Property Matters – Invaders’ Bay part two

invaders-bay-artist-rendering
UDeCOTT artist’s impression of Invaders’ Bay development

There is a rising tide of confusion at Invaders’ Bay, so it is time to bring some understanding to this situation. The previous column delved into the Appeal Court rulings and the State’s application to appeal to the Privy Council. There is a lot more to be derived from those important rulings, but this week I am restating the case as to why this is a large-scale development of major importance.

Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie
Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie

In March 2012, Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, the then Minister of Planning & Sustainable Development, confirmed that the 70-acres of undeveloped land at Invaders’ Bay was worth $1.28Bn. This would be the largest single development in our capital city in living memory, the only questions being ‘On whose terms?‘ and ‘For whose benefit?

In 2012, the PP Cabinet decided to lease two parcels of land at Invaders’ Bay –

  1. Dachin: 10.2 acres for a Commercial/Residential complex, a boutique hotel, a cultural focus area and three (3) main event entertainment areas comprising a Museum, Bowling Alley and Movie Theatres. View video presentation here.
  2. Invader’s Bay Marina Group: Commercial Development on 13 acres for Hotel, Commercial Office Complex, Cruise Ship Complex; Gas Station; Residential Development and Light Industrial Development; a Marina.

It seems, from the statements of Derek Chin, who is the principal in the first of those proposals, that the projects approved by the PP have been shelved.

In April 2016, the Minister of Finance & the Economy stated

“…We have now begun discussions with some foreign investors on a set of integrated projects comprising an expanded international financial centre, a five star hotel and a convention centre, located in Invaders Bay…The International Financial Centre could include one or more Chinese banks as anchor tenants, dedicated to servicing China’s considerable lending programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean. The presence of these Chinese institutions should also serve as a strong attraction for other international banks to the International Financial Centre…”

Chinese interests were identified as preferred partners for these new proposals, likely under a government to government agreement (G2G). As I detailed previously, such an arrangement would sit outside of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act (PPDPP), given the G2G loophole at S.7 (2). I have asked the question, in this space and elsewhere, as to whether these new proposals are actually going to proceed under a G2G Agreement. No reply.

This situation is starting to resemble a detrimental episode of ‘Procurement Arbitrage’ in which successive regimes of Public Officials find approaches to carry out large-scale development of the Invaders’ Bay lands outside of the legal framework. Not illegal, but very convenient, with chronic lack of detail.

The previous administration issued an RFP via a Ministry, in breach of the Central Tenders’ Board Act. When challenged on the point, they obtain several legal advices which they claim vindicate their actions. They refused to publish those and that is why we had years of expense in court.

Despite the protests on the weaknesses of the original PPDPP in relation to land sales and leases, the current administration did not accept the several submissions which proposed remedying the loophole in that area as it relates to G2G Agreements. A large-scale project is announced – I am reliably informed that the proposal is for a 450-room hotel – with no invitation for participation and no reply as to the G2G. I have requested details of this project from two senior public officials, but no reply.

Yet another aspect of this issue is the failure and/or refusal of the State to embark on any public consultation at all on the Invaders’ Bay proposals over the last five years. In my opinion, Public Consultation and Participation is an essential ingredient for successful large-scale developments, especially those on public lands.

The economic impact of the proposed development is unknown and that is detrimental to the public interest. At this phase of our development we need to be considering fresh approaches, as per the JCC’s 24th October 2012 letter to the Ministry of Planning & the Economy

“…The priorities identified in the 2011-2012 budget include a call to diversify our economy by finding sustainable replacements for our declining energy revenues. Given the likely level of interest in Invaders’ Bay the revised RFP must have as an identified ‘Need’ that only projects which were net earners of foreign exchange would be considered. Such a condition would eliminate any offices, apartments, foreign franchise restaurants or shopping malls and set the stage for a different development discussion, which is necessary at this point in our country…”

dr-james-armstrong_1
Dr James Aremstrong

Having outlined these facts, the reader will be better able to appreciate the JCC’s silence on Invaders’ Bay since Dr James Armstrong was appointed its President in December 2015. Dr Armstrong is an eminent Urban and Regional Planner, with wide international experience.

As things stand, we have no idea of what exactly is being proposed, so once again it seems that –

‘Silence is the Enemy of Progress’

Having set the table, next week I will delve again into those Appeal Court rulings.

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