Sands dismisses CCA’s call over China travel ban

Sands dismisses CCA’s call over China travel ban
Leonard Sands, former president of the Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA).

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A former Bar Contractors Association (BCA) president dismissed claims by The Pointe’s developer, China Construction America that the government’s ban on travelers from China due to the delay coronavirus could impact the project’s completion timeline, warning the government not to put pubic health at risk.

Leonard Sands, an outspoken critic of the Chinese versus Bahamian labour component on the downtown development, argued that public health was paramount under the circumstances.

He also dismissed the suggestion that the developer would be unable to complete the project on time due to the government’s travel ban on persons from China due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We should not even entertain the idea when you consider the possible threat to our delicate population here,” said Sands.

He continued: “Let us remember how fragile our public health system is. We do not have the capacity of dealing with the coronavirus here. Why would we accept the unnecessary risk? I am concerned with that more than anything else.”

Last month, the government announced that non-residents will be denied entry in the country if they have visited China within the last 20 days.

Earlier this week, Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said that in light of the deadly outbreak, work permits will not be granted to anyone coming from China as one person could “wreak havoc” in the Bahamas.

Sands again railed against the  Baha Mar’s controversial main contractor and the Hilton’s owner over the number of Chinese workers in comparison to Bahamian workers on the project.

“The heads of agreement which allows the Chinese workers at present to be on site is in breach,” Sands said.

“The government has recognized this so why then should we further breach the agreement by allowing the disproportionate amount of Chinese workers to continue this project. I am baffled by that thought. I think we would absolutely be going in the wrong direction. We did not need them here in the first place.”

Sands said: “The sad thing about it is this sets a very bad precedent for other international investors because they would question why they have to follow their heads of agreement.  Investor relations can be damaged when people see that we are allowing some investors to not adhere to the letter of the heads of agreement.

“They want the government to believe they need these workers to complete this project. I dare them to substantiate the claim that they cannot finish this project on schedule. They told the government why they would have only needed a certain number of Chinese workers until the superstructure was completed.

“There has been a gross breach of the agreement and while many in the construction industry may not say, we are not happy with what is happening there.I am literally livid about this. This is ridiculous.”

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said in January that the government is ‘very disappointed’ over the disproportionate ratio of Bahamians versus non-Bahamians currently employed at The Pointe development.

Foulkes suggested the developer and the government were at odds over how that ratio is to be determined.

“We are very disappointed at the amount of non-Bahamians at The Pointe,” Foulkes said at the time.

“I think the percentages are around 30-70 in favor of non-Bahamians. It is supposed to be the exact opposite. We have been in talks with management at The Pointe. Their explanation is they have some 22 Bahamian subcontractors working at The Pointe and they are including those employees as part of the Bahamian component.”

The Heads of Agreement for the project which was tabled in Parliament granted CCA between 400-500 work permits for the $200 million development.

The deal, dated June 18, 2015, stipulated that Bahamians would comprise 70 percent of the total construction workforce – once those employed by local sub-contractors were included in the calculation.

Bahamian sub-contractors were supposed to receive approximately 40 percent of development work in various classifications. The multi-million dollar  development has repeatedly been under the microscope for its labour component.