Sandals Almond Chronology II

Submitted by Due Diligence
Lee Issa, Chairman of the House of Issa

Lee Issa, Chairman of the House of Issa

In July 2012 ARI/N&M sold Almond Beach Club, to Fairweather Holding Co., which operates Elite Island Resorts  for $33 million, the proceeds of which was used to pay down bank debt that had been incurred to keep ARI afloat.

It is not clear who owns/controls Fairweather/Elite, January 4, 2013, the Jamaica Gleaner reports that Couples is finalizing negotiations to purchase Casuarina.

“Couples Resorts is finalising a deal to acquire a hotel in Barbados, making it the first Jamaican resort group to venture into that market. It’s also Couples’ first venture outside of its home market. Couples chief executive officer, Glenn Lawrence, confirmed plans on Wednesday to purchase the 280-room Almond Casuarina Beach (ACB) Club in the eastern Caribbean island. “We are involved in firm negotiations,” said Lawrence, adding that the deal was expected to conclude on or before January 31, at which time more details would be forthcoming.”

For undisclosed reasons, Couples did not purchase the property; but January 29, 2013, announced it had agreed to manage Casuarina (it turns out) under a lease.

In an article in the Trinidad Guardian about N&M dated May 22, 2013, included The group continues to unwind its hotel properties. The Jamaican-based Couples Hotels have leased Almond Casuarina Beach; the lessee has an option either to acquire the hotel by September 30, 2013, or enter into a long-term lease arrangement.

Based on a couple of articles about Couples (see following), it appears that Couples simply did not have the money to exercise the option to “acquire the hotel by September 30, 2013”. In a July 13, 2011 article at  the Jamaica Gleaner reported that”

“The Elias ‘Lee’ Issa-owned Couples Resorts hotel chain is seeking US$50 million (J$4.3 billion) in financing from the International Financial Corporation (IFC) for working capital and refinancing of debt. The investment would represent support of “small” and “family-owned” businesses in Jamaica, IFC said in project disclosures on its website. In reality, Couples is part of the House of Issa, a medium-sized player in a market dominated by larger Spanish, US and local chains.

The investment programme is estimated at $50 million and entails refinancing US$45 million of existing debt obligations with various banks and replenishing US$5 million in working capital,” the IFC stated this month on its project listing. The refinancing component converts to J$3.8 billion at spot rates. The IFC is the lending arm of the World Bank Group based in Washington, DC.”

DD could find no reports that Couples received the IFC (World Bank) loan. In a September 19, 2012 in an article in   the Jamaica Gleaner reported Lee Issa’s Couples Resorts has offered to buy John Issa’s SuperClubs’ Breezes Grand Negril.

“The two hoteliers have confirmed in a release that they are both involved in firm negotiations concerning the 220-room resort, which has been under the SuperClubs umbrella for the last 25 years. Both parties are expected to conclude the negotiations on or before November 30, 2012, says a joint statement posted on the Couples.com website. Breezes Grand Negril is the only SuperClubs property left standing in Jamaica. The hotel chain continues to operate its flagship Hedonism II, which is also up for sale. The chain has two affiliated resorts – ROOMS Ocho Rios and Negril under its umbrella.”

Couples was not able complete the proposed purchase.

Given its (apparently) unsuccessful efforts to refinance $50 million of debt through IFC; and its inability to complete the proposed purchase of the Breezes Grand Negril property it would appear unlikely that this “small” and “family-owned” business from Jamaica could arrange the financing to exercise its option to purchase Casuarina from N&M.

THE Jamaica Gleaner recently reported that Neal & Massy has reportedly sold the former Couples Resort Barbados to Sandals Resorts International (SRI) for an estimated US$42 million. DD has seen nothing from either of the N&M or SRI, confirming a sale of the Casuarina property. N&M is a public company, that promptly reports material developments.  Until they report they have sold Casuarina, to whom and on what terms I am not convinced that Sandals bought it for US$42 million.

A press release dated April 23, 2013 from Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts included the following concerning the Breezes property that Couples had tried to buy.

Negril, Jamaica – April 23, 2013

Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts is pleased to announce the acquisition of Breezes Negril Resort & Spa, located in Negril, Jamaica, as of April 17, 2013.

Commanding one of the Caribbean’s most desirable locations, the all inclusive resort’s 210 premium rooms and suites will continue to welcome guests with no interruption to its renowned level of service.

“After much consultation with our tour operator and travel agent partners and based on feedback from loyal repeat guests, we are pleased to announce that the resort will continue offering many of the unique and friendly features that many of its guests have been accustomed to, including its extensive food and beverage program,” affirmed Jordi Pelfort, Managing Director of Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts. “Furthermore, the resort will remain adult focused and will continue to only accommodate guests over the age of sixteen.

An enhancement process that will lead to a complete revitalization and renovation of this popular beach resort has now been fully planned and will be executed in stages over the course of the summer. There will be no disruption to the operation of the hotel or to its guests over this period.”

You may be asking yourself, as I was wondering, Who is Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts. A Jamaica Gleaner report on the Blue Diamond transaction included

“About Blue Diamond Resorts:
Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts is an innovative hotel management company that specializes in creating differentiated brands to suit each market’s demands. It currently operates well over 5,000 rooms in all inclusive resorts in six outstanding Caribbean destinations under its “Memories Resorts & Spa”, “Royalton Luxury Resorts” and “Grand Lido” brands.”

The Gleaner also quoted the Jamaica MOT saying “Blue Diamond is part of the Sunwing family which is itself partly owned by TUI, a major player in travel and tourism at all levels.”  You may know that Sunwing is a Canadian company with interests in various tourism activities.  At one time Sunwing operated flights and vacation packages to Barbados.

This is from a June 18, 2012 Sunwing press release

Sunwing Travel Group Once Again Ranks as One of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – June 18, 2012) – Sunwing Travel Group is pleased to announce that it has once again made the list in the 24th Annual PROFIT 200 Ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies by PROFIT Magazine. Sunwing Travel Group, which employs over 1,700 employees, ranked at #94 in 2011, boasting a 521% growth.

“We are delighted and very proud to have made this impressive list once again,” stated Stephen Hunter, President and CEO of Sunwing Travel Group. “We are grateful to our team of employees whose efforts have helped us achieve this recognition. To be featured in this unique selection of Canada’s most successful and forward-looking companies is a real accomplishment and a testament to our innovative value propositions.

About Sunwing Travel Group: Sunwing Travel Group, one of the largest integrated travel businesses in North America, is comprised of Sunwing Vacations, the leading leisure tour operator in Canada, Sunwing Airlines, Canada’s premier leisure airline, Signature Vacations, one of Canada’s leading tour operators for package vacations, SellOffVacations.com, a retail travel division, Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts, an innovative hotel management company, operating resorts under the ‘Royalton’ and ‘Memories’ brands, Vacation Express, a growing tour operator in the United States, and Caribbean Nexus Travel, which provides destination management services to individuals, agencies, tour groups, corporate businesses and tour operators. This is a 2009 Sunwing announcement at http://www.sunwing.ca/newsstory.asp?id=205

29 Sep 2009Sunwing Travel Group and First Choice Canada to create strategic venture

Sunwing Travel Group and First Choice Canada to create strategic venture Sunwing Travel Group and TUI Travel PLC have agreed to a proposed strategic venture with their respective Canadian tour operations and retail divisions. The venture will see an amalgamation of tour operator Sunwing Vacations, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Sunwing Travel Group and First Choice Canada’s tour operator Signature Vacations along with retail division SellOffVacations.

Over the last five years, the Sunwing Travel Group, owned and operated by the Hunter Family of Toronto, has seen revenues increase from C$30million to C$660million and maintain underlining profitability throughout while First Choice Canada has seen their losses grow over the years to over C$20 million in the first half of the current financial year.

The proposed amalgamation of tour operators will create a stronger company better able to compete against Canada’s leading tour operators while offering a broader range of travel destinations to the travelling public. The proposed company will be in a position to improve its product range and offer competitive prices with increased efficiencies resulting from the transaction.” said Colin Hunter, Chairman and majority shareholder of the Sunwing Travel Group.

Under the terms of the deal,TUI Travel PLC will contribute its Canadian operations plus $101 million and Sunwing Travel Group will contribute Sunwing Vacations. In consideration, TUI Travel PLC will receive a 25% voting interest and an overall 49% interest in the Sunwing Travel Group.

Stephen Hunter, currently Chief Operating Officer of Sunwing, will take over as President and CEO of the Sunwing Travel Group while Colin Hunter will remain as Chairman of the Board.

Commenting, Stephen Hunter said, “As one of Canada’s fastest growing companies with combined revenues of C$900 million along with the improved operational efficiencies, complementary product mix and a growing retail distribution, our business will be well positioned to continue the growth and profitability curve we have achieved over the years”. The deal is subject to customary regulatory approvals. Scotia Capital acted as exclusive financial advisor to Sunwing on this transaction.”

TUI Travel PLC is a public company, with shares listed on the FTSE. According to its 2012 Annual Report, TUI Travel PLC is one of the worlds leading travel groups operating in approximately 180 countries worldwide and comprising over 240 brands.  It serves more than 30 million customers across 31 source markets making it a global player in a growing industry. Headquartered in the UL, it employs over 54,000 people, and operates six airlines consisting of 141 aircraft.

Revenue in 2012 was GBP 14.5 billion.

For information about TUI Travel PLC, see its 2012 (160 page) Annual Report at: http://www.tuitravelplc.com/investors-media/reports-results-presentations. If you have read this far, you are probably asking yourself “And the point of all this Sunwing/TUI stuff is what?

TUI is a significant minority shareholder in privately owned Sunwing. Sunwing through its subsidiary Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts is investing in Jamaican tourism. Barbados was faced with a major problem when N&M decided to sell or close three Barbados Almond properties representing a very large percent of its tourism room stock. Barbados decided it did not want to have the 25 acre site sold to Doyle because:

“This proposal is quite similar to the existing Crane model, which involves building accommodation based on sales and may therefore take a full decade to fully realise its potential. It will therefore fail to achieve increased visitor arrivals in the next few years and will be unable to assist Barbados in protecting its airlift.”

Instead they opted for Sandals, with its “marketing might” as its White Knight as a quick fix to protect its airlift and “create 1,500 jobs”.  The White Knight’s only concern is that there is enough airlift to fill his Sandals/Beaches properties.

Well Sunwing Vacations, Signature Vacations and Selloff Vacations have marketing might in Canada;  and TUI has marketing might in the UK and Europe. Did anyone, Stuart, Sinkler or Sealy think to talk to Sunwing or TUI, or any other major player when looking for a solution to the Almond problem?  Or did they just say lets call Butch and kiss and make up for the Paradise disaster; and build him a new Beaches, and arrange to have Couples step aside so Butch can have Casuarina?

DD does not know the answer; but suspects the latter – lets call Butch.

DD managed to identify a couple of options in a couple of days of Googling. Surely with all of the civil servants at the MOT and BTA and MOF they have the resources to do some research and due diligence to identify many other options? If they did not seek out alternative options to solve the Almond problem, they should be fired for for gross negligence.

33 comments

  • Whoever is going to own it better have deep pockets. How are we going to get tourists to come. That should be the leading question. The reason the properties are in the state they are in is that even with the revenue being received they could not cover the cost of operations. How is that going to change? Can the island compete with other destinations? Is the currency badly overvalued?

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  • @Sith
    Is the currency badly overvalued? The answer is NO.
    With very few natural resources there would be no advantage to having a devalued dollar.

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  • millertheanunnaki

    @ Alvin Cummins | October 31, 2013 at 4:39 PM |

    Unless Barbados offers real value for money for the services its seeks to sell and Bajans become doubly productive and professional in their service delivery the dollar would find its true level on the value peg.
    Next year is the year of ‘do or die’, ‘sink or swim’ for you very uncompetitive guys.
    Can you imagine how affordably attractive Barbados would be to the Trinidadians if and when a massive correction takes place? You might even be able to buy their oil with T&T dollars instead of US $, right A C No.2?

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  • @ac

    Where will the foreign exchange come from to pay for all the imports if we cant generate tourism dollar increases. Last time I looked FE reserves were way way down as is tourism. One way or the other there is going to be a belt tightening. The tourism product has to be made competitive. Brasil is 30% cheaper to go to than 3 years ago because the currency is traded in a free market. .That also means it is 30% more expensive for Brazilians to come to Barbados. If you decreased the price to come to Barbados by 30% and increased the tourism levels so that hotels were running 90% occupancy FE reserves would grow. Devaluing the currency by 30% is a fair across the board method of ensuring there is a national contribution to building FX reserves.

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  • sith

    You can not be serious.

    “If you decreased the price to come to Barbados by 30% and increased the tourism levels so that hotels were running 90% occupancy FE reserves would grow”.

    90% occupancy?

    There has been virtually no Barbados tourism advertising in the Canadian, and likely North American) media for for over a year.

    People up north looking for a place to vacation, do not even know Barbados exists

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  • @Due Diligence

    if that is so, why do we have staff in Canada? What are they doing? I am not going to believe you or doubt you, but it would be idiotic not to advertise in those markets. Perhaps you don’t see the ad. I do see some on the tv in America, unless I am hallucinating .

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  • @DD, doesn’t matter if you have staff – THERE IS NO MONEY AVAILABLE – the advertising agencies have not been paid.As for the USA i spent 8 weeks there last I didn’t see one single Ad for Barbados, saw ads for Bahamas, Antigua, jamiaca

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  • BU apologized to Due Diligence who authored the above.

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  • Tudor | October 31, 2013 at 6:28 PM |

    YOU ARE 100% CORRECT

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  • Of the 50 million voted to the BTA in the Budget 19 million is to liquidate payables.

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  • David

    As I recall the Budget speech said the $50 million was to come from a (to be negotiated) $100 million loan form IADB.

    Have not seen any new that the IADB loan has been approved, so I guess the payables are still outstanding

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  • @Tudor

    I know what I saw.

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  • @DD

    Yes it is unfortunate that when the MoF was on radio doing his PR spin this week Stetson did not ask him about the bond which was to be floated after the one that failed. What is the plan?

    Listed 36 minutes into this audio to the Sinckler interview:

    [audio src="http://vob929.ocmnet.net/Files/Files13/Brasstax/Oct/BrasstaxOct30-1.mp3" /]

    On 31 October 2013 23:08, Barbados Underground

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  • What a relief to know that Barbados is not in denial

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  • Alvin……….Rob Ford was playing fast and loose and winging it all year, i heard it finally caught up with him. you get to see the drama.

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  • Pingback: Sandals Almond Chronology II

  • millertheanunnaki

    @ Due Diligence | October 31, 2013 at 7:08 PM |
    “As I recall the Budget speech said the $50 million was to come from a (to be negotiated) $100 million loan form IADB.
    Have not seen any new that the IADB loan has been approved, so I guess the payables are still outstanding..”

    The major holdup is the Central Revenue Authority (CRA) the government agreed would be up and running since April 2013. Its institutional arrangements and operational effectiveness to the satisfaction of the IADB are some of the preconditions to the loan.
    The MoF (Minister of Foolery) knows full well such a large-scale restructuring of the revenue assessment and collecting agencies would involve major job losses and administrative synergies. Another major case of implementation deficit.

    He is just a political buffoon scared to make the decisions and carry the dirty end of the political stick with which the DLP administration would be soundly whipped.
    But they can always blame the BLP since the CRA restructuring project was agreed with the IADB many years ago.
    Well it seems everything would be left for the IMF to ‘impose’ these decisions on them and become the whipping boy for the country’s harsh realities.

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  • @Miller
    from what I remember of the BU blogs in June, July and even later the IMF was supposed to have visited the island and ‘imposed” the type of medicine you all have been advocating since before the election. They are still in wSAHINGTON. tHERE THEY WILL STAY BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT NEEDED. tHE DEVALUATION THAT YOU ALL LONG FOR WILL NOT TAKE PLACE AND bARBADOS WILL BE COMPETITIVE. aLL THE DEBTS EILL BE PAID…EVENTUALLY… AND THE TYPE OF PROSPERITY YOU ARE LOOKING FOR WILL BE MODIFIED. aLL THE EPITHETS YOU KEEP THROWING AT THE GOVERRNMENT WILL NOT CHANGE IT. CO-OPERATE AND DO YOUR DUTY TO MAKE THE PLACE FUNCTION AS IT SHOULD. sTOP PUTTING OBSTACLES IN THE WAY OF PROGRESS
    @Well Well
    You are always writing as if corruption is heck the situation with the Harpper government and what is going on in the senate. I keep talking about human nature. Perfect examplesWhat influenced the behaviour of Cain and Abel? If you believe the Genesis story.

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  • @ac

    Miller the fluke was preaching doom and gloom before the last elections, and now after the last elections. If public officers implement the 18 months rebalancing strategy, I believe all will be well. But u have some public officers who are callous and indifferent and only see things from a partisan line. If we don’t ride this out, it is the middle and lower class that will be impacted most.

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  • Article IV Consultation with the IMF begins in December 2013.

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  • Alvin……….i am well aware of all the corruption in and around the North American continent, again, when caught they all go to prison…that one sentence continues to elude you ALL THE TIME………the corrupt politicians in Barbados DO NOT GO TO JAIL, nor are they ever arrested……that sentence too ALWAYS ELUDES YOU, ALL THE TIME.

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  • millertheanunnaki

    @ Alvin Cummins | November 1, 2013 at 9:02 AM |

    Why don’t you cast your ‘memory’ further back to 1991? The same things you are saying were said back then when Henry deB Ford issued similar warnings which were met by similar assertions the economy was then batting like Sobers and firing on all cylinders and no public sector workers would be sent home and there was NO need to go to the IMF.

    If you, Alvin the ostrich, were to just take your head out of the sand and realize that Barbados is NOT earning its way and in need of a serious correction aka drop in the standard of living aka not living a champagne life with mauby pockets maybe you could be on your way to understanding what is really happening.

    Barbados needs to earn more foreign exchange than it spends without having to borrow to finance conspicuous consumption. For infrastructural development and productive economic capacity building yes, but certainly not for living high off the hog on other people’s money (OPM).
    No one is lending Bim foreign money to splurge anymore. Do you understand that maxim? But expecting you to appreciate the gravamen of the statement is like getting you to accept that Barbados cannot pay Trinidad for oil in Barbados dollars; capiche?

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  • November 1, 2013

    Dear Members,

    Today the Toronto Region Board of Trade issued a media statement regarding the circumstances relating to Mayor Rob Ford. A copy of the statement is below.

    We believe that the current situation must be a distraction for the Mayor and therefore it is not possible to put Toronto first. It is our view that Mayor Ford cannot effectively fulfill his responsibilities while this cloud hangs over him and the city. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the City of Toronto for Mayor Ford to take a leave of absence until this situation is resolved.

    We understand this matter must be very troubling to the Mayor and urge him to resolve it as quickly as possible.

    As always, if you have any questions, please contact me at ceo@bot.com or at 416-862-4542.

    Sincerely,

    [Carol Wilding]
    Carol Wilding, FCPA, FCA
    President & CEO
    Toronto Region Board of Trade

    NEWS RELEASE

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Toronto Region Board of Trade statement on Mayor Rob Ford

    Toronto, ON, November 1, 2013 – The following is a statement from Carol Wilding, President & CEO, Toronto Region Board of Trade concerning Toronto Mayor Rob Ford:

    “Toronto Region Board of Trade believes that under current circumstances it is in the best interests of the City of Toronto for Mayor Ford to take a leave of absence until the situation is resolved. The Mayor of the city must put Toronto first.

    Putting Toronto first means the Mayor must be able to effectively address our city’s key priorities such as attracting investment, jobs and talent from around the world. He must be the city’s marketer-in-chief.

    Putting Toronto first means leading development of the transportation we desperately need to reduce gridlock.

    Putting Toronto first means overseeing daily operations ensuring Toronto’s $11-billion annual budget is properly managed. These annual budget deliberations are about to begin.

    We believe the current situation must be a distraction for the Mayor and therefore it is not possible to put Toronto first. It is our view that Mayor Ford cannot effectively fulfill these duties and others while this cloud hangs over him and the city.

    We understand this matter must be very troubling to the Mayor and urge him to resolve it as quickly as possible.”

    -30-

    About Toronto Region Board of Trade (www.bot.com)
    Founded in 1845, Toronto Region Board of Trade is the chamber of commerce for Canada’s largest urban centre, connecting more than 12,000 members and 250,000 business professionals and influencers throughout the Toronto region. The Board fuels the economic, social and cultural vitality of the entire Toronto region by fostering powerful collaborations among business, government, thought leaders, and community builders. Toronto Region Board of Trade plays a vital role in elevating the quality of life and global competitiveness of Canada’s largest urban centre.

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  • Alvin…………as a member of the Toronto Board of Trade, i got that email yesterday……..you live in Canada and should know that corrupt politicians are held accountable as well they should, not because Barbados is a small island free for all corruption among politicians and their business associates should be condoned.

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  • @Well Well
    I am fully aware that politicians and public figures Found GUILTY IN A COURT OF Law are punished by the same court of law. But the cases have to be proven. Although the snenanigans and accusations against Bob Ford are disgusting etc the recent results of cases brought against him show what I am talking about. Rumour, inuendo etc do not convict. He is still the mayor. As far as I am aware what obtains in Barbados is rukmour and innuendo. Dottin has been dismissed by the Police Services Commission. Civil cases will have to be brought against him and proven. As far as I am aware no cases have been lodged against any politician in Barbados for corruption.
    @Miller
    I still maintain that Barbados can pay Trinidad for its purchases in hwatever currency it chooses. either the Trinidadians accept that, based on negotiations, or they don’t. I asked the question but got no answer. Did Neal and Massey and the others pay for purchases of Barbadian properties etc, in U.S.Dollars? If so where did the foreign exchange go. Was it put in the hands of Barbadian owners of shares in the entities? Was the money lodged in the Barbados Central Bank? Where is it?
    People of your party have been trumpeting the devaluation of the Barbados dollar for a long time for very specific reasons.People like you feel that only certain people should “live high off the hog” as you put it. And it is people like you who live by that way who are responsible for what you decry. You even discourage people from investing in the country. An investor’s mainconcern is whether he will obtain the desiredto obtain the nec return on his investment. It matters not what the borrower uses the money for. What has to happen is that the government now should take the necessary draconian measures
    to obtain the desired results.
    I notice that when your party won the elections after 1991, you did not talk anything about devaluation, until now you have lost, (again), and the country has to pay off the debts you incurred “putting money in people’s pockets.

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  • @Miller
    Your words…”No one is lending Bim foreign money to splurge anymore. ”
    Isn’t this what happened under your administration/ Why didn’t you put measures in place to curb this?

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  • Alvin said:

    “Did Neal and Massey and the others pay for purchases of Barbadian properties etc, in U.S.Dollars? If so where did the foreign exchange go. Was it put in the hands of Barbadian owners of shares in the entities? Was the money lodged in the Barbados Central Bank? Where is it?”
    _____________________________

    Alvin……so how is it the central bank governor and your minister of finance don’t know where the money went and if it was registered upon entry into the island giving them all right to take it out again? how come no one in the government(s) who is being paid by the taxpayers knows what is happening? are the inmates running the institution or what??

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  • Alvin said:

    “As far as I am aware no cases have been lodged against any politician in Barbados for corruption.”
    ____________________________________

    Take time barney, you know what does not happen in one thousand years can happen in a NY minute…

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  • @Well Well
    Seems like you are anxious for something to happen. Maybe there is no tangible proof to all the rumours and allegations.

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  • @Well Well
    Maybe it never reached Barbados. Ever thought of that?

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  • Alvin…..when transparency legislation arrives in Barbados, then the current crop of leaders will be taken seriously, right now they are regarded as a bunch of weak corrupt jokers/extortionists (ask Moneybrain)………as i said on another thread, you are too weak to speak, incapable of being neutral, way too steeped in party politics….cannot see the forest for the trees.

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  • @Well Well.
    Based on what Moneybrain has written on this blog I will never take him seriously. He is a relic going back to the days when his ilk ran things in the island. He does not contribute positively and seems to have no intention of doing so. He is content to live in his own world insulated from the daily life in Bim. He is obviously a vaery smart person, with wealth, but he is also like King Midas and will die like him. Based on the following …”when transparency legislation arrives in Barbados, then the current crop of leaders will be taken seriously, right now they are regarded as a bunch of weak corrupt jokers/extortionists (ask Moneybrain)…” how can/do you expect a sensible answer?

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