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

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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 – 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 – Hotel Reservations

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’.

I am relying on the official records in this one, with my sparing commentary shown below – Continue reading “Property Matters – Hotel Reservations”

Property Matters – Tobago Sandals MoU-MoU

moumou

—from Lise Winer’s ‘Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago’ (p. 619)

‘The Truth eats Lies’

—from Marlon James’ latest epic ‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf


The previous article stated that over $5.0 Billion of Public Money was spent in the first 6 months of 2009 during the CL Financial bailout, under that MoU. Yes, that is the same type of document which we were so loudly being told is not binding and can be completely renegotiated, in relation to Tobago Sandals.

The publication of the Tobago Sandals MoU at the end of November 2018, forced by my litigation, set those misleaders to try diverting concerns by claiming it was all open for discussion. Of course it is possible to renegotiate any contract, or MoU for that matter, but that is trite and explains nothing. Probably intentionally so, really.

The limits of renegotiation are rooted in the bargaining strength of the parties. Which means that the party with stronger leverage can in fact call for renegotiation and likely obtain improved terms. The weaker party will almost inevitably agree to renegotiation, in the course of which serious concessions will be obtained by the stronger party.

The recent episodes of Sandals shutdown/withdrawals in both Antigua and Barbuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands are crucial in understanding this ‘Carefully Crafted Confusion’. In both those cases, Sandals spent the capital to build the resort, but yet were still able to shutdown to seek further concessions. In the Tobago case, Sandals was investing no capital. Even in what I am now calling the Lok Jack Gambit (which I will get to in the next part) no Sandals capital was at risk. The point being that if Sandals was intended to have no capital at risk in Tobago, T&T would have been in a far weaker negotiating position than any of the other Caribbean countries. That is the precipice we were facing, the deep peril which our misleaders are trying to normalise. Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Sandals MoU-MoU”

Property Matters – Tobago Sandals silence

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Sandals CEO Gebhard Rainer (left) and Minister in Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young, MP at a news conference on Tuesday announcing the withdrawal of Sandals from the Tobago resort project.

#barefacts
#finefinefine

This week I will examine the response to Sandals unexpected withdrawal on Tuesday 15th January 2019 from the proposed large-scale development at Buccoo/Golden Grove Estates in Tobago. I was very surprised by Sandals stated refusal to proceed with this Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement in which no private capital was to be invested. When the Press Conference was announced, I believed that the deal for the proposed Resorts was to be signed.

It was clear that the mood from the head table was a gloomy one. The blame for this aborted project was placed on the ‘badgering’ and ‘negative publicity’ from a minority of commentators and political operators.

The striking official silence on the contents and implications of the MoU is damning, given the scale of the project and the amount of political capital which had been invested in the Tobago Sandals proposals. Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Sandals silence”

VIDEO: Panel discussion on Sandals “pull out” on CCN TV6 – 15 January 2019

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On the evening of Tuesday, 15 January 2019, Political Editor at CCN TV6 Juhel Browne (Right) spoke with (L-R) CCN’s Head of the Multimedia Business Desk, Anthony Wilson, UNC Senator Saddam Hosein and Chartered Surveyor and Transparency Advocate Afra Raymond on the turn of events following the withdrawal by the Sandals Group from the deal with the T&T government to manage a Sandal/Beaches resort in Tobago.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW Part I and Part II on CCN TV6

AUDIO: Interview on MORE 104.7 FM on Sandals Tobago “pull out”

Radio More FM 104.7Afra Raymond is interviewed by David Walker on 104.7 MORE FM on the debacle of the collapse of the projected Sandals managed luxury resort in Tobago. The MoU details and the actions of the State in its negotiations towards the MoU are discussed. Audio courtesy MORE 104.7 FM

Programme Date: Thursday 17th January 2019
Programme Length: 00:27:40

VIDEO: The Morning Brew interview re Sandals pull out – 16 January 2019

CNC3 LogoAfra Raymond was interviewed on The Morning Brew on CNC3 Television regarding the pull out of the Sandals Group from the proposed deal to manage a new Sandals and Beaches resort in Tobago. The publication of the details of the memorandum of understanding is questioned as a catalyst for the pull out decision. Video courtesy CNC3 Television

Programme Date: 16 January 2019
Programme Length: 00:12:58

Property Matters – Tobago Sandals Roles

This article will delve into the roles of the various officials and public Institutions who are responsible for this Tobago Sandals MoU.

Information Approach

This process followed the familiar pattern of information management, in which the ‘Underlying Commercial Arrangements’ are intentionally obscured, while other details are selectively provided.

topsecretIt is clear that there was no intention to disclose the MoU, given the strong official resistance to my request under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA). The entire nine-month period of my challenge was one of Carefully Crafted Confusion, with both sides claiming repeatedly that there was no secret, yet at the same time there were serious issues of commercial confidentiality. Of course, only one of those could be the truth. My litigation forced both Sandals and our public officials to decide which version was true, so the MoU was released on the day before our first Court hearing.

That MoU also contains a confidentiality clause which only permits any disclosure with the agreement of the other party. The parties promised each other to keep those important secrets safe. Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Sandals Roles”

Property Matters – The Sandals Re-MoU

remou
— Winer, Lise. Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago: On Historical Principles. (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2008) p. 758


Many years ago, in an earlier life, I was taught about the perils of the short-lived ‘remou’ and that word snapped back into my mind when considering the current position with this Sandals MoU, in which all points are supposedly open for discussion. That stated position of no signed contracts will be the subject of this article. So many eminent people and responsible institutions were involved in this matter, that it is unfathomable how our Government could have signed that Sandals MoU on 10th October 2017.

My campaign to have that MoU made public got this far due its clear focus on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) and the ‘Underlying Commercial Arrangements’, which are never discussed in public. The decisive element in the complicated process of creating these large-scale projects is intentionally kept from public view, by agreement. Our national assets are traded and degraded for decades, after the sheer outrage of colonialism, with the new leaders relying on the cultivated economic and financial illiteracy of our citizens. Continue reading “Property Matters – The Sandals Re-MoU”