Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has broken his silence on the sale of Hilton Barbados Resort, saying Government was not selling the luxury resort “at any bargain basement price”.
Last month, the Nation newspaper published a front-page editorial in which it suggested that the recently refurbished hotel had been sold for US$80 million, US$20 million less than Sinckler’s stated price.
Since then the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has been calling on Government to reveal the full details and process for the sale of the Needham’s Point property, with Shadow Minister of Tourism Ronald Toppin suggesting to Parliament that the administration needed to be transparent with the transaction.
“The Government has previously indicated that it intends to sell the Barbados Hilton for US$100 million. What is the process informing this sale? Who is doing the independent valuations? Where is it being advertised for sale? We need to be told by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler before any further action is taken,” Toppin had said.
“The BLP would like to ensure that this hotel, one of the most valuable jewels in the Barbados economic crown since it was originally opened in 1966, is not sold at a cut-rate price like Blue Horizon Hotel appears to have been,” he added.
However, reacting to the suggestions that the property was being sold for much less than it was valued, Sinckler assured in a press release issued by the Barbados Government Information Service today that “when the full details of the sale agreement for the Hilton become known, the public will see that Government is in fact not selling the Hilton at any bargain basement price.
“The Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy and his team are doing a very good job of the process, which is transparent. The bids have been invited, they were analyzed, and Cabinet was advised on which bid seemed to have been the preferred one. However, all of the bids were included in the document, so Cabinet could see all of them,” he explained.
The minister noted that Cabinet had taken a decision to allow Sealy’s team to begin dialogue with the potential buyer.
“Those negotiations are in train, and have not yet been finalized, but I believe they will be concluded very soon and the public will be notified of it,” Sinckler said.
However, he stressed that the process relating to the sale had been followed, while pointing out that during negotiations there were confidentiality clauses and rules governing the process because major investors, whether domestic or foreign, did not negotiate in public.
In the meantime, Sinckler revealed that Cabinet has approved the Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan (BSRP), which is to be laid in Parliament shortly.
The embattled Minister of Finance, who has been under pressure to come up with workable solutions to the island’s economic problems, said there were just one or two consultative things that had to be done, but said there was general buy-in and sign-off by most, if not all, of the Social Partners.
“Everybody is not happy with everything that is there, but I think they are generally happy and the statements which are included in the document from the Social Partnership will indicate that. The charge now is to lay the document, have it discussed and debated in Parliament and publicly, and set about the process of implementation.
“I am extremely satisfied with the process and the final product,” he said.
Sinckler had promised in the 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals to begin the process for a BSRP, which is seen as an important roadmap which “addresses all issues in debt, financing, fiscal, state-owned entities reform, doing business and implementation”.
And following a meeting of the full Social Partnership last August, three working groups made up of public and private sector representatives were established to cover the thematic areas of Fiscal Reform, Growth and Sustainability, and Social Responsibility.