic bottles, food
cartons, cardboard boxes, broken
plastic chairs, rusting electronics,
steel drums, ripped books, paper,
bottles, plastic bottles, cans,
bleach bottles. Rats. Cockroaches.
A line of black turkey vultures,
corbeaux on a stretch of stone.
And then the moving figures,
hunched, shapeless, Dickensian.
It was difficult to tell the men
from the women, scavengers
dressed in layers of rags, seem-
ingly sleepwalking, unaware of
the trucks off-loading garbage,
untouched by the pelting rain,
filling up bags, merged into the
I look up at the hills now, spot
a yellow poui, and marvel at a
country that flourishes in a heap
of political garbage.
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt March 29, 2015
FLOURISHING IN A HEAP OF POLITICAL GARBAGE
US$3.5B BAHA MAR RESORT OPENING IN BAHAMAS CANCELLED
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