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‘Signing frenzy’ days before poll

BARRY ALLEYNE, [email protected]

‘Signing frenzy’ days before poll

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Prime Minister Mia Mottley yesterday asked numerous questions of the previous Democratic Labour Party (DLP) after claiming it had gone on a frenzied signing of contracts and concession offers before being voted out of office.

Mottley and Attorney General Dale Marshall believe the DLP’s actions were to deliberately tie the hands of an incoming Government.

According to the Prime Minister, there were unreasonable contract extensions, numerous renewals at statutory corporations, the signing of a contract on the day before the May 24 general election, and even the approval of more than 150 permits to taxi and tour operators in the two and a half months after Parliament’s life ran out.

“What makes it worse, is that we are no way near the bottom of discovering the deeds that were done over the course of the last few months, particularly since Parliament dissolved. The consequences are devastating to the Barbados economy,” she told reporters in her first post-Cabinet press conference yesterday. Parliament was dissolved on March 5.

Mottley said that on May 23, hours before Barbadians went to the polls, tax concessions were granted to the Hyatt Hotel Division Developments Inc., inclusive of import duty, excise tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), tax on all supplies, motor vehicles, food, alcohol, beverages, and even construction supplies.

The Prime Minister also cited a contract signed on May 8, weeks before the general election, which saw Government agreeing to a deal with a company called Global Ports Holding PLC that would grant them a 30-year concession to operate the Cruise Pier for what she called a paltry $34 million, in exchange for the Barbados Port Inc. to collect charges from cruise lines and Government receive one-sixth of the current passenger charge, and one-fifth of any increase in certain other charges.

“I will ask the Attorney General as well as the lawyers for the Port to advise on this as a matter of urgency, particularly since this contract seems to be tied to a Berth 6 contract which started with concrete piles being built in the Port in advance of any contract being entered into.”

She also noted that on May 7, another contract was signed and incentives given by the Ministry of Finance to a company called Berth 5 Projects Limited.

“That same company was allowed to remain in the Port, and build piles without the Port going to tender to issue a new contract for Berth 6.”

The Prime Minister said Berth 5 Projects’ concessions include exemption of payments of import duty and VAT for all supplies imported or purchased locally, or used exclusively in connection with the project for a period of 22 months from when the contract was signed.

“The same players are the players we expect to see,” Mottley said, adding that yesterday was not the time for name-calling.

Regarding the activity after March 5, the Prime Minister even drew reference to the procurement of a high-end Mercedes Benz AMG GLC Coupe on April 12, to be used by a director of sales for the yet-to-be built Hyatt Resort, which would cost taxpayers more than $330 000.

“I have no bias against any person, and if investments are made for the good of this country, we will do it. But I’ve asked for all these things to be reviewed urgently. There was an attempt to tie any Government’s hands with the appointment of personnel or the renewal of contracts and leases,” Mottley stressed. (BA)