NICIL defends lease fee for Marriott land

Executive Director of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Winston Brassington yesterday defended the lease of state lands to the Marriott Hotel developer, saying that the project will bring development and create jobs and he accused the Opposition and sections of the media of attempting to stymie it.

APNU MP Desmond Trotman last week moved to the court to block government’s planned transfer of land at Kingston arguing that the public trust has been abused. It was also revealed during the court proceedings that the lease for the land would be $299,955 per annum over 99 years, considered a paltry sum for the proposed five-star hotel and casino complex.

In a statement released yesterday, Brassington said that Trotman’s move to block the leasing of Block Alpha to the special purpose company, Atlantic Hotels Inc. (AHI), of  which he is the head, follows a pattern of action by special interest groups to stymie development of the Marriott Hotel project.

“There has been no secrecy or sinister motive behind the lease agreement for the 6.886 acres of land upon which the Marriott is being built,” said Brassington in his statement.

He said that Government has on many occasions issued concessionary lease rates where there is substantial capital investment on the said property and significant positive developmental benefits, the objective being to encourage investment, employment and income generation.

“AHI is making an investment of US$60M in development on the said property, which is one of the largest investments on any land in Georgetown,” he said. He added that the lease rate is the same as $1 per square foot plus VAT charged of the tenants of Eccles and Coldingen Industrial Estates, all being properties owned and managed by NICIL”.

“The terms and rate of the lease are the same as those issued to a private developer over 10 years ago for the said (Marriott) property. The developer withdrew in 2009 following the US financial crisis of 2008,” he said.

Queens Atlantic Investment Inc. (QAII) was charged a total of $50 million a year for the lease of the Sanata Textiles complex at Industrial Site Ruimveldt. However, that entity exercised an option to purchase the land some years after.

“AHI and NICIL have pursued the development of this project in an open and transparent manner. The Marriott Hotel project has huge developmental benefits including the creation of over 250 jobs for Guyanese, once completed, and the establishment of a modern world class branded hotel that will support the expansion of Guyana’s travel and tourism sector,” he said.

He said that in June 2012, NICIL submitted to the National Assembly the Marriott contract, AHI’s tax agreement and the agreement to lease, dated January 28, 2010, between NICIL and AHI, in response to questions raised in Parliament about the project. “These agreements have all been in the public domain for over a year,” Brassington said.

“Following [this], the Government held a debate on the Marriott project, which part of the Opposition participated in. the issue of lease charge was never raised,” Brassington said in his statement.

“The Government has always said that it remains open to making presentations made to the Opposition on this project in a manner similar to the Amaila Falls Hydro project,” he said.

He said that in all aspects of the project, NICIL has publicly advertised for interested parties and to date at least five different advertisements have been issued, including seeking investors, seeking a contractor, seeking the supervising firm and seeking parties to operate the entertainment complex.

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