by Larry Smith
A firestorm erupted last week over leaked reports that the Christie administration was in talks to hand over farming and fishing rights to the Chinese.
Despite the fact that a detailed official report was circulating, and the fact that a cabinet minister had authorised the talks, government spin doctors went into an immediate frenzy.
Alfred Gray - the minister at the centre of the storm - first claimed the reports were “utterly false” and then dismissed them as political gamesmanship.
Other spokesmen castigated critics for being anti-Chinese and pointed out that it was former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham who had initiated relations with the Peoples Republic in the 1990s.
It is also true that China signed a Memorandum of Understanding on agricultural cooperation with Gray’s predecessor under the last Ingraham administration - Larry Cartwright.
A team of Chinese experts toured Abaco back then, and government politicians promoted investments in food production and processing on 5,000 acres of Crown land. There was also talk of mariculture projects - but nothing came to pass
Nevertheless, in 2013 the Chinese ambassador noted that his nation was “very keen” on investing in The Bahamas, especially in the areas of renewable energy, agricultural production and fisheries.
Probably the biggest difference between the Ingraham initiative and the current proposal is that, today, Bahamians know the government is politically desperate to restart the Chinese-owned and -controlled Baha Mar project.
And since this government conducts most of the people’s business in secret, there is no way to know what quid is being offered for which quo. We have to assume that an exchange is taking place, as the Chinese are not here for charitable purposes.