Do Not Touch Our Blasted NIS Money!

Tony Marshall, Chairman of the NIS Board was summoned by the Prime Minister last week to Government headquarters

The taxpayers of Barbados have risen from their slumber this morning to the report that the NIS Board – headed by retired banker and talk show host Tony Marshall –  has been ‘briefed’ on the Four Seasons project by the Cabinet of Barbados and ‘ordered’ to relook its imminent investment decision. The Four Seasons project stalled when capital markets went soft as a result of the global financial crisis. The decision to work with Professor Avinash Persaud to revitalize the project was steeped with optimism given his reputed international connections. However after many promises that the project would have restarted the government is now seen as the creditor as last resort.

It is evident from commentary on BU and on the ground that Barbadians are very weary of using social security funds to bail the Four Seasons project. The 101 reasoning by many is if the project is as viable as Minister Chris Sinckler and the IDB believe then why is it so difficult to acquire private sector investment?  It was not very long ago in response to an actuarial study the NIS adjusted its pension eligibility as a result of the state of the NIS scheme vis a vis our ageing population. Barbadians have become very sensitive of late about how decisions are being taken about at the NIS. By the way has the CBC repaid that one million dollar loan yet? Did any heads roll as a result of the cockup with mailing old age pension cheques?

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The composition of the NIS Board is meant to convey that it should be independent in its decision making. The reality however is that the board is appointed by the minister responsible, in this case Minister Ether Byer-Suckoo, who has been unacceptably silent on NIS matters when contrasted with Ministers Sinckler and Kellman. When all is said and done Minister Sinckler has veto powers over the Board decision in this instance. The decision to summons the NIS Board to Bay Street last week to pressure them to rule favourably on a request from Persaud for 50 million NIS investment must be seen as a ploy to avoid Sinckler having to overrule the Board. It would be seen as a very unpopular decision at this time, a fact not lost on politicians who occupy marginal seats in parliament with a general election looming.

More worrying to Barbadians is the fact that our most important fund has lacked transparency over the years by not producing timely audited financial statements. This is an inefficiency which has existed under both governments and is generally accepted as endemic to the public service. Hopefully the CLICO Affair which is still spouting its mess across the Caribbean will sensitize all concerned to the importance of transparency in how we do business and the need for a robust governance system. The failed implementation of the FOIA by government and the lack of advocacy by the Opposition Party should say to Barbadians that the political directorship is happy with the status quo. Such a position reflects on us the people of Barbados who the government and the leader of the Opposition are required to serve.

The decision to summons the NIS Board to Bay Street must be seen as an intimidatory act. There is a process established for the NIS Board to make decisions. If there was a need for the Marshall led board to clarify issues contained in the proposal from Persaud then he should have been summons to the NIS board room. The act by government has set a dangerous precedent and the eagerness with which the NIS board reported to Bay Street should concern Barbadians taxpayers. The only action which should have been taken by them would have been to make their letters of resignation available to Minister Esther Byer-Suckoo. Then again why should we expect such in a system where to be a member of the NIS Board adds to the status of the individuals in a society which places a lot of credence on such things.

The NIS Fund should not be used as a bailout fund by the ‘naughty’ professor to quote the Chairman of the NIS. The reason why the high paying consultant was contracted in the first place was for him to exhaust his expertise and international network to resuscitate the Four Seasons project. To date he has failed to so and therefore his non performance should come under the microscope. The explanation by Minister Kellman that a restarted Four Seasons will employ people and their NIS contributions  justifies the restart rises to the peak of stupidity. .

0 thoughts on “Do Not Touch Our Blasted NIS Money!

  1. Bro. Marshall, do the right and honourable thing, resign. Take a leaf out of ex-Chairman of BTI, Dr. Thorne’s book.

    You willing to go down as the man that PISSED all of the NIS money in Four Seasons?

  2. @Pat – Unique in that the Four Seasons brand was not suited for that location. Also the size and scope of the resort was beyond the capacity of the location. See the article below.

    I would never try to make the point that a major brand cannot fail. But in doing projects you have to take into consideration market trends for similar products. We can place the Four Seasons brand in the same category as Sandy Lane, High-end luxury. Yes Sandy Lane would have experienced some shrinkage in their revenue during the period of the recession. However, indications are that the hotel is still holding its own. The luxury market in Barbados has still performed reasonably well 2009 to present.

    Construction of the Four Seasons project is projected to last 4 years. I honestly would hope that this economic recession would be behind us. When the hotel is read to open, Obama would be close to the end of his 2nd and final term. The republicans would be looking to set a rosy platform to make things easier for their candidate to win the election, therefore all the stubbling blocks to job creation in the US would be removed. During that period David Cameron would have had to face the electorate and he definitely would have worked to boost jobs in the UK. If was not successful at that it means that their is a new prime minister in the UK who is working feverishly to get another term.

    Anyways, the point being when the upturn has return any luxury hotel property which is properly managed in Barbados should be performing well. If the brand has a strong international marketing arm. It will do even better.

    The investment will bring value to Barbados.

    Can anyone indicate any alternative investments which NIS should consider at this time? Investments which are ready to go that is.

    Below are the details from the Wall Street Journal on the Closure of the Four Seasons Exuma in the Bahamas.


    The resort, which contains a 180-room hotel, a marina and an 18-hole golf course, opened in 2003 and cost about $350 million to develop. The property is still on the block but now Mr. Downs says it will likely sell for less than $100 million. “The timing has been unfortunate,” Mr. Downs said. The starting rate for a room at the hotel was $495.

    The receiver’s struggles to sell the property have coincided with one of the worst commercial-real-estate sales markets in decades. The property was put on the block in mid-2007 as the credit markets began to contract and tremors in the economy prompted many to slash both leisure- and business-travel budgets.

    Moreover, tourism in the Bahamas began to feel the chill of the recession in September, says Georgina Delancy, general manager of research and statistics for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. The number of visitors arriving in the Bahamas via cruises and boats rose 6.6% in January and February from the year-earlier period. But the number of visitors arriving by plane, an important indicator of hotel health because those travelers also need accommodations, fell 18.4% throughout the Bahamas and air visitors fell 33% in Exuma, according to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Hotel occupancies in the Bahamas fell to 48.9% in the first two months of this year, from 57.5% last year.

    The stormy economy has made even the wealthy think twice about splurging in these tough economic times.

    Dubbed the “AIG effect,” spending at top-shelf hotels has been damped by budget cuts and the public outrage that followed news last fall of a California spa outing for top business producers at American International Group Inc. shortly after its government-funded rescue.

    “Corporate travelers may be able to pay for [high-end hotels] but the reputational risks are too great,” says Jan Freitag, vice president with Smith Travel Research. In spite of the tough economy, Mr. Freitag says he doesn’t expect to see a flurry of luxury resort closures. Such properties can cost as much as $1 million a room to build, he says, and most owners will do what they can to keep them open and producing income, even if it means finding a less luxurious brand to operate it.

    The shuttering leaves the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts BV brand with about 82 hotels world-wide, says Scott Woroch, executive vice president of world-wide development for Four Seasons. Elizabeth Pizzinato, vice president for brand communications for the Four Seasons, says the Four Seasons’ contract to operate the hotel ended Tuesday and it will be up to the receiver or a new owner to determine who will manage the property in the future.

    Geography has posed other challenges for the island. While tourists have traditionally flocked to Nassau, Great Exuma is a lesser-known part of the chain of islands off southern Florida that comprise the Bahamas.

    David Davis, permanent secretary of the office of Bahamas prime minister, says the scope of the resort may have been too large for Great Exuma, which has fewer direct flights from the U.S. than Nassau does. Mr. Davis says the island may be a better fit for smaller boutique hotels or tourists interested in boating.

    The receiver is hopeful a new buyer with alliances to other hotel chains will consider buying now that the Four Seasons will no longer be managing the resort. “The opportunity is there to shape it … with the risk of developing it from scratch remediated,” Mr. Downs says.

    Write to Maura Webber Sadovi at

  3. The taxpayers of Barbados have risen from their slumber this morning to the report that the NIS Board – headed by retired banker and talk show host Tony Marshall – has been ‘briefed’ on the Four Seasons project by the Cabinet of Barbados and ‘ordered’ to relook its imminent investment decision.

    From this distance (Canada) it strikes this reader that the people and Government of Barbados should seriously look at adopting the Canadian pension plan model.

    This from the 2011 Annual Report of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

    Canadians have repeatedly made clear that they are willing to pay what is needed to safeguard the CPP, but are wary of their pension fund being subject to political interference or control. During the 1996–97 CPP reforms, the federal and provincial finance ministers responded with carefully written legislation. This legislation stipulates that the CPP Fund cannot be used for any purpose other than paying CPP benefits and administering the CPP Fund. Under legislation, CPPIB operates at arm’s length from governments. We deploy capital solely on investment considerations, and are able to fully compete with the world’s top investment managers. To maintain the public’s trust, our independencein decision-making is balanced with public accountability. We maintain a high degree of transparency. This includes
    disclosing more information more often than any other public pension fund in Canada.

    See the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board Act at
    and the CPP Investment Board 2011 Annual Report at

  4. Quoting anthony | November 21, 2011 at 10:16 AM |
    “Just side note…He is not Dr. Persaud. He is Professor Persaud. He has not earned or been conferred a phd,dll , dphil etc. as yet.”

    A person without a Phd is a lecturer at best.

    He has only a master’s degree then?

    Just like my little Johnny?

    Tell me it ain’t so.

  5. @ Optimum

    I still like the Ritz.

    However with regard to the investment of NIS funds, read the post and links from ‘Chek it out.’ I took my CPP at age 60. It will take those who take it at 65 (retirement age) seven years to catch up to me in pension benefits received, even though their initial benefits are higher. But you see, we dont know when our number will be pulled from the hat, so better tek yuh pension earlier than later. With indexation, yuh cant go wrong.

  6. I don’t think Bajans fully appreciate that the funds disbursed by AMB fr the Four Seasons project and which was secured by a soveign debt guarantee by the GOB, was used as a subsidy for businesses who, but for that money, was in real financial trouble.

    Now they coming for a second dip in trough even though them stomachs still distended.

  7. 2 Antz | November 22, 2011 at 6:51 PM |

    Maybe the NIS heist by the professor is to pay back AMB some of the bridging (unsecured) loan . Because I can’t see how that US$ 60 million from AMB can be serviced by a non-performing asset!

  8. @ millertheanunnaki

    AMB didn’t lend the money the first time around, it was just the arranged. The money came from capital bond market. I how do agree that it would impossible for a non-performing asset to make the interest and principal repayments.

    Where the ‘garden gnome’ I would have expected to hear him today, he dreaming up a reply to S&P?

    “Law 18

    Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous

    The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere – everyone has to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from – it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people find allies, mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.” – 48 Laws of Power

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