Jagdeo’s empty job promise … No Guyanese workers as Marriott hotel goes up

February 5, 2013 | By | Filed Under News 

A view from the seawall of the Marriott Hotel under construction.

…Chinese company barred from speaking


The construction of the Marriott-branded hotel, which is so far being funded by Guyanese taxpayers, does not involve any local construction workers. Neither the company, Shanghai Construction Group, nor the government is saying why.
The government had boasted that the project, which is costing some US$60 million, would create hundreds of jobs; but months into construction, Kaieteur News saw no Guyanese workers at the site after repeated visits.
The first visit was made two weeks ago; and then another visit was made a week ago. The only construction workers seen were of Chinese origin. The Chinese workers eat, work, and sleep on the site.
The only Guyanese at the site was a man who identified himself as a consultant.
Representatives of the Chinese company at the Kingston, Georgetown site are not being allowed to speak to Kaieteur News. When Kaieteur News visited and asked to talk with those in charge of the project, they said that they first had to get the permission of Atlantic Hotels Incorporated (AHI).
AHI is the company set up by the Guyana government through which taxpayers’ dollars are being funneled to finance the facility in the absence of any named investor to date.
After making a call to AHI, which is run by Winston Brassington, who also heads Government’s investment arm NICIL, the Chinese said they could not talk to Kaieteur News.
The hotel is being built by Shanghai Construction Group (SCG), whose Caribbean office is based in Trinidad and Tobago.
When Kaieteur News contacted Michael Ziang, SCG’s Managing Director in Trinidad, he said that he could not answer any questions and directed this newspaper to AHI. Ziang said he would offer an interview to Kaieteur News if the reporter flies to Trinidad; but even so, he would need the permission of AHI.
Kaieteur News contacted Brassington and Dr Ashni Singh, the Finance Minister, for comments on the issue, but more than two weeks later, there has been no response.
In late 2011, former President Bharrat Jagdeo officially turned the sod for the construction of the hotel with the promise, that the project will create hundreds of jobs in the construction phase, and beyond when it becomes operational.
The 160-room hotel and entertainment complex is expected by February 2014.
Despite pressure by opposition parliamentary parties and a Parliamentary motion to halt Government funding for the project, the government is stubbornly pushing ahead with the project.
The government is so far using tax dollars to fund the project. It has already handed over US$10million (G$2 billion) to SCG. Private investors are expected to contribute US$27 million.
The government has some special arrangement that guarantees the private investors that they would get their money if the project folds.
So, if in a scenario where the project fails and the value of the property depreciates to a value below what the investors have plugged, then the investors will get back their money, and there would be nothing to return to NICIL. Taxpayers’ dollars would go down the drain.
The government will participate in the project by way of equity, in the sum of US$4 million. This will be committed through NICIL, one of the investment arms of the government which holds its assets.
The equity contribution determines the government’s strength in Atlantic Hotels Incorporated – the company created to see the project through. As it stands, the government is currently the sole shareholder in the company.
However, apart from the equity contribution, financing for the project would also come from “subordinate loan stocks” of US$15 million invested by NICIL.
Adding the US$2 million, NICIL will end up spending in development costs for the project, including design and other preliminary studies altogether, US$21 million.
So, in total, the amount of money the government is pushing into the project is just about what it should cost in Guyana to complete the project, industry experts say.
The additional US$40 million remains a mystery to industry experts.

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