Mar 03, 2013 News
Brassington should go to jail – APNU’s Harmon
While the government is unable to find $120 million more to meet salary increases for workers of Guyana Power and Light, it is finding billions of dollars to plug into a Marriott hotel it has failed to justify.
It is a situation that Parliamentarian Joe Harmon calls criminal, and wants Winston Brassington, the man who presides over both GPL and the Marriott project, to “go to jail.”
Brassington is chairman of the board of Guyana Power and Light (GPL) and also head of Atlantic Hotels Incorporated, the company he created to build the Marriott.
On Thursday, Brassington said that GPL is broke, and cannot pay even a five percent increase in salaries.
“This is the same man who is spending billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money in a hotel that we don’t have any use for? This is craziness. This man should go to jail!” Harmon declared.
The pay sheet for the 700 workers on strike adds up to $1.5 billion. Chief Executive Officer of GPL, Bharat Dindyal told Kaieteur News that if the company were to pay the five percent increase in salaries, it would need $75 million more, and if it had to pay the eight percent increase.
If the government would use the US$24 million it is spending on the Marriott to pay GPL workers, it would be able to do so for the next 40 years.
“This man Brassington is getting away with murder,” Harmon stated. “He is being allowed to pour billions of dollars of our money into a project that is so far looking like a waste of precious resources. We could spend on things that make more sense, like paying our workers more,” Harmon added.
“How could he say that GPL would go broke if they pay the workers more? Just as how he can find money to build hotel, he can find money to pay workers.”
As far as Harmon is concerned, the workers have a legitimate right to bargain for an increase they feel they deserve, and it is the duty of GPL to find the money.
He said that if GPL is in financial trouble it is because of Brassington, since he is Chairman of the Board and wields power over the operations of the utility.
The government last week said that it has secured the key investors needed to fund the Marriott Hotel Project, but no details have been revealed.
The government has so far been pouring taxpayers’ money into the US$52 million project. In total US$27 million is expected to come from investors for the main property and another US$8 million for the casino, nightclub and restaurant.
Dr. Roger Luncheon, the Cabinet Secretary, told Kaieteur News last week that the only gap in funding at the moment is the US$8 million.
The rest of the money is coming out of the coffers, and when construction is completed, Marriott International is expected to bring in a management team to run the hotel.
The financing structure for the hotel locks in private investors for a return of their dollars but taxpayers’ money risk being washed away if the ambitious project fails.
The government has already said that it plans to sell out the hotel to a private investor once it is up and running.
Observers see that as a ploy to hand over a tax-funded property to someone favourable to the government.
Finance and industry sources say the project is a high risk one, given that existing hotels are struggling to fill their rooms, but Government is pressing ahead and could end up putting US$24 million into the project.
The Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh had said that there was a market feasibility study conducted by the Marriott Hotel Group and one conducted in 2010 by an independent American firm. The American firm was not named, nor was the study by Marriott released.
The opposition has voted to halt public funding of the project and it says it wants the so-called confidential documents released to the public.
The government, under Atlantic Hotels Inc. has entered into a contract with Shanghai Construction Group International of Trinidad (a subsidiary of Shanghai Construction Group, China) to construct the hotel.
The Marriott Hotel group, through one of its subsidiaries will manage the hotel in accordance with standard Marriott rates per annum. The management fee would be a percentage of gross revenue with an incentive fee being a percentage of operating profit as well as other fees based on services.
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