APNU Shadow Works Minister Joseph Harmon yesterday warned inves-tors/financiers, including banks, taking part in the Marriott Guyana Project that the party may not honour any commitments made by the principals here.
He was referring to the special purposes company that was set up for the project, Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), government holding company, National Industrial & Commercial Investments Ltd (NICIL) and the Government of Guyana (GoG).
The project lacks economic justification, does not enjoy Parliamentary approval and confidence and is generally not in the best interest of the people, Harmon asserted during a press conference at APNU’s head office. As such he said the party would find it difficult to honour any obligations that might have been made between them and the various state bodies involved.
His statements are reminiscent of those made in relation to another project which was undertaken by government. Similar sentiments were used by APNU throughout this year when it continuously opposed the deal between the government and Sithe Global for the completion of the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project.
Sithe had insisted on Parliamentary consensus before it moved any further with the Project, but APNU did not waver in its opposition to the deal. Various party members, including its leader David Granger, financial spokesman Carl Greenidge and Harmon, said repeatedly that though they were all for hydropower, they were against the way in which the project was being handled and its financing arrangements.
Sithe eventually pulled out, having already invested US$16 million in the development stage of the project.
In relation to the Marriott project, US$8 million in equity will be coming from the still unnamed private investor while NICIL will provide US$4 million. Debt will be used to provide further financing. This arrangement will see Republic Bank Ltd of Trinidad making US$27 million available towards the project. An additional US$4 million will come from the operators of the planned Entertainment Complex in the hotel while NICIL will once again be providing US$15.5 million.
APNU, Harmon explained, has serious issues with the fact that NICIL will only own 33% of AHI, the company set up specifically to pilot the project, after spending approximately US$20 million, while the unnamed investor will own 67% with their investment of US$8 million.
This equates to “jumbie economics,” lamented Harmon, “it does not make sense to me at all.”
Also, he said that the non-disclosure of information relating to the investor, their profile, their source of funds, and the payment terms and other arrangements indicates the contempt with which the Guyanese nation is being treated.
Information relating to the source of the investor’s funds is particularly important, he posited, considering that money laundering concerns have come to the forefront in recent times.
Such a transaction, Harmon told reporters, “clearly shows the continuing lack of transparency, behind-the-door secret deals involving the head of the NICIL Winston Brassington and unknown investors.”
As such, the party is calling for an urgent audit of all expenditure and commitments on the Marriott Hotel before the transaction of the deal in complete, and for the expenditure to be reviewed by the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
In light of remarks by President Donald Ramotar that the blame for any of these projects ought not to be cast on Brassington, Harmon also called on Ramotar to take actions to provide the disclosure that is being sought.
If the party is not satisfied that the government and NICIL have addressed its concerns sufficiently, Harmon suggested, other actions likely to be unpleasant to the investors may be taken. In the meantime, Harmon said that the government should be focusing on more important aspects of development.
Such initiatives, he argued, can include the cleaning up of the capital city, improvements to the Demerara Harbour Bridge, the rehabilitation of roads and bridges around the country, and the improvement of airstrips in the hinterland.
He also said that steps could be taken to improve the service provided by airlines servicing Guyanese, and to address the issues related to public transportation around the country.