From the balcony, there is a breathtaking sight of the Atlantic Ocean with ships passing and of the sunlight hitting the crashing waves. It is almost the same sight from about half of the rooms of Marriott Hotel, Kingston. But the view yesterday from the balcony was not from the hotel rooms. Rather, it was from an incomplete shell, adjoining the hotel.
That shell was intended to be converted into a world-class entertainment facility to house a casino and other facilities. The casino was supposed to boost the revenues for the entire facility and allow, based on projections, the hotel to pay the more than US$50M it owes to banks and others. However, almost two years since the hotel was opened, very little has been done to develop the adjacent section.
A new administration, under the Coalition Government, is in place, with a new Board of Directors and management for Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), which owns the hotel, installed in 2015.
That unfinished section is now facing another major problem that has the potential of developing into an embarrassing situation.
A number of Chinese nationals, who came here to work on the hotel’s construction, have moved in and are refusing to leave until their company – Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) – is paid a large sum of monies that they are owed for work done.
The standoff has been ongoing for a number of months now with the Chinese construction workers warned to leave, but to no avail. The matter had been kept quiet, until now.
Yesterday, Horace James, Officer-in-Charge of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), confirmed that the workers are in the annex “illegally”.
NICIL is the state-owned company overseeing investments and owns AHI, the company that owns and put together the deal to build the hotel.
Responding to a number of emailed questions, the official said that he is aware that SCG is owed and that it is for aboutUS$800,000 ($160M). However, SCG officials are reportedly claiming that they are owed between US$4-5M ($800M-$1B).
“They (the workers) were requested to cease their illegal occupation of the site on several occasions. They also received notice from the Chief Fire Officer that their occupation constitutes a fire hazard,” James wrote in response to questions from Kaieteur News.
The official made it clear that no one gave permission for the men, said to be numbering under 10, to move in.
“SCG occupies the site in breach of the contract,” the response from NICIL said.
James also disclosed that he is aware that negotiations to settle the matter have been ongoing.
With the life of the Board of Directors, under Chairperson, Beverly Harper, expiring in December last, Government is moving to put together another one.
In the meantime the Marriott Manager continues to be in charge of the hotel’s operations.
Yesterday, Kaieteur News visited the annex and saw at least four persons in the section that would have housed the casino. There are at least four storeys that have been left unfinished. The area outside of the annex is scattered with construction material and overgrown with bushes.
A number of air-conditioned makeshift rooms were converted to bedrooms for the Chinese workers.
The area has electricity. And there was even, in one corner, a hot water tank and wash sinks.
There were several construction overalls hanging in a corner with the breeze from the Atlantic Ocean coming through an open door leading to the balcony drying them.
Kaieteur News was told that SCG had been applying pressure for the monies, even visiting the East Coast Demerara office of Ansa McAl where Harper had been stationed, to press home their demands.
Since the April 2015 completion of the hotel, SCG would have been obligated to stick around for a year to correct any defects. That period has long since elapsed, in April 2016.
It was reported that former AHI head, Winston Brassington, had ordered monies withheld because of the quality of work.
A hotel worker has disclosed that a section of a wall at the hotel recently collapsed forcing emergency works. Several of the marble tiles have cracked in places, largely because it is of poor quality.
The hotel was heavily pushed by the successive government of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to improve the quality of accommodation in Guyana.
However, the financing structure saw the hotel, in terms of square foot, becoming one of the most expensive in the world.
While the Government of Guyana spent almost US$30M, it is last on the list to receive any returns or profits.
There have been questions to claims by some officials whether the hotel is breaking even.
Government has been hosting a number of events there, but without the casino in operation, officials have been arguing that it will be impossible to pay bills.
Already, Government is in talks with the local banks to hold off collecting outstanding payments.
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