Buccament Bay inventory sale exceeds expectations
With over three quarters of a million dollars having been realized so far from the sale of inventory from the former Buccament Bay Resort, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves says he is “quite pleased.”
The Government is currently disposing of the inventory from the former resort by auction and by sale, and between Saturday, March 20 and yesterday, March 22, members of the public spent over $266,000 on furniture, fixtures, equipment, crockery, cutlery, glassware and decorative items, bringing the total proceeds to date to $776,000.
The Minister said the auctioneer had estimated the value of the inventory to be about $800,000, which has proven to be fairly accurate, and Government’s hope to raise at least $700,000 had been exceeded.
Certain items like televisions have not been sold but kept for use at Government institutions such as clinics, the Minister said. He added that gym equipment was also retained for use at the national stadium and crayons and other children’s items for use in schools.
“We will look to see what can be kept,” and a determination made in relation to the items that remain, Gonsalves told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.
The proceeds of the sale will be used to make ex-gratia payments to the estimated 300 Vincentians who were on the resort’s payroll when the lights were turned off in December 2016.
The property has since been purchased by Sandals Resorts International, and the Minister said Government needs to vacate the premises, as the Caribbean’s leading hotel brand intends to send an advance team as early as the beginning of May to begin hiring and entering into contracts for the construction phase of the project.
Electrical, plumbing and demolition work is scheduled to begin by early June, employing close to 300 people.
The Minister said the developers have estimated a 22-month period for completion of construction, Covid-19 permitting.
By the end of 2021, the work force is expected to increase to about 500, peaking at 1000 persons by the second quarter in 2022.
The former Buccament Bay resort was purchased by the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines in July 2020 from the bankruptcy trustee of Harlequin Property SVG Limited, after which the property was reconveyed to Sandals Resorts International. However, while the government purchased the property from the bankruptcy trustee inclusive of all the inventory on the site, Government only sold the property, and not the inventory to Sandals.
Upon closure of the establishment, many workers had claims of unpaid wages and severance payment.
“These workers’ legal claims for relief lie against those entities. The government obviously cannot take legal responsibility for the debts incurred by a private defunct entity. However, this is a labour government. As such, in recognition of the hardships experienced by those workers and the current COVID related difficulties, the government has decided to use the proceeds of the auction and sale of inventory to make compassionate ex-gratia payments to all former resort staff who were working at the point of closure,” the Minister of Finance said in a statement to Parliament last week.
He assured that the ex-gratia payments in no way cancel out the legal claims that workers may have against their former employers, nor do they place the government as assuming responsibility for any of the debts incurred by the series of defunct companies.
Gonsalves told Parliament that once the sale is finalised, government intends to make a special announcement and pay the workers in early April.
All funds raised from the auction, excluding auctioneer fees and administrative costs, will be redistributed to the workers.