Sandals ‘free zone’
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley wants facts on Government’s deal with Sandals to manage the Almond resort, and says the agreement should be discussed
Delivering her first address following unopposed re-election to leader at the Barbados Labour Party Annual Conference, Mottley on Sunday addressed a litany of what she saw as financial misdealings by Government, among them the recently announced agreement to have the international hotel brand Sandals take over management of Almond Village.
Describing the deal as a “free zone at Sandals”, she said Barbadians do not know what are the implications. Charging that among the special considerations given is one for shops in the resort to pay no duty on inputs for service, she said that it is reminiscent of the concessions given to Karib Cable, which was since bought by cable company Flow, and Cost-U-Less. The Opposition has long complained that import duty waivers given to these companies were not offered to similarly trading businesses in Barbados.
“That is why we say that a memorandum of understanding must be laid in Parliament, and no interpretation by a minister will suffice,” Mottley said.
Among the BLP leader’s concerns was how Barbadian workers would be affected by the deal.
“It cannot be fair to give one entity 150 carte blanche work permits without warning,” she said, and argued the jobs were being given to non-nationals, “for a hotel that would not open for another three to four years, when they can in fact use the time to train Barbadian workers who have been fired from the tourism industry and are underemployed, and who can be appropriately trained to meet the standard of the Sandals group”.
She had other questions for the Government on this deal.
”When was the tender advertised for the management contract for the Almond Village by the Barbados tourism Investment Inc.? It was not advertised. Who else did you receive tenders from, when was the decision made. And, when can the people of Barbados, in whose name this money is being spent be made aware of the facts?”
“We’re talking about virtually $600 million,” she said, and added: “This is not [Minister of Finance] Chris Sinckler’s or [Minister of Tourism] Richard Sealy’s money. This is the money of the people, the pensioners and taxpayers of Barbados.”
Mottley spoke of the Central Bank’s third quarter report reflecting dismal performances in all sectors and a further slide in the country’s foreign reserves.
She noted that release of the report last Tuesday coincided with a debate on a parliamentary motion of no confidence brought against the Minister of Finance. That motion was tabled in the House one week earlier, and the Opposition Leader told the annual conference that the reason the Government had hurried the debate to within seven days was out of fear the Central Bank’s report would further paint a poor picture of Sinckler’s performance.
She said if it were read before that debate, that report too would have been “the 15th vote of no confidence given on Tuesday”, alluding to the fact that there were 14 Opposition votes of no confidence and 15 Government votes supporting the minister.
She noted the report pointed to every single Barbados economic sector being in decline, singling out foreign reserves down to $1 billion, reflecting a third of the reserves lost within six months; Government’s fiscal deficit falling to $117 million worse than last year; and Barbados’s economy declining by 0.7 per cent. (GA)