VIDEO: 4th Caribbean International Tourism Conference – 11 Dec 2019

citc

Afra Raymond made a presentation at the 4th Caribbean International Tourism Conference at UWI’s Cave Hill Campus in Barbados on Trinidad & Tobago’s State-owned hotels to outline the results and provisional conclusions of his research examining the existing State-owned hotels as a way of understanding the real prospects for the large-scale Tobago Sandals proposed by the incumbent government in 2015.

Property Matters – The Show Tell Hotel

Tax transparency is the series of laws or rules to require businesses or people to disclose their income earned and taxes paid.

What re-ignited my interest in this was the recent Daily Mail article on the Florida lawsuit against Sandals Resorts International (SRI) by a former guest on allegations of tax fraud. The allegation is that the 12% accommodation tax charged to guests at Beaches in the Turks & Caicos Islands was not all remitted to the government, with a significant percentage of those monies kept by SRI (owners of Beaches).

beaches-tandc

Continue reading “Property Matters – The Show Tell Hotel”

VIDEO: Resort Development in Tobago: A Stakeholder Perspective

tobago resortsAfra Raymond talks on:

  1. the role and importance of stakeholder participation / buy-in / collaboration / information sharing,
  2. issues of transparency & accountability specifically the underlying commercial arrangements, and
  3. strategies for the way forward,

during this panel discussion: Resort Development in Tobago: Power, Politics & People organized by Department of Management Studies of the University of the West Indies.

Programme Date: Wednesday 22nd May, 2019
Programme Length: 00:16:43

Property Matters – Notes on Resort Development

tobago resortsAt 5:00 pm on Wednesday 22nd May 2019, the ‘Resort Development in Tobago: Power, Politics and People’ seminar was held at Tobago Hospitality & Tourism Institute Campus, Blenheim, Mt. St. George, Tobago. The speakers were –

  • Dr Acolla Cameron (Chair) – Head of the Dept of Management Studies, UWI,
  • Mr Louis Lewis – CEO of the Tobago Tourism Agency,
  • Mrs Diane Hadad – Chair, Tobago Division of the T&T Chamber of Commerce,
  • Dr Leslie-Ann Jordan-Miller – Senior Lecturer, UWI,
  • and myself.

Today’s seminar emerged from a December 2018 invitation extended to me by UWI colleagues to participate in a seminar on the proposals for Tobago Sandals. The announced withdrawal of Sandals from that project lead to a widened scope for this seminar and I am pleased to work with those UWI colleagues on this important issue.

This article outlines the case I propose advancing as my notes on resort development.  Continue reading “Property Matters – Notes on Resort Development”

Property Matters – Notes on Hotel sales

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This series on T&T’s State-owned hotels has shown the lack of transparency and accountability which is all too common in the other State-owned enterprises. These hotels are some of the largest Public Private Partnerships in which our Public Money is invested, so these are important in this era of declining energy revenues.

This article will examine the prospects for privatisation of those PPPs and make the link to the Tobago Sandals MoU.

Privatisations fit readily within the ambit of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act.

In this period of ongoing budget deficits, it is likely that apart from ‘downsizing’, the government will have to consider disposing of various assets to raise cash and reduce its expenditure. That was the underlying rationale for the significant staff cuts at TSTT and the closure/restructuring of PETROTRIN.

The recent confirmation of taxes paid by the State-owned hotels was useful, but those taxes do not in any way represent a return on our heavy investments of Public Money. Continue reading “Property Matters – Notes on Hotel sales”

Property Matters – The No Tell Hotel

What are the lessons learned in these examinations of the State-owned hotels in T&T? These are large-scale Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and that approach is being increasingly adopted by our government in this period of deficit budgeting, so this review is a relevant one.
ppp

In this article I will set out the general arrangements, the T&T arrangements, the Tobago Sandals MoU and the closer examination of the State-owned hotels. Investment policy and the prospects for privatisation will be considered in conclusion. Continue reading “Property Matters – The No Tell Hotel”

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”

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”

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 – Checking-out State-owned hotels

Property Matters – Checking-out State-owned hotels

In the previous article, I dismantled the false narrative as to the satisfactory ‘Underlying Commercial Arrangements‘ for our State-owned hotels. To do so, I used the official records of the Parliament and its Joint Select Committees. Those records actually tell this sorry story, but it is possible to rely upon the sheer mass of material to effectively mask reality.

The defenders of these rotten arrangements are unable to rebut the official record, so some have now taken to claiming that the accounts do exist and that I should admit my errors. Well I tell you.

In between the political loyalists who have a unique way with facts and the very shortage of those facts, one needs to establish certain cardinal points if we are to make sense of all this Carefully Crafted Confusion.

So here are my cardinal points to understand this puzzle –

  • Capital Expenditure is all ours – every cent is our Public Money;
  • Repairs and Maintenance – Ditto;
  • Returns to Private Sector – These are obviously at or above target rates, since both Hilton and Hyatt have persisted in their POS operations. If the returns were below target, those operators would have exited, which is what Hilton International did in Tobago in 2008;
  • Returns to Public Sector – Unknown – since there is no commitment to accountability or transparency, despite the periodic claims to the contrary from various high-ranking officials;
  • Private Sector Audited Accounts – We can be sure that those exist at the Private Sector level and are made available in a timely manner to the shareholders and stakeholders of those companies. No Chief in that arena could survive a failure to produce audited accounts in the required manner – that would be grounds for instant dismissal, for cause and without compensation. Of course there is no way a Private Sector Chief could ever refuse to provide those records to its shareholders and stakeholders;
  • Public Sector Audited Accounts – These are never available, for whatever reason. The Public Sector Chiefs routinely fail to produce these records and even when formal requests are made via the Freedom of Information Act, those are refused. No Chief in that Public Sector arena has ever been removed or disciplined for their flagrant failure/refusal to account;

Continue reading “Property Matters – Checking-out State-owned hotels”