Harmony Cove in limbo - Decision on long-proposed luxury resort and casino to come within 90 days
After years of missed deadlines and protracted plans, the Government is now considering pulling the plug on the proposed multibillion-dollar Harmony Cove mega-resort project.
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz says that 'decision day' is fast approaching on the way forward for the development, which should house a major casino in Trelawny.
Providing an update on the Harmony Cove project at a meeting of Parliament's Standing Finance Committee, which examined the Estimates of Expenditure over two days, last week, Vaz said that three outstanding issues will determine whether the project proceeds.
He said that a Cabinet submission will be made and the matter discussed at that level as the administration is taking another look at the geographic location in which the proposed exclusive casino licence is to be granted.
According to Vaz, the Cabinet will also discuss whether it should reduce its shareholding in the proposed development.
He told his colleague parliamentarians that changes in the tax-incentive programme would be a key issue in determining the viability of the project.
Vaz noted that certain incentives were agreed on in 2008, when the then Jamaica Labour Party administration was in power, but since then, the Government has entered into an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which resulted in a revision of the administration's tax-incentive scheme for investors.
Harmony Cove Limited is owned jointly by Harmonisation Limited and Tavistock Group, a private investment company, with the latter owning 51 per cent shares and the former 49 per cent. Harmonisation Limited is owned jointly by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and the National Housing Trust.
Harmonisation Limited was incorporated in April 2003 to execute a master plan developed under the auspices of the DBJ for a 2,300-acre resort, called Harmony Cove, one of the centrepieces of which would become a casino.
But Vaz argued that the omnibus tax incentive scheme under the IMF agreement created variations between the original and new tax-incentive programmes, and as such, Tavistock, the majority shareholders in the proposed development, is assessing the overall feasibility of the project.
"We definitively want to have a position, one way or the other, within the next 90 days," he added.
Late last year, The Financial Gleaner reported that the DBJ has already pumped $1 billion into the company over time.