The Government of Barbados says it will not apologize for buying Almond Beach Village in St Peter for $US55 million.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler told Parliament this afternoon the investment was a fundamentally serious, responsible and sound decision for the people of Barbados.
Speaking on a bill to amend the Income Tax Act, Sinckler added: “I say, I can apologize for many things, but I humbly suggest that this side has nothing to apologize for in intervening in this situation to turn it around for the people of Barbados. Everybody knows the airlines follow the brands, the brands bring the tourists and the tourists bring the airlines. In a few years’ time, you are going to see the kind of jetliners that are going to be lining up at Grantley Adams International Airport just because this Sandals is here . . . . and when we add Four Seasons.”
“And you are going to say that a prime property of real estate and the Government decides to spend US$55 million to get it in the name of the people of Barbados and we are to be harassed and beaten up all over this country for doing something for the people that look like us,” the Minister of Finance continued.
“People talk about what we offered Sandals? Go and see what Grenada offered them. Much more than that. We are building a hotel for the Government of Barbados in which Sandals is going to operate,” he stated.
Sinckler said that unlike the Opposition Barbados Labour Party, with respect to the Hilton, Government was ensuring that the fundamental operational premises were put in place to see that investment did not cause the taxpayers of Barbados any recurrent expenditure to run every year.
“We have chosen an excellent brand manager who is going to bring value to Barbados that a lot of people who we hear talking, put together, can’t bring to Barbados. We did not get one [Sandals branded property]; we got two. The other one didn’t have anything to do with us, but the fact that we called them to Barbados, they ended up having two.
“I make bold to say that the lease payments and the business that they are going to generate on an average occupancy rate of 75
per cent year round –– and we know that Sandals can get much more than that –– but let’s say they get 70 or 75 per cent occupancy rate, [that] will generate enough revenue to pay for the loan and the incentives too,” declared Sinckler.
“But the question I ask everybody in Barbados and in this House [is] what it is that you are getting from Sandals right now? What are you getting for it? I made this point to the IDB . . . . We are in the business of attracting investment. If you are telling me I have to cut my investment just so I can get an arithmetical line . . . say, I reduce this by this per cent and that per cent . . . a major investment bypass Barbados and go elsewhere, what are you getting for it? I am saying that life cannot just be done, equated on represented through some arithmetic calculation. One has to look at the total multiplier effects. What you are giving up and what you are getting in return.”
He said Sandals has one of the major marketing forces and departments in the world.
Sinckler pointed out that it has more than 500 employees who wake up every day, from Alaska to Russia.
“All over the place, you hear some people in Barbados thrashing this thing . . . some people who should know better, and others who don’t really. The point I am making is that, we as a Government believe it is a sound and it is the correct type of investment to attract to Barbados. I know there are a lot of little local people, very quietly texting me on my phone, saying they are so happy they are getting some business.”
The minister said he knew, for example, from his days at Caribbean Policy Development Centre and working with OXFAM, that Sandals has the widest and largest and most sophisticated
farm-to-fork operation domestically in many Caribbean countries
in which they operate, from St Lucia to Jamaica.
“That is a fact. Not just buying from the local farmer and tell them bring something. Working with them, giving them better equipment, showing them how to refrigerate products, how to present it. In fact, they even go so far as bringing the farmers in the hotel to stay on weekends so they can see what is required to be produced. So I am talking about something that is going to add tremendous value to Barbados, and therefore when I go sleep at night I can rest that this has been a fundamentally serious and responsible and sound decision for the people of Barbados. So
I am not going to let anybody confuse me.”