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    July 15

  • 03:45 PM

'A mess' – Arthur Pierhead project could add to tax burden

Wade Gibbons,

Added 27 September 2010

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BARBADIANS could soon find themselves facing increased taxation to pay for the Pierhead Marina Project that has now risen to a cost of $626 656 384, says former Prime Minister Owen Arthur. But that financing problem was just the tip of the iceberg, he told a Barbados Labour Party St Andrew branch meeting at the Ermy Bourne Centre in Hillaby, St Andrew, last night. Calling on Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Darcy Boyce, to break his public silence on the marina issue, Arthur said a properly conceived project under his administration had been “perverted” by the Democratic Labour Party Government. Producing documentation to substantiate several of his claims, Arthur said Cabinet made a decision in June 2009 to enter into an agreement with a locally-based international company called Signature Management Inc. to execute the project. However, Arthur said, it was unlawful for Government to enter into such an arrangement with the international company, an entity that could not sell goods and services or conduct business in Barbados. “When Cabinet said on June 2 that the BTII [Barbados Tourism Investment Incorporated] should enter into an agreement with Signature, this was contrary to the law to be done,” he charged. Arthur said Government circumvented this by having someone – whom he named – register a company under the name SMI Infrastructure Solutions Incorporated in St Lucia to facilitate the deal. Among the documents which Arthur produced was a draft of the memorandum of understanding between BTII and SMI Infrastructure Solutions. It indicated that the company was incorporated under the laws of St Lucia with a registered office at Kildare House, Upper Bay Street, St Michael. Arthur praised the board members of BTII who had resigned during this process, describing them as honest Barbadians. In March chairman Jerry Thorne, deputy chairman Mark Prescott and members Paul Bernstein and Decourcey Headley quit the board, reportedly over issues related to the project. Arthur said there was another legal mess which Government also faced. He said the BTII had written a letter to British company Lagan indicating it would be awarded the contract. But, this had been overruled by Cabinet and Government now faced a lawsuit from Lagan for breach of contract. Revealing some of the names involved with the contractual deal, Arthur said the work had been allocated without a bidding process being entered into. He also produced documentation from Boyce giving a breakdown of the cost and how Government expected to pay for the marina. This included annual rent over 25 years of $12.5 million and VAT of $1.8 million. Arthur said Barbadians could expect Government to bring a Budget which would involve more taxation to pay for the project. He called on taxpayers to hold Government to account for the way it was spending their money. The cost for the Bridgetown Pierhead Project was estimated in 2003 at $400 million. The initiative dates back to 1998 when it was originally projected at $130 million. Efforts to reach Boyce last night were futile.

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