Sun | May 26, 2019

Sandals Beaches project cannot be at any price, says Mottley

Published:Wednesday | March 27, 2019 | 12:21 AM
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has reiterated that while Barbados welcomes the Jamaica-based Sandals Resort International (SRI) Beaches project, “it can’t be at any price.”

Winding up debate on the 2019/2020 debate in Parliament on Monday night, Mottley, who is also the minister of finance, economic affairs and investment, sought to clarify her administration’s position on the multimillion-dollar project as she responded to Sandals officials who had denied her previous assertions that the hotel chain sought excessive and unprecedented concessions, including indemnification against tax advantages granted future hotel developers.

“If you are simply asking for what was promised then there is no issue. I have stood here and I have stood elsewhere and said that the government of Barbados remains committed to the two agreements signed by the previous minister of finance.

We don’t like what he did. We abhor what he did, but by the rule of law, by a country governed by the rule of law we stand by it,” she told legislators.

In a statement last week signed by SRI chairman, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the company said that it had taken note of the recent statement made by Mottley concerning the project.

Clarification

“With respect to the current situation, we wish to clarify that we were not asking for anything more than what was promised. The Beaches project, at over US$420 million, would have represented not only our largest single one-time development, but the largest long- term hotel project in Barbados,” the statement said.

Stewart said that such a large project carries the concomitant long-term risks, and as such “our lenders who are the banks, as well as our board, were seeking a level of stability by having parliamentary approval of the concessions that were already promised, which in the 21st century is now the norm.”

In the statement, Stewart said “We have the greatest respect for the prime minister and her government, and the efforts they have been making to restore the economy, and we are proud of the unprecedented contribution Sandals has been able to make in a very short period of time.

“However, we understand that every government has its particular priorities and policies.

We fully respect the government’s position in this regard, and we would never want to put them in a compromising situation,” it said.

“Let me state clearly we have no regrets. Even though a huge amount of money has already been spent on beach work and on development plans, engineering and architecture and a large and able projects team comprising the very best personnel; the fact is we know that both sides worked very hard to try and make this project a reality,” said the statement.

Last week, Mottley, told legislators that plans by SRI to bring the Beaches investment project to the island could be either “stalled or pulled” after indicating that the company was seeking much more concessions than had been granted by the previous administration.

She said her administration had been working hard to make the project a reality, although it was not in agreement with the “extent of the excessively generous concessions granted” by the former administration.