Marriott Hotel to be launched in a few weeks –Jagdeo
-project still mired in controversy
President Bharrat Jagdeo has disclosed that the long awaited Marriott hotel will be launched in a few weeks.
The Head-of-State made the announcement while officially launching the Movie Towne brand in Guyana on Tuesday last.
According to Jagdeo, the Marriott when completed will add to the growing stock of facilities that will provide entertainment in Guyana.
Last July the President said that the government was looking to seal a deal with Zublin Grenada Limited within three months.
Jagdeo said that the project would be financed by the government and the company, with the government putting one-third of the financing and Zublin Grenada investing the other two-thirds.
It was the same Grenada company that was upbraided over a year ago by the government for prematurely disclosing that it was working out a deal to build a Marriott-branded hotel here.
In mid-May 2010, the government reacted angrily when the company, Zublin Grenada, announced that it was seriously considering “a very attractive offer” by the Guyana Government to build the Marriott resort and casino.
In July 2010, the government advertised for interested contractors to make pre-qualification applications for construction of the hotel in the Kingston area next to the Guyana Pegasus Hotel.
Jagdeo said that two bids were received and the government decided to go with Zublin as the lower of the two bidders.
It was noted that the hotel will be operated by Marriott International and be built according to Marriott standards.
The works, it was advertised, would include the construction and erection of a 200,000 square- foot, 160-room hotel facility along with a 75,000 square foot “entertainment complex” outfitted with common services areas/amenities that will house a casino, restaurant, nightclub, and other spaces that will be rented.
But the deal appeared to be mired in controversy with City Mayor Hamilton Green in August, accusing the government of bullying the land away from the real owners, without their knowledge.
The Mayor claimed that part of the land the government has put into the hands of the developers of the Marriott Project belonged to the City Council.
“We had no conversation about it,” Green had told this newspaper.
He was referring to the fact that the hotel plans submitted for the project seem to indicate that the project would encompass the area that was once the Luckhoo Swimming Pool – property of the Council.
The Mayor said that the Council was receiving project proposals for the said area.
Green said that among the proposals was one by international Guyanese singing superstar Eddy Grant, who wanted to construct a cultural complex. That proposal was being given favourable consideration, the Mayor said.
However, Green said that he received a call from President Bharrat Jagdeo telling him not to bother with those proposals, that there is a much bigger project for the area. At that time, Green said, he did not know that the project the President was talking about was the Marriott Project.
It was when the plans for the area were submitted that Green said it was realised that the piece of land, known as Block “Alpha” Kingston, on which the Marriott Hotel would be situated, included the Council’s land.
The Mayor said there was no indication to the Council regarding the takeover of the land, nor was any compensation discussed.
And the Alliance For Change (AFC) had expressed outrage at the President’s decision to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Zublin Group, committing in excess of US$14M of taxpayers’ money for a private project.
According to the AFC, no consultation was done with stakeholders in the local hospitality industry which currently averages less than 30 per cent annual occupancy.
In addition, no feasibility study was done to ascertain the viability of the project to which the president is committing tax payers money, no agreement was made public of the commitments made to the Marriott chain, nor information disclosed on the so called private partners and their source of US$28.0M.
“If the Marriott or indeed anyone else wants a hotel in Guyana, then let them go to the Bank as all local operators have done, if they believe in its viability, instead of poor taxpayers being made to bear the brunt of this investment,” AFC member Sheila Holder had told a news conference in July last.
“Mr. Jagdeo is soon to leave office and therefore, must immediately desist from committing this country’s scarce financial resources to his wild adventures. Let us put a stop to this arrogance and belief of his that he owns the Treasury of this country.”
She further said that using taxpayer funds to finance a multinational chain is a reckless disregard for the plight of overtaxed Guyanese taxpayers. “Further, it creates unfair competition to local investors many of whom are still to recover from the financial burden they had undertaken for the 2007 World Cup Cricket.”
On November 23, 2010, the Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, used his powers under the Public Corporations Act 1998 to transfer the “state land” to the state-owned National Industrial Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL), the body which acquires and holds government shares, stocks, debentures or other securities of any company, and such like bodies.
The plot of land in question measures 6.88 acres.
The application for approval to build the Marriott Hotel was submitted to the City Engineer in the name of Winston Brassington, who was acting on behalf of Atlantic Hotel Incorporated (AHI), the company which was set up by the government to oversee the construction of a Marriott branded hotel.
Brassington is also the chairman of NICIL, to which the land was transferred.
Mayor Green said that there is nothing the cash-strapped Council could do at this time, but to hope that some revenues accrue to it when the hotel is completed.