President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday rebuffed criticisms made by Pegasus Hotel owner Robert Badal regarding government’s investment in the Marriott International Hotel, and said that the businessman was just afraid of new competition.
During a press conference held at his Office, the President said that he was not surprised by Badal’s statement but said that this was indicative of someone with a “narrow vision” who was just trying to protect his own interests. He also said that from past actions, it was clear that Badal was not interested in taxpayers’ money.
Badal, in a letter to this newspaper on Thursday, called the government’s proposed US$20 million investment in the Marriott Hotel a misuse of taxpayers’ money and an indecent assault on the local private sector. He said too that if the government was genuinely interested in improving the hospitality industry, it would make resources available to the local operators even if with strict conditionalities.
“Why am I not surprised that the owner of Pegasus, well I don’t know if he’s the owner but he claims to be the owner of Pegasus would not want another hotel built in Guyana.
Why am I not surprised?” Jagdeo said when quizzed on the issue yesterday. “If I were him, I’ll probably try to kill every other effort for any other hotel in the country to be built., Because it means I can continue to have a monopoly, charge high rates and not refurbish and give the frankly speaking, crappy service, so many foreigners have complained about”, he said. “And I’m not blaming the staff of Pegasus, because they have very little to do with it. It is the money that they need to refurbish the place,” Jagdeo added.
Stating that he was speaking from the position of an experienced traveller, Jagdeo said that
people who were staying in an international hotel needed to have the experience where they turn on the tap in a room and not see discoloured water. He said that they should also be able to have an air-conditioned room that does not drip causing the room to get wet, as some Prime Ministers had complained to him.
“If Badal is so concerned about the taxpayers’ money, then he shouldn’t have tried to” take the “Stockfeed Shares from the government…by trying to dilute the government’s shareholding there. Or he shouldn’t have gone and built a wharf on land that belongs to NICIL and doesn’t want to pay for it. I gather, he hasn’t paid the NDC any money… he owes them about $20 million, “Jagdeo said.
Jagdeo said that it was necessary for the government “to grow the market” by ensuring that the country has facilities so that persons can aggressively market for people to visit.
He said that the country needed “modern hotels” to hold conferences.
The President also made it clear that Marriot will not own the hotel. The government, Jagdeo said, “may or may not put money into the project “depending on the number of partners in the project.
He said that when the hotel is built, the government will at some point sell its shares. “In countries like ours, the state has to capitalize building of facilities when you have a narrow outlook from the Private Sector,” Jagdeo stated.
Meanwhile when Stabroek News contacted former Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Capt Gerry Gouveia yesterday he said that he was in full support of the government’s move to bring the Marriott Hotel to Guyana.
However, Gouveia, who is also a major player in the hotel industry, opined that the President’s statements while in Jamaica that the Pegasus and Princess hotels were not up to standard were “unfortunate”. According to him since Badal took over the reins at Pegasus, there has been a marked improvement at the venue. He said too that Badal should be commended for having the confidence to invest in Guyana
Meanwhile, regarding the Marriott Hotel, Gouveia said he felt that such an investment was one for the future of Guyana.
According to him, tourists are coming to Guyana in increased numbers and that the Marriott brand could only be a tremendous boost to the country. He said that the private sector, particularly those in the hospitality industry should be encouraged that the government is investing in this aspect of the country’s development.