Not for the first time, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy is promising that the stalled Four Seasons Resort and Private Residences project at Clearwater Bay, St Michael will be brought back to life.
And just as he did last June when he hinted that the latest was likely to succeed, Sealy revealed precious little about the efforts to revive the multi-million dollar project, which crashed after running into financial trouble in 2008.
However, he said a group that was interested in the property was at “a very advanced stage” of negotiations with Government for concessions and with the various legal interests, although he could not say when Government was expected to divest its interest in the 32-acre property.
He was also cautious on the issue of a resumption date, telling journalists and tourism industry officials at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this morning it was not clear if all sides would get out of the legal maze in time for work to commence this year.
“It is not an easy scenario where you had the investors in the project versus the owners who had bought into the villas and a whole legal labyrinth had to be ironed out,” the minister said in his presentation entitled, Tourism Expansion for Job Creation and the March to Full Employment.
“I would like to think that something could happen this year. I have been told that is not overly optimistic, but as you know it is more legalistic than financial at this stage, and less touristic and therefore I have to allow the attorneys involved as well as the Ministry of Finance, to do their work.
The Central Bank of Barbados last month said Government was expected to take in $40 million from the sale of its interest in the Four Seasons property, which it took over after the developers had failed to attract the necessary funding.
The luxury hotel and villa project began running into difficulties in late 2008, and in December 2009 Government announced it would guarantee a medium-term bridging loan of US$60 million, most of which was to refinance and reschedule debts to some 300 creditors, the majority of which were Barbadian businesses.
The balance of the loan was to pay interest and fund the development and planning work that new financiers would have required. The loan was provided by ANSA Merchant Bank in June 2010 and extended to 2013.
Economist Avinash Persaud, who was involved in the project between 2010 and 2012 as part of a team trying to raise money required to pay creditors but was unable to do so, said the Barbados economy was almost collapsing at the time the project hit a snag.
“We managed to raised some $120 million from the IDB and some others but we ran out of time trying to find people prepared to invest in that project,” he said on a recent radio programme here.
Persaud said he believed the site still had “much assets there” and that he hoped any future deal would be done in such a way that Government would recover as much of the US$60 million as possible.