Owners of the ambitious MovieTowne mall are complaining of the red tape in getting business done, yesterday appealing for help from Government.
Speaking shortly before a guided tour of parts of the Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara complex yesterday, Guyana-born Chairman, Derek Chin, made it clear that he badly wants the facilities here up and running. However, there seems to be no point person here to deal with the project.
It took six weeks just to get electricity to test the movie theatres.
The Guyana project would be the first overseas venture of the MovieTowne brand and would come at a time when Trinidad and Tobago, running high for years with its oil riches, is experiencing the effects of low prices. With foreign exchange running low and unemployment rising in the Twin-Island Republic, companies there have been turning a quick eye to Guyana for business opportunities.
Yesterday, it was executives of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) who gathered with Chin at the Turkeyen complex to raise awareness of the issue of the sloth with bureaucracy.
It was disclosed that although it was promised that a road and bridge on the western side of the compound would be done as part of a concessionary arrangement, MovieTowne was forced to shell out millions to do it just to ensure that there are no delays.
Chin and his directors- at least two of them are also of Guyanese origin- are hoping to open the eight-screen movie theatre by August, but it will be an uphill task.
Massy Stores Supermarket will be opening a major superstore next door, the biggest of its kind in the Caribbean.
In December also, Hard Rock Café, a famous restaurant chain, is set to open operations here, after MovieTowne managed to steer them to Guyana. Lined up also are famous brands like Starbucks, known for its coffee, and IHOP, famous for its waffles and breakfast.
However, nobody from Government has been asking about the project, with delays experienced with equipment and even seating delayed at the wharves for weeks, awaiting simple signatures.
While the approvals for duty free concessions are happening faster now, the delays have been adding up to the costs.
Chin said that he had tried to meet with President David Granger in Trinidad while he was there recently for a medical checkup. However, the meeting did not happen.
According to Chin, he is excited about the opportunities, but disappointed with the timelines of the project, which started in 2013 and was supposed to take 18 months.
The facilities were, however, expanded after high interest by businesses who wanted a toehold.
Chin’s dream of MovieTowne in Trinidad and Tobago was by any means a highly ambitious one in 2000 but it was hugely successful, and he has managed to open others apart from the flagship one in Port of Spain.
He said that the people and Government of Guyana have to constantly question where they want Guyana to be.
When the idea of bringing MovieTowne to Guyana was born, this country did not even find oil as yet, he pointed out. Chin said that he badly wanted to leave a legacy.
From a budget of US$25M, it is now costing up to US$40M.
The businessman said he has worked hard to convince Hard Rock Café to come to Guyana, instead of heading to Trinidad.
There are exciting opportunities for Guyana with thousands of jobs to be created, directly and indirectly from MovieTowne’s presence.
With Guyana boasting its own carnival now, Chin wants to use the Turkeyen facilities to host some of the Carnival parties, and bring stars like Machel Montano.
While there will be KFCs and other fast food outlets, MovieTowne is concentrating more on the restaurant-type atmosphere rather than the food court settings.
Chin made it clear that he is not coming to Guyana as a Trinidadian investor, but rather as a son of the soil returning home to leave a legacy.
Insisting he is not corrupt, he said that if anybody sees anything, they are free to raise it with him.
MovieTowne is also looking at other activities in Guyana.
According to Eddie Boyer, Chairman of the PSC, yesterday’s visit was a “show of good faith”.
Noting that the investment is a major one, Boyer believes that the problems are simple ones to solve. He criticized the delay of six weeks for the facilities to receive electricity.
Boyer also noted the fact that MovieTowne’s principals are of Guyanese origin.
MovieTowne’s presence will be here with or without oil, he noted.
The outgoing PSC chairman said that it is the duty of Government to stimulate investment, including agriculture and tourism.
He urged that Chin and his directors also look in the Berbice and Essequibo direction.
According to Chin, he has proposed that the Government seriously think about a roundabout in the area, because of the expected traffic congestion.
However, nobody is talking or meeting or asking about the project.
Businessman, Captain Gerry Gouveia, who was part of the delegation yesterday, also criticized the red tape. He said that the delays in doing business have been a matter that has been on the front burner for two decades now.
President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Deodat Indar, in stating that the project is a model one that is impressive by any standards, offered to act as a conduit to help with reducing the delays.
It was disclosed that the eight movie theatres will boast the latest of technologies for 2D and 3D movies and modern seats. At least 2100 seats are planned, with one theatre holding as many as 350 persons, at any one time.
Reportedly, New Thriving and Ruby Tuesday have already signed on.
With Giftland Mall just over a thousand metres away, the presence of MovieTowne is expected to lend to the nightlife and improve on entertainment options.
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