Property Matters – Anything for a Buck

This title reflects the negotiating stance of our governments in these massive State-owned hotels as I wonder at the convenient distraction of the ‘Buck’ emerging from folklore into the modern media. A shadowy figure who is eating-out the family’s food, coming and going as they please, people have to tie-down their things but those could still go missing. No broken windows or forced locks, so somebody is letting the Buck in, like some kind of secret love affair. Well I tell you.

In this article, I will set out the recent disclosures by Minister of Trade and Industry, Senator Paula Gopee-Scoon, on Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre and Magdalena Grand.

scoon-obikaOn Tuesday 19th March 2019, the Minister of Trade and Industry replied in Senate to two questions by UNC Senator Taharqa Obika –

“…Can the Minister advise as to the amount of taxes and dividends collected from the Magdalena Grand Hotel for each year during the period 2015 to 2018?…”

The second question sought the same details for Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre. Continue reading “Property Matters – Anything for a Buck”

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Property Matters – Sandals Shuffle

Property Matters – Sandals Shuffle

“…we are running a Country, not a Company…”
—Mia Mottley QC MP, Barbados PM – from her inaugural budget Wednesday, 20 March 2019

 

This title occurred to me due to the quiet backsliding of the main supporters of the Tobago Sandals project. This is the kind of situation where people thought they were operating safely in the dark, until someone suddenly opens the door and turns on the lights. The emergence of Sandals’ recent skirmishes have also reminded me of a shuffle.

Those shameless promoters told the public repeatedly about how satisfactory the existing arrangements were for State-owned hotels and went on to explain the special benefits of Sandals and so on and so forth. The steady exposure of the rickety arrangements for the existing hotels and the publication of the Tobago Sandals MoU have combined to end the scheme. Sunlight is really the best disinfectant. Continue reading “Property Matters – Sandals Shuffle”

CL Financial bailout – A Matter of Interest

CL Financial bailout – A Matter of Interest

The matter of interest is at the very centre of the collapse of CL Financial and the subsequent $25 Billion bailout, which has been conducted on terms deeply inimical to the Public Interest.

clf-bailout

The mis-match between the high cost of CLF’s borrowings and the low return on its varied investments caused that group’s collapse. The bailout was agreed to commit an undefined quantity of scarce Public Money to rescue those investors at the riskiest end of the financial market, most of whom had invested in short-term Annuities. Of course the Executive Flexible Premium Annuity (EFPA) was an insurance product approved as required by law, it would be untrue to attach any other meaning to those investments which we now know to have totalled about $11 Billion. I have always thought of Annuities as long-term investment products in the 15-20 year range, but CLF redefined terms we had thought were settled.

But the bailout itself, apart from refunding the capital of those riskiest of investors, went several steps further – Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – A Matter of Interest”

Webinar: Culture, Corruption & Impunity

Webinar: Culture, Corruption & Impunity

webinar2Are we seeing a rising tide of corruption scandals, or an increase in the level of public awareness and demands for transparency? Marla Dukharan and Afra Raymond discuss:

  • The latest Corruption Perception Index – as a region how did we fare?
  • Trinidad and Tobago – The overall trend is not improving, but is anything being done to address this?
  • Petrojam, Petrotrin fake oil, Sandals – a look at the recent corruption scandals.
  • Q&A with the audience

Property Matters – Filling the Gaps

budget2011“…Mr. Speaker, no coherent, co-ordinated planning or strategy for state enterprises exists. As a result we have begun to rationalise the state enterprises, including the special purpose companies, which will incorporate a new accountability system that goes beyond the presently operating company ordinances. It is these loopholes in public accountability that resulted in the UDeCOTT scandal. This must never again happen in Trinidad and Tobago…”
—Dookeran, Winston. “Facing the Issues: Turning the Economy Around,” (Budget Statement 2011, Port of Spain, 8 September 2010), pg 22.

The previous article – Cycle of Consequences – drew from the official record to detail the performance of UDeCOTT in terms of its accountability for the vast sums of Public Money for which it is responsible.

The reaction to that article was so striking that I am responding to the disbelief and many questions. I will also examine the record of e TecK in this related matter of the State-owned hotels. As always, I am relying on the official record and the written correspondence. Continue reading “Property Matters – Filling the Gaps”

Property Matters – Cycle of Consequences

This article will delve deeper into the State Enterprise sector and its role as an agent of government policy with huge transactions in Public Money. I will do so by continuing my focus on the State-owned hotels and their performance, drawn from the official record.

The poor quality of investment decisions with our limited Public Money has left us saddled with projects no private investor would have contemplated beyond an initial appraisal stage. Public Money ought to be managed to and accounted for to higher standards than those applicable to Private Money. That standard learning appears to have evaporated in our country.

ppp

The Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in relation to our State-owned hotels are evidently beneficial to the hoteliers but of limited, if any, benefit to the Public as shareholders. PPPs here in T&T are ones in which we have privatised the profits and nationalised the losses. That is what happened at Tobago Hilton and, in significant respects, at Carlton Savannah – as detailed in ‘Carlton Savannah Swirl‘ published in this space on 15 February 2015. What is more, some of the leading beneficiaries of those arrangements, such as Arthur Lok Jack, can declare – “Government has to get the hell out of private sector business.”. Continue reading “Property Matters – Cycle of Consequences”

Property Matters – The Curepe Interchange

 

“…There is a temptation to let the lying dogs sleep…”
Sikka, Premm. “HMRC is in thrall to big business. It can no longer do its job.” The Guardian. 8 September 2016

“The Upholder is worse than the Thief”
—from the defunct Trinidad & Tobago value system, decades ago…

The reported statements of the PM and Minister Sinanan on this cost reduction of about $300M achieved for the Curepe Interchange project and the alleged role of corrupt engineers in that process are ones I welcome. Any savings of scarce Public Money are to be welcomed, whatever the political administration. That said, those recent statements are necessary but not sufficient.

These points are here to set the table –
Continue reading “Property Matters – The Curepe Interchange”