This article uses the threads I have been exploring in relation to the two large-scale Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Tobago to discuss the risks which are likely to arise quite soon in that arena.
The case will be made in three parts – the existing two PPPs, with a note on the Tobago Sandals MoU fiasco; the emerging arrangements for new PPPs in Tobago and the perils arising from the failure or refusal to examine the failed PPPs.
Magdalena Grand (formerly Tobago Hilton)
This 198-room hotel was built in 2000 on the Tobago Plantations estate by Vanguard Holdings, which comprised Guardian Holdings, Angostura Ltd and the T&T State via e Teck, with Hilton International having a minor shareholding. The project was financed with a $16.75M USD bond from Citicorp and was soon in difficulty, as in 2008 the State had to bail-out the private shareholders and commit large sums of Public Money to repair the buildings, which were by then badly-damaged by sea-blast. Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Love”→
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?…”
The "Big Lie" is a propaganda technique referred to by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, where a "colossal untruth" is stated and repeated as if it must be true, in order to influence a discussion in a direction that takes the lie for granted, rather than critically questioning it
The concerted attempts to sell the Tobago Sandals project were driven by high-level Public Officials who repeatedly assured the public that the existing arrangements for the three State-owned hotels were working satisfactorily. So much so that we should be pleased that the existing arrangements were to be adopted for the new project. The two main promoters were PM, Dr Keith Rowley and the Minister in the Office of the PM, Stuart Young.
Of course, we now know, due to the unplanned publication of that Tobago Sandals MoU, what were the terms and conditions on which the State intended to engage that project. No other hotelier had ever had a deal like that.
But there is a deeper series of official conversations on these existing State-owned hotels which need to be spotlighted so that a better view can be had as to ‘Who is Who and What is What’.
This Season of Reflection closes with yet another Sankofa Moment in which I will contemplate our past efforts so as to better understand our future. This huge project is being promoted, at the highest levels, by highly-optimistic and quite ambiguous statements.
The entire effort is based on notions of government having nothing to hide and the huge benefits to be derived from this project, albeit on rickety estimates. My colleagues and I have been engaged in a research program on these very issues for the last year. Our preliminary results pose a serious challenge to the notion of there being nothing to hide. In my view nothing could be further from the truth, that is how serious this is.
The three largest hotels in our country are State-owned – Trinidad Hilton & Conference Centre; Hyatt Regency and Magdalena Grand – with the hotels operated via Management Agreements. Our formal attempts to obtain information were met with a type of evasion and unresponsibility which was staggering. It reminded me of the infamous ‘Code of Silence‘ which belies the CL Financial bailout fiasco. No room for surprise there, after all, ours is a small country. As one of my confidantes often quips – It is like an Eleventh Commandment – ‘Thou shalt not be found out!‘ Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Sandals part two”→