A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) General Secretary, Joseph Harmon, stated that the Marriott Hotel currently under construction in Kingston, Georgetown, is not only one of the most crass examples of Government’s financial lawlessness, but is also a symbol of contempt for millions of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.
Harmon’s comment was made in light of the discovery that the Head of National Industrial and Commercial Investmentsl Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington, paid a whopping $1.7M for an advertisement of the unfinished hotel.
The advertisement was placed at the back of the 2014 issue of the Guyana Telephone Directory. The cost of the advertisement was confirmed by a sales representative of Guyenterprise Advertising Agency.
The APNU General Secretary emphasized that Brassington and his “other cronies, being the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh and former President Bharrat Jagdeo,” have displayed nothing but absolute disrespect for taxpayers’ dollars.
Harmon said that the nation knew from the start, that this project reeks of kleptocracy.
“The people know that Dr. Singh, Winston Brassington and Bharrat Jagdeo were misusing taxpayers’ dollars on this project. We must not forget that this is a project that the opposition has spoken of at length, and said that it is not transparent.
“The opposition warned that the financial arrangements are far from a reflection of churning out mutual benefits to the people, and when they are finished investing the people’s monies into this project, they will sell it in several years. What will we have to show for the abuse? Absolutely nothing, but they would have eloped with the ill-gotten profits.
“Meanwhile, this hotel is not even here yet. Brassington is spending more money to advertise the hotel. The advertisement which is on the back cover of the telephone directory does not even say that the hotel is coming soon.
“It even has a number there, 231-2480 that you can call and it’s not even in service. What is Brassington trying to do? Make further attempts at trying to fool the citizenry? This is like advertising that you got a cook shop and you have not even put on a window, hired the cook or even buy the stove as yet.”
When the number is dialed there is the automated recording “Sorry, the number you’ve dialed is not in service.”
“It’s downright disrespectful to be spending the people’s monies like this,” Harmon said.
Harmon said that the nation wanted absolute disclosure on the details surrounding the project. “Everything continues to be shrouded in mystery.”
He added, “They disclose parts of what they think we should know, and in coded language. It’s a bunch of mumbo jumbo when they talk. I don’t even think they understand what they say most of the times… They can’t keep up with the lies they are telling the nation. It’s just despicable and treacherous. They continue to spend despite the opposition members of the House and they continue to be disrespectful even to the political leaders.
“They are spending in contempt of the National Assembly. Jagdeo, Brassington and Dr. Singh are the worst, the nastiest and most corrupt blood suckers this nation has ever seen.”
While Harmon holds this view on the hotel, other financial experts had commented on the generous amount of concessions granted to Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI) owned by Brassington, for the construction of the Hotel and the implications for the life of two of Guyana’s leading hotels.
Chartered Accountant, Chris Ram had said that when one takes into consideration the magnitude of the concessions granted to AHI, it spells the death knell for the Pegasus Hotel and possibly the Princess Hotel.
Ram noted that according to the documents negotiated by Winston Brassington with the Guyana Office for Investment (GOINVEST), the Marriott Hotel is being granted for 10 years, exemption from corporation, property and withholding tax (including the payment of interest and dividends to debt providers and equity holders.)
Withholding Tax is income tax withheld from employees’ wages and paid directly to the government, by the employer. Ram added, that the developer has received an undertaking that it will be granted a licence to operate a casino.
It is also guaranteed relief from duty and excise tax on capital repairs or replacements, including machinery, equipment and buildings costing more than US$10,000.
“The developer is entitled to a one-off retrofitting of the project if so required, for a period of ten years (sic) from the commencement of commercial operations…There is absolutely no way any investor can compete with AHI’s project unless it receives similar concessions.”
Ram, who is an Attorney-at-Law, said, “It is either that the hotel will make super-profits, or competitors will simply be run out of business. …The only other entity in Guyana that came close to such generous concessions is the (Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’) Ramroop-owned Queens Atlantic Inc, lending credence to the rumours that the investor will be the same group.”
Ram in his analysis also points out that the Agreement, as signed, has no conditions regarding ownership. It means that AHI can sell the hotel one day after completion with all the massive concessions which amount to a windfall to whoever the buyer turns out to be.
Further compounding the situation, according to Ram, is the re-negotiated terms and conditions under which the Chinese Contractor—Shanghai Construction Group (SCG)—caused to be finalized and agreed to by Winston Brassington, who heads AHI.
He had also pointed to some of the worrying re-negotiated terms and conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), dated June 14, 2011 and signed by Brassington and Michael Zhang of SCG, which said that SCG had submitted a tender of US$65M based on an original design but that the amount was considerably above the US$41M budgeted cost for the construction.
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