Friday hoping for an “iron clad assurance” in the sale of the Buccament Bay Resort
Opposition Leader, Dr Godwin Friday is hoping that there can be an “iron clad assurance” that the sale of the Buccament Bay Resort will go through, particularly since parliamentarians have approved a loan of over EC$30 million in relation to the project.
Camillo Gonsalves, the finance minister tabled a bill in Parliament on August 13 for the approval of a loan of EC$36 million, which will be used by the government to purchase lands from various parties in the Buccament area.
It is expected that the land will be sold to Sandals Resorts International, who signed a Heads of Agreement with the government in July for the development of the site.
“That EC$36 million, as I have explained is the money that will be paid to the various players that I discussed, the Catholic Church, the local farmers, the KPMG, the 51 villa owners and all the interested parties there. What we take, we pay, we come out with no profit; but we do come out with a new hotel, 700 employees and large new market locally for the farmers and fisherfolk of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” the finance minister said in the House of Assembly.
Although he expressed his desire to see the project succeed, the opposition leader expressed concerns about the loan being sought by government.
Friday said it is necessary for the government to be completely transparent with the people of this country, who have seen many failed promises with respect to the Buccament Bay Resort and others.
“So we have genuine concern so when you say, we coming to Parliament, towards the end of this government, to borrow 36 million, to do a purchase of a property on behalf of somebody else, whom we are hoping now to transfer that property to. Given the history of this project, you are asking us to put a lot of faith and trust in the government,” he said.
The opposition leader added that it was not the intention to appear as if he were doubting the project, because he wants it to succeed for the purpose of job creation for the people of this country, particularly young people.
And he said they could not afford to present this project to those hopeful for employment, only to not deliver on more promises.
“We need to know Mr Speaker, with ironclad assurance, not with a likelihood or a possibility, but that having completed the transaction of purchasing the property from all of these buyers, and having gone and borrowed $36 million that this deal is assured, that it will be completed, it will be consummated,” he said.
Friday said the loan will ensure that landowners are paid, that investors in the UK who lost on their investment in the Buccament Bay Resort will be reimbursed and that the good name of SVG will be repaired.
But he noted that borrowing the money and adding to the expenditure of the country will only compound a problem if the transaction with Sandals is not consummated within the last quarter of this year.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves revealed in his contribution to the debate that Sandals had already made a down payment of 10 per cent of what they will pay for the Resort.
This 10 per cent amounts to US$1.475 million dollars, which means that the resort company will pay US$14.75 million (EC$39.86 million) in total for the resort and associated lands.
“That was paid down. The leader of the opposition says, as though he has not written contracts before in his life as a lawyer, he says he wants a cast iron guarantee. Well what cast iron guarantee you can get, when you sign an agreement, heads of agreement, and that a payment system is laid out?” the prime minister said.
Gonsalves added that Sandals is expected to pay an additional US$11.25 million by November 20 for the land, “which includes as we explained in the finance committee, the bits and pieces here and there on the resort site, owned by the government”.