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Paradise or Purgatory?

Tony Best

Paradise or Purgatory?

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A “gorgeous” place but it may be “jinxed”.
Given the recent history of financial turmoil at the Four Seasons site in Barbados, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resort and the last owner of what was then Paradise Beach Club at Walmer Lodge, used those two words in the same breath to describe the project that is at the centre of a major controversy over its future and its financing.
It was Stewart, head of the Caribbean’s largest conglomerate, who had acquired the original property from a British firm about 25 years ago and sold it to investors interested in developing a 110-room hotel as part of a larger partially completed project.    
“It really pained me to sell it. But at the time the bureaucracy down there [Barbados], I couldn’t penetrate it. I failed,” Stewart told the Barbados Nation in Jamaica where he addressed almost 200 luncheon guests at the 16th annual Caribbean Multinational Business Conference in Ocho Rios.
“I sold it and I was happy with what I was paid for it. I know it [Four Seasons’ plan] started but I don’t know what happened. Maybe, it’s a little jinxed and they would get past it. But it is a gorgeous place.”  
“Jinx” is defined by the experts as a “person or thing that is thought to bring bad luck”.
The Four Seasons project has had more than its fair share of bad luck. After being launched with much fanfare, it was hit by the fallout from the global economic meltdown and since then it has taken a rollercoaster ride on its journey to possible completion.
Stewart, who is also chairman of JAMPRO, Jamaica’s premier investment promotion agency and the counterpart to Invest Barbados, said that in the end it was the mountain of red tape that blocked the resort development.
Now, he added, Jamaica too was suffering from a similar bureaucratic disease.
“Yes, it’s a major stumbling block to economic development in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.
We [in Jamaica] are getting your disease, the bureaucratic disease from Barbados.”
Stewart heads a conglomerate that comprises two dozen diverse companies, including Sandals, Beaches and the Jamaica Observer newspaper.
He said what was needed for economic prosperity to return to the Caribbean was a healthy United States economy which would then bring benefits to the region.