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.
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?
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).
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.
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”→
When I started this examination of the reported taxes paid by the e TecK hotels, it was with faint hopes of making any findings, given the erratic quality of the information provided by Minister Gopee-Scoon. Even the title ‘Anything for a Buck‘ was an attempt to make light of what seemed near impossible, picking sense from nonsense. But the humour soon vanished, just like the Buck, as I estimated the income and salaries for those hotels – Magdalena Grand and Hilton Trinidad.
In last week’s article, I estimated the sales and room revenues of those hotels, which showed that Hilton Trinidad’s Sales Revenue (estimated from its reported payments of Business Levy & Green Fund) was exceeded by its Room Revenue (estimated from its reported payments of Hotel Accommodation Tax). Sales Revenue is usually the sum of room revenue, food & beverage sales and other rentals for meetings/functions. That can only be described as an anomaly and one that requires a proper explanation, since it has a direct and adverse effect on the Rental payable to e TecK by Hilton Trinidad under the terms of its Management Agreement. That Management Agreement was registered as a Lease on 7th July 2006.
Last week I also made the point that there was not enough information to reliably estimate costs, other than salaries, from the taxes paid. This week, I will delve into the implications of the salaries by using the reported payments of NIS contributions and PAYE. Given that Magdalena Grand has no reported PAYE, according to the Minister’s statement on 19th March 2019, it is not possible to compare that hotel with Hilton Trinidad on all bases. Continue reading “Property Matters – Anything for a Buck, part three”→
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.
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.
On 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?…”