Property Matters – Hyatt Regency notes

What are the underlying commercial arrangements in relation to our State-owned hotels? Is there any reason to think that these arrangements operate to our benefit, or is there genuine cause for concern?

My efforts to sift the evidence are ongoing in the face of this carefully crafted confusion.

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Hyatt Regency Trinidad

Hyatt Regency is reputedly the most successful of the three State-owned hotels, so one would imagine any government would be eager to share news of those good results. The total Public Money invested in Hyatt Regency is $854M to date and that hotel opened in January 2008, so what return has the State earned on that investment? Certain limited tax and performance details for those hotels emerged after I started in 2016 to question the widespread unawareness of the underlying commercial arrangements in our State-owned hotels. I am not querying those taxation or profit details, indeed how could anyone, in the absence of audits or tax transparency?

These few details have been intentionally presented so as to hinder any real analysis, one has to wonder why. Continue reading “Property Matters – Hyatt Regency notes”

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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 part two

The previous article started by dealing with the Buck and his alleged stealing. This week I will be examining, at last, just where does the Buck pass. For those readers who may be smiling, this is no jokey thing. In this article I will be looking at that thing and its meaning.

Minister Gopee-Scoon’s delivery on Tuesday, 19 March 2019 in the Senate was nothing less than a ‘Phantom Presentation‘. (See video below, begins at 29:35) All part of the ‘hop skip and jump’ between wanting to appear to disclose but not really telling the public the real story. Like the olden Primary School days when as children we used to play ‘Hide and Seek‘, with the one who could hide the best as the winner, along with ‘Catch‘, with the one who could run the fastest and twist suddenly being impossible to catch. You see? I am going to explain all that now.

As noted last week, Senator Obika’s queried ‘taxes and dividends collected‘ for the two Eteck hotels in the period 2015 to 2018. Continue reading “Property Matters – Anything for a Buck part two”

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 – 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 – 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”