With work on the long-stalled Four Seasons Resort and Private Residences project at Clearwater Bay, Black Rock, St Michael about to resume shortly, the controversial venture will come under the scrutiny of Parliament at its next sitting on Tuesday, October 25.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has promised a comprehensive ministerial statement in the House of Assembly along with a wide-ranging debate by all parliamentarians.
Sinckler told reporters this week on the sidelines of the official opening of a fifth Burger King fast foods restaurant at Warrens, St Michael that he would provide Barbadians with a chronology of events dating back to when Government took over the stalled upscale project in 2008.
Sinckler said the administration had recently signed the document returning the Four Seasons to the private sector, noting that the developers would shortly have their say on the matter.
“We have only now recently signed the documents to have it returned to the private sector as it really properly ought to be. The developers of that will go through the process . . . in time they will speak; they will speak soon enough, I presume about their plans . . .
“We will speak in terms of the Government about what our commitments are in terms of what we have done in relation to everything that has taken place at the Four Seasons project since the Government got involved in 2008/9,” the Minister of Finance said.
“I will do a ministerial statement in Parliament. I believe that if possible, we will open it up to debate, so other members can contribute and I will have the [ministry] staff prepare a full and complete statement giving a chronology of the events and what has taken place at Four Seasons; I look forward to that when the Parliament resumes.”
The project began experiencing difficulties in late 2008 as more than half of the villas, priced at $11 million to $18 million apiece, remained unsold and buyers who had made deposits of between ten per cent and 40 per cent stopped making additional payments. Among the prominent buyers which the villas attracted were composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan and Simon Cowell, whose villa spanned two plots and cost $32 million.
After two previous attempts by the developers to secure new financing had failed, the then David Thompson-led Government announced in January 2010 it would guarantee a $60 million loan from ANSA Merchant Bank to help restart construction. Some of the money was to go toward paying off a previous $31.5 million loan from the Bank of Scotland used to buy the resort’s 32-acre site. “I am pleased to support an initiative where Barbadians pull together to put an iconic project back on track–one that will help shape the future of tourism in Barbados,” Thompson, who died later that year, said at the time. The project became even more uncertain last year when the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) withdrew its support, cancelling $160 million in loans it had committed to the venture more than two years earlier. The IDB, which had agreed to fund construction of the hotel component, made the decision due to concerns about the lack of progress. In early June this year, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy admitted that as a result of the global economic crisis Government had struggled since 2008 to attract new investment and product development in the industry, but said the tide was beginning to turn.