Give us duty-free concessions too!
This was the cry of prominent businessman Sir Charles Williams as he addressed the launch of his multi-million dollar Apes Hill Country Club over the weekend.
Before a gathering that included Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss, the local developer accused Government of discriminating against investors like him, in favour of non-nationals.
“Can any Bajan in here tell me how they would feel when you get a condition that [is for] a non-national in our country?” asked Sir Charles, who related two personal experiences.
He said some years ago he had received permission to import a duty-free vehicle in the name of the Country Club, on condition that “it must be driven only by a non-national”.
More recently, the construction magnate said he had also applied for permission to bring in another pickup to be driven by his son and another Barbadian to take around prospective buyers of the Club’s luxury villas and houses.
“You’re taking people around that are buying a million dollar lot, $2 million lot, a $500,000 lot. You’re asking to drive them in a pickup, and I was told in the last year that I seem to have missed what the condition was. It must be driven by a non-national,” Sir Charles lamented.
In response, Sealy, whose Government has been criticized for offering millions in concessions to the hotel chain Sandals, offered little satisfaction to the affluent businessman, opting instead to make light of the situation by saying: “I can relate to your issue with the duty-free concession on the vehicles.
“All of my counterparts in the region enjoy a duty-free concession for the vehicles they drive. I don’t get one here, which is why I drive a Nissan Almera,” the minister of tourism said in his address to the launch.
Earlier, Sir Charles has also complained about long delays in getting approvals from the Town & Country Planning Department.
“You all might not believe it, but this project took ten years. If it had taken five, we would have sold everything,” Sir Charles said in reference to the luxury project, which includes houses and villas with a going rate of between US$1.3 million and $6.5 million.
“And I had the discomfort of hearing a person from the Town Planning Office say that it took that long because it was different,” the developer added.
“I do not think that the general public . . . realizes how difficult it is to make headway if you take impossible chances.
“You all don’t realize how difficult it is to lift you head above water,” Sir Charles stressed, complaining that it takes too long to get projects of value moving.