Hyatt and BNTCL Conundrum
Peter Wickham described Barbados Underground recently as the Eric Fly of this time. Living up to the characterization- although a more euphemistic description in the view of the BU household is that we are a fiercely patriotic Bajan family -two recent events should give Barbadians reason to pause.
The Hyatt Hotel project to be developed by a local company under the title Vision Development with principal Mark Maloney, AND, the BNTLC sale to SOL have been forced to freeze rollout because the court has issued injunctions. David Comissiong in his capacity as a concerned citizen advocate was successful in the case of the Hyatt Hotel project and RUBIS Barbados the other.
Why are the two events important?
Barbados continues to be affected by a protracted weak economic performance triggered by the global economic crisis of 2008. We are a country dependant on revenues from tourism, international business and foreign direct investment. Economic analysts agree if Barbados is to support the standard of living we have become accustomed and addicted- one largely built on consumption behaviour -it is important for the three sectors to be performing together. Although the government promotes the ‘success’ of the tourism sector, unfortunately it does not have the earning capacity to satisfy our level of expenditure. This is important because Barbados is a significant net importer of goods and services and saddled with the current economic model means we must EARN and BORROW foreign exchange to ballance the chequebook.
In the 2017-2018 Estimates Debate foreign inflows announced by the minister of finance Chris Sinckler to be generated from the Hyatt and BNTCL projects were expected to top up government’s dwindling foreign reserves. Sinckler’s position echoed that of the Prime Minister’s delivered at the BCCI luncheon in January of this year:
These “delayed inflows” that were on the way included funds from China for the start of the construction of the new Sam Lord’s Castle, and the expected sale of the BNTCL to Simpson Oil Ltd. for US$100m. Mr. Stuart said that within a week of the luncheon he expected to be able to give the green light to the proposed Hyatt Hotel project in Bridgetown, and then offered a list of upcoming hotel projects which would bring more foreign investment into the country – Broad Street Journal
Now that David Comissiong and RUBIS Barbados have been granted a temporary injunction by the Courts of Barbados one has to ask how will this affect government’s plan to generate economic activity and to earn foreign exchange. It is important for Barbados to break free from the anaemic economic performance of the past eight years if only to dissuade the analysts from S&P and Moody’s from assigning a credit rating of D. Contrary to the view of government talking heads, further credit rating downgrades will continue to chase away foreign investors. BU is acutely aware however that we are in the silly season. The timely rollout of the Hyatt project and sale of BNTCL will have a negative impact on government’s economic plan. BU speculates if the decision to seek injunctive relief by RUBIS was triggered by a green light notification from the FTC.
In a situation where two significant projects will suffer delays a normal response from a responsible government would have been to issue a statement informing the citizenry of plan B. Not surprising however has been the silence from the Stuart administration since the development. After all this is a government that has distinguished itself by giving lie to Abraham Lincoln’s view of how a democratic government should function by being a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
We enjoy the silence.