Bahamas Halts $2.1B Joint Agri-fisheries Project with China: We Need to Protect Our Waters

Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Alfred Gray

Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Alfred Gray

NASSAU, Bahamas — The Bahamas’ minister of agriculture and marine resources, Alfred Gray, said on Monday that he has rescinded his October letter to Bahamas Ambassador to China Paul Andy Gomez giving him the green light to further pursue a $2.1 billion China-Bahamas agri-fisheries project in Andros.

While a guest on a local radio show, Gray was asked whether he has rescinded the letter. He responded, “Yes. Through the foreign ministry, the letter was rescinded and he was advised not to go forward with any proposition or discussions as it relates to the letter.” Gray said the letter was rescinded on the advice of the Cabinet.

The action came amid great public uproar over the proposed project, which was revealed in an article by The Nassau Guardian on November 1.

While on the show, the minister repeatedly accused The Nassau Guardian of targeting him to advance a political agenda. He suggested that that was why the story on the proposal was written in the first place, though he said he does not read the newspaper.

Gray admitted that he supported the initiative to discuss the ideas Gomez had put to him in order to see what would come out of the conversation. In the letter, he used the word “progressive” to describe the proposal, which called for the incorporation of 100 companies to be owned 50-50 by Bahamians and Chinese for the project, which would involve fishing in Bahamian waters and farming on Andros.

Each company would have been granted 100 acres of leased Andros farmland with an opportunity to access 100 additional acres.

Despite Gray’s support for the proposal, Prime Minister Perry Christie definitively declared in Parliament last month that the initiative was a no go. His statement came during a fiery exchange with Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn.

Christie said if such a plan came before Cabinet it would be “rejected outright.”

“We are fundamentally opposed to foreign fishermen in Bahamian waters, and that is why Bahamian fishermen today are saying this is the best year they have had in many a year because of the defense force being able to protect our waters,” Christie said. “We are not going to compromise, and no discussion will lead to a conclusion that this government would have contemplated or agreed for that to happen.

“But a minister in association with anyone could explore opportunities for The Bahamas, but he has to bring that as a proposal to his colleagues who have to make a determination as to whether they will agree,” he added. “The government of The Bahamas did not agree to any such proposition, did not consider any such proposition, it did not come before the government as a proposal, and it would not have reached the government because it would have been rejected outright.

“We do not do that in The Bahamas. We do not do it.”

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