Property Matters – Tobago Sandals MoU, part two

The previous article examined the clauses of the Tobago Sandals MoU and I took the position that those provisions were entirely in favour of Sandals, which was investing none of the capital. What is more, the MoU offers unspecified incentives and exemptions to Sandals, as well as a free hand in terms of purchasing and employment. Incredible, but true. This is where we are.

This article will examine the MoU further, starting with the question of just why was it released at this advanced stage after 9 months of claiming that its contents were secret and that disclosure would damage the ongoing negotiations.

tobagosandals-mouhandover
Sandals MoU handover

It could be that the Cabinet, acting in the public interest and in the face of my litigation, decided to release the MoU as a tangible show of transparency. On the other hand, it could be that the ongoing negotiations have now settled to the point that the release of the MoU was literally immaterial to the desired outcome. That second version seems to me to be the more likely one, given the mid-December date disclosed for signing the real contracts. If that is really the case, we are witness to a sobering moment in terms of the implications of this Public Private Partnership. Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Sandals MoU, part two”

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Property Matters – Tobago Sandals MoU

29th November 2018 was the first hearing of my Judicial Review of the refusal of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to provide a copy of the Tobago Sandals Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which I had requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) since 27th February 2018. At that hearing, the OPM agreed to provide the MoU and pay my costs, so my lawsuit was withdrawn.

tobagosandals-mouhandover
(L-R): Adam Stewart, Sandals Resorts Group Deputy Chairman; Minister of Communications, Stuart Young; and Sandals CEO, Gebhard F. Rainer with the MoU for Tobago Sandals .

This Tobago Sandals MoU was signed on 10th October 2017 and should have been disclosed long ago, without any necessity for legal action on my part. The PM and Minister Stuart Young repeatedly told the public that these details could not be published as that would undermine these important negotiations and so on and so forth.

Nine months of delays and obfuscation verging on an abuse of process, but that is just my opinion, as the OPM was advised by eminent Senior Counsel, Deborah Peake.

When the MoU was released at a press conference the evening before, Minister Stuart Young was emphatic that the decision to publish had nothing to do with me or my litigation. One has to wonder at the quality of advice being taken by the Cabinet. Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Sandals MoU”

Property Matters – the Benefit of the Doubt for Tobago Sandals?

Property Matters – the Benefit of the Doubt for Tobago Sandals?

In which a Flying Pig births a White Elephant…

If that phrasing sounds over-imaginative and gross, just consider these proposals for Tobago Sandals…

The previous article stated the bare facts about this large-scale development and placed those for consideration.  The response, online and elsewhere, was such that I am now going to set out the main arguments being used by the promoters of this project and place those for consideration.

What is ultimately at stake here is the right of our Public Officials to negotiate these large-scale projects, in secret and on our behalf.  The promoters of this project are claiming that intangible but substantial element, the Benefit of the Doubt.  This article will examine the merit of those claims for the Benefit of the DoubtContinue reading “Property Matters – the Benefit of the Doubt for Tobago Sandals?”

Property Matters – Sandals Splinters

Property Matters – Sandals Splinters

#finefinefine

In writing on the extent to which Public Money is stolen or wasted and the need for proper standards, I offered this equation for the reality check –

               EXPENDITURE OF PUBLIC MONEY
Minus    Transparency
Minus    Accountability
EQUALS CORRUPTION

My previous articles have been focused on the gaps in the available information on the current proposals for the large-scale Tobago Sandals/Beaches resort,. This article will examine those proposals from the other perspective, by listing the facts which we do know. Continue reading “Property Matters – Sandals Splinters”

Property Matters – the Sandals case

Property Matters – the Sandals case

I applied to the High Court for a Judicial Review of the refusal of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to provide the Tobago Sandals MoU under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA). On 11th October 2018, I was granted leave to proceed with the Judicial Review and the Case Management Conference is set for 29th November 2018.

Does the public have the right to know what are the terms and conditions of the various large-scale projects being done by the State?

The twists and turns in this episode seem to be ‘Carefully Crafted Confusion‘ – a phrase I coined during the Invaders’ Bay imbroglio under the previous PP administration. Large-scale projects on valuable public land, expected to require heavy public investment, all being done for the benefit of the public of course, yet the details are kept under covers.

The State’s shifting positions on Tobago Sandals are striking. For example, Minister Stuart Young gave these interviews on CNC3 TV –

  • Wednesday 28 February 2018 – in which he insisted that there was no secrecy or any reluctance to engage with the public on this mega-project.
  • Wednesday 17th October 2018 – in which he stoutly defended the need for secrecy of the MoU. Of course, having been sued for the refusal to provide the not-secret MoU, an entirely different position is now adopted. With ‘a straight-straight face’, as David Rudder would say. Well I tell you.

Continue reading “Property Matters – the Sandals case”

Property Matters – the PETROTRIN case

Property Matters – the PETROTRIN case

The impending closure of Petrotrin has virtually captured the major part of our national debate in a swift and serious way. Many commentators seem to have taken strong stances in which their loyalties are displayed and there is a distinct lack of the basic facts.

petrotrin-refinery
Petrotrin refinery at Point-a-Pierre

This is no essay on the oil & gas aspects of the Petrotrin closure as those are areas outside my understanding. In this article, I will examine three of the most serious governance issues now emerging as this seemingly-unstoppable process rolls onward.

The issues I will be delving into are:

  1. the information asymmetry on display here;
  2. the enhanced offer to workers and finally,
  3. the issues arising in relation to Petrotrin’s huge land-holdings.

Continue reading “Property Matters – the PETROTRIN case”

Property Matters – The Housing Gap part two

Property Matters – The Housing Gap part two

“Until all have crossed, none have crossed…and some we have to carry”
— the late Dr Pat Bishop TC… timeless…

“…The Housing Policy of the Government of Trinidad & Tobago is based on the understanding that every citizen should be able to access adequate and affordable housing regardless of gender, race, religion or political affiliation…”
(the emphases are mine)

 

Showing Trinidad and Tobago A New Way HomeThis is my second essay on the size and meaning of the Housing Gap. That is the gap between the beneficial intentions of the Housing Policy (2002) and the needs of the actual applicants, the neediest citizens, in this my Season of Reflection. The State Institution with responsibility to close that gap is the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). The Land Settlement Agency has responsibility for providing serviced lots but that is a minor part of the output.

The previous article opened by citing the little-known preamble to our Republican Constitution (1976), which affirms the principle of social justice by the operation of our country’s economic system to promote the common good. This week, my opening quotation is from the late artist, musician and commentator, Dr. Pat Bishop, in which important community values of assisting those least able to assist themselves are elevated. Almost socialist, in both expressions. I tell you. Continue reading “Property Matters – The Housing Gap part two”