Response to Guardian Article – Forestry Deal
It is quite unfortunate that the local morning daily, The Nassau Guardian, seems to be on a fear-mongering mission as it relates to “Chinese” investments in The Bahamas. In this morning’s edition of the paper the writer of the article entitled ‘Chinese in Forestry Deal’ tries to demonize a potential investment by insinuating that it is a secret deal with the Chinese by the Christie administration. This is untrue and can be nothing but an attempt by the writer to invoke xenophobia within the minds and hearts of the Bahamian people. This tactic should be strongly condemned as it is raising undue alarm in this nation and internationally. May I remind Bahamians that “Chinese” is a nationality and not a race.
The only existing licences for Forestry is the five year licence issued by the Free National Movement in 2011 to a Canadian citizen in relation to two tracts of land in our Abaco forest estate, comprising 5,194 acres in Wilson City and 1,552 acres in Norman’s Castle.
I have spoken publicly on the issue of resin tapping and selective harvesting on many occasions as the minister responsible for Forestry. In 2015, my ministry published a document called, ‘Fulfilling the Charter where on page 4 it states “there is potential for resin tapping to evolve on the island of Andros. Presently the Government is considering a proposal made by a company that would like to harvest resin from trees on the island of Andros for export”.
On the 28th August, 2015 the Forestry Unit issued an “approval in principle” to Caribbean Global Timber Ltd. The principals of the company include Bahamian Citizens and American Citizens who have sought additional assistance from a Chinese industrial and commercial investment company. To say that there is a deal with the Chinese is misleading. Notwithstanding the above, to date all of the conditions imposed by the Forestry Unit reflected in the aforesaid letter have not been satisfied. Therefore, no licence has been issued.
It should be noted that the existing pilot project in Abaco and the proposed project in Andros will assist the Forestry Unit in managing the selected areas in accordance with provisions of the Forestry Act and in an environmentally sustainable way. Under any forestry licence, trees are selected by the Forestry Unit to be utilized for resin and/or timber extraction. The systematic removal of selections, will enable trees with the greatest potential to grow in size and have space to do so.
All forestry resources remain vested in the Government of The Bahamas. Land is neither granted nor leased. Licences are issued only for the removal of selected trees and for the sustainable use of the resource. Royalty fees are paid to the Government for such activity. As we have done over the past few years and will continue to do so in the future, we encourage Bahamians to learn more about Forestry and to get involved.