Bahamians will feel the benefits of Prime Minister Perry Christie’s visit to The People’s Republic of China for decades to come, according to Minister of Financial Services and Investments Allyson Maynard Gibson.
Minister Gibson also told the Bahama Journal Tuesday night that Chinese President Hu Jintao has accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Christie to make a state visit to The Bahamas, although she did not indicate when.
She said the benefits that will result from Mr. Christie’s visit to China will extend well beyond the $30 million stadium Chinese officials have committed to funding in The Bahamas.
Minister Gibson added that the COSCO Shipping Company, which intends to be the largest shipping company in the world by 2010, has recently registered three of its ships under the Bahamian flag.
The company’s president has also proposed the expansion of the dry dock ship repair facility in Freeport, which would enable that operation to accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world, the Minister reported.
This would create a significant number of jobs for Bahamians, she said.
“We have every confidence that with Hutchison Whampoa, COSCO and CITIC in the Bahamas, more Chinese companies and investments will follow because of the confidence indicated by those companies in the government and people of the Bahamas,” Minister Gibson said.
The Bahamas is also expected to benefit in the area of tourism from stronger relations with the Chinese government.
Both the president and premier have committed to encouraging more Chinese companies to invest in The Bahamas and establish joint ventures with Bahamians, according to Minister Gibson.
She also said that the Chinese premier intends to designate The Bahamas a preferred travel destination for Chinese people.
As a result, Prime Minister Perry Christie is reportedly encouraging direct flights between China and The Bahamas.
Efforts are also being made to form a partnership with the Chinese so that more souvenirs can be produced in The Bahamas, said Minister Gibson, who added that the intention is to ensure that at least 50 cents of each dollar earned from tourism remains in the country.
“We already have four million visitors from the United States and Europe to support a significant souvenir and handicraft industry originated by Bahamians,” she pointed out.
“But now add to that the potential growth in the tourism sector from the Chinese market which we know will be coming on stream. Imagine what that would mean, not only in jobs, directly in the tourism industry, but also growth in entrepreneurship and jobs created from that as well.”
She said a Chinese firm, known as NUTEC, is also working with the government to provide equipment that would be used in the scanning of containers. Minister Gibson said this equipment would improve revenue collection.
She added that it would also help in the fight against illegal drugs and weapons as well as other banned goods.
In addition, Minister Gibson reported that government officials are in discussion with the Chinese to form partnerships between them and the College of The Bahamas in the areas of math, science and technology.