MP Ronald Toppin (FILE)
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The following is a statement by Ronald Toppin, shadow Minister of Tourism concerning the proposed sale of the Barbados Hilton.
The Barbados Labour Party is calling on the Government to reveal the full details and process for the sale of the Barbados Hilton and any and all other State assets. Our call for transparency in all aspects of these sales come in the wake of the questions surrounding the recent sale of Blue Horizon Hotel.
The Government has previously indicated that it intends to sell the Barbados Hilton for US$100 million. What is the process informing this sale? Who is doing the independent valuations? Where is it being advertised for sale? We need to be told by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler before any further action is taken.
This new Hilton Hotel was reopened in 2005 after it was rebuilt; and by all standards is a new property with world-class amenities. The BLP would like to ensure that this hotel, one of the most valuable jewels in the Barbados economic crown since it was originally opened in 1966, is not sold at a cut-rate price like Blue Horizon Hotel appears to have been.
This Government must not, like a drowning man grasping at any straw, sell off our assets for well below their value. Once an asset is sold, that is it. Our Government cannot benefit from its value financially again.
There should be no doubt in any Barbadians’ mind that the accepted international criteria and standards are being followed in securing the best deal for this country and its citizens at all times.
Certainly, on the face of it, the Blue Horizon Hotel deal appears to fall short of these standards.
How can Government accept BDS$5 million as is reported for that hotel when they reportedly rejected an offer of BDS$11 million? Was the Blue Horizon Hotel valued at BDS$10 million? Was it advertised for sale at BDS$15 million?
We must therefore ask Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy why would Government sell it for half of what it was valued at and a third of what they wanted for it? That does not make sense! Minister Sealy must make public the details of the arrangement by which that Rockley, Christ Church hotel will be operated. One of the buyers was quoted as saying that the hotel is supposed to be developed along the lines of a private-public partnership with the intention to optimise foreign exchange earnings.
The public of Barbados and its Parliament should be learning this development from the members of this Government. It is the Government who is the custodian for the time being of all public property.
Let me repeat, while the Barbados Labour Party welcomes initiatives to boost the earning of foreign exchange, especially at his time, we would want to see the contract and all of the details involved in the development.
We certainly do not want a repetition of the Sandals deal in which that company was granted a half-billion dollars in concessions, but to this date Barbadians are no wiser as to the other relevant details surrounding that agreement. When things like this happen and the Government refuses to release the details involved, it makes one wonder what they have to hide. There are no details that could be so unpalatable to the public interest that they are to be kept secret.
Further it is also in the public interest for Minister Sealy to say what they were charged or have paid in legal fees and other fees to conclude this deal.
We repeat yet again this is the property of the people and taxpayers of Barbados and not the personal property of Ministers of the DLP.
Barbadians are demanding and deserve an explanation! This is all the more so against the background of the stubborn refusal of this Government to even entertain in any small measure to meet any of the requests of the Labour Movement with respect to the NRSL or a Coping Subsidy. (PR)