State help ‘a must’
In the current environment, it is almost impossible to pull off a project like Four Seasons without some kind of Government assistance or involvement.
This is the argument of Professor Avinash Persaud, chairman of Paradise Beach Limited, the company working to get the stalled Four Seasons hotel and luxury villa project restarted after it stopped two years ago.
Persaud said there was a “lot of foolishness” being said of Government involvement in the project started by British developer and hotel owner Mike Pemberton, who has lived in Barbados for 30 years, and other business partners.
“We are in the greatest recession since the 1930s. There is almost no major strategic investment occurring anywhere in the world outside of Asia without some form of government support today.
There are 50 projects in the Caribbean and over 40 of those are stalled,” he told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY.
The economist, who was sought out by the late Prime Minister David Thompson to get Four Seasons restarted after more than 500 people lost their jobs when it stalled, said the global financial turmoil had affected many hotel-based projects across the region.
“I am saying that we would like it to start without Government support. I am saying that in this environment, we have tried but everywhere around the world they are experiencing the same issues and governments have stepped up to the plate.
Largely a private operation
“There are few other projects of this kind going on in the Western Hemisphere without government support,” he contended.
Persaud said that Four Seasons had received state support because of the magnitude of its possible impact on the local economy, but it remained largely a private operation.
According to the executive chairman, the $180 million Inter-American Development Bank loan was a commercial loan to Paradise Beach Limited, not to the Government of Barbados.
Furthermore, he rejected suggestions that by supporting the project, Government was in some way bailing out wealthy villa owners.
“Villa owners are not investors. People have this idea that these famous people are being bailed out – that the Simon Cowells are investors in the project. They are not. If we were a furniture shop it would be like we sold them something and have not delivered it,” Persaud noted.
He reported that Paradise Beach Limited was on the verge of securing the last $10 million needed to restart construction at Four Seasons.
It has secured a $60 million investment from the National Insurance Scheme, $10 million from Four Seasons, and $180 million from the IDB – in addition to the $120 million Government-guaranteed loan from the ANSA Merchant Bank in Trinidad and Tobago.