The Bahamas are a proverbial stone’s throw from the southern tip of the Unites States. Their proximity and crystal blue waters, among many other features, have made them a prime destination for US travelers, and for major economic investment.
The $3.5 billion Baha Mar hotel project was slated to open for operation there in December of 2014. When complete, it will be the largest development of its kind in the Caribbean. The developer is Swiss businessman Sarkis Izmirlian, the financier is the Export Import Bank of China, and the construction company is China Construction America.
When construction began in 2011, Bahamians were promised a grand resort with luxurious casino and spa facilities, a designer golf course, high end residences and over 2000 guest rooms, offering tremendous potential benefits for the lucky host country. But with great potential reward comes great potential risk, and when you’re dealing with folks as proud as billionaires and heads of government, any misstep can turn dismal in a heartbeat.
There’s a fallout underway and with $3.5 billion in play, it’s threatening to affect the country’s credit ratings, the jobs at stake for thousands of Bahamian locals, and future investment by the Chinese into the Caribbean region.
The developer claims that the Chinese caused major delays, and has filed in US courts for bankruptcy protection in the Bahamas, potentially stiffing local and international creditors out of millions of dollars. The Bahamian government is seeking control and liquidation of the project by the Bahamian courts. And the Chinese have claimed that consistent changes imposed by the developer have been the cause of their tardiness.
Although the narrative is as fraught with tension as a Shonda Rhymes plot line, it is far less entertaining. There is an entire country, and in fact an entire region that could be affected by the failure of this behemoth. The people of the Bahamas are holding out hope that the project will become the magnet for tourism and investment that they had hoped. But the war of words is escalating. We’ll stay on top of what transpires with our neighbors to the South.
Calibe Thompson is the Executive Producer of the “Taste the Islands” cooking series, now airing nationwide on public television stations and Create TV (www.createtv.com for details). Learn more about her at www.calibe.net.