Marriott Hotel funding being probed – Granger

-airport expansion, fibre-optic cable projects under review

The sources of funding for the construction of the Georgetown Marriott Hotel are being examined and government is yet to make a decision on the future role of the State in the venture, President David Granger has said.

“My information is that an investigation is being done [about] the funding for the construction of that hotel and when that is done we would make decisions about future ownership [and] the role of the state in that entity,” the Head of State told Stabroek News in an interview last week. He added that several major projects started by the past administration may not be continued as planned by them.

Granger emphasised that at present, his administration does not plan to sell the hotel. He said that they are still to determine what went wrong in terms of provision of funds for the construction, the role that government’s holding company NICIL played as well as the role that persons in NICIL played, before a decision is made. He also said that there is no plan to downsize the staff at the hotel.

20150622marriJust before the May 11th general elections, the 197-room hotel opened its doors and Xu Han, one of the potential Hong Kong-based private investors had said that he hoped legal action filed by an opposition activist would be resolved soon. Han and Victor How Chung Chan, owners of ACE Square Investments Ltd were slated to invest US$8M to acquire 67% equity in the hotel, prior to the litigation.

Winston Brassington, the Director of NICIL and Chairman of Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI)– which owns the hotel – had previously stated that financing from the equity investors as well as US$27 million from Republic Bank remains committed but financial disbursement was partially delayed due to the legal action. Former Member of Parliament Desmond Trotman had filed a legal action last year opposing the passage of the mortgages from AHI to Republic Bank and the matter is ongoing.

Without the injection of the US$8M from the private investors which would then result in the transfer of 67% of the entity to ACE Square Investments Ltd, AHI retains ownership of the Guyana Marriott.

The hotel had attracted vociferous opposition over the use of taxpayers’ money to build it, the virtual giveaway of the land it is situated on, the almost exclusive use of Chinese labour for construction, the difficulty in attracting investors, the proposed plan to sell two thirds of the shares in it for US$8M and the question of whether the hotel was needed and could be afforded.

Meantime, questioned about his administration’s plan for the fibre-optic cable project, Granger said that it is the desire of the new administration to have some form of e-governance but whether the fibre-optic cable project is the solution, is uncertain.

The project, which includes the laying of a fibre-optic cable from Brazil, commenced in January 2011 and was supposed to be completed in 2012. However, the project missed many deadlines and former Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon subsequently acknowledged that the project needed “remedial work” but failed to mention that it had been suspended. That announcement was made quietly in the December 12, 2014 edition of the Guyana Times by the Project Manager Alexei Ramotar.

Dax Engineering had then been contracted to fix the cable and the company had indicated that it would take $2 billion to fix what has already been done to the value of $1 billion. The involvement of the company had been objected to after it was revealed that it would be allocated a number of pairs of fibres in the cable for its own use as well as other concessions in exchange for repairs to the still incomplete cable between Brazil and Georgetown. Asked if the company DAX Engineering is still working for the government, the president said that he was not aware. “These are projects which were terminated by the former President of Guyana, these projects were never interfered with by the opposition. The president himself terminated the fibre-optic cable, the president himself terminated the Amaila Falls Hydro Project…this (is) not the doing of the opposition,” Granger said.

Another project that may not be completed in its original form is the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project which has an August 2015 deadline.

Quizzed about this project, the president said that the authorities are looking at it and it has been agreed that a longer runway is feasible, necessary and desirable. “The other aspects at this point in time may have to wait further funding but we are reviewing the entire project and we are committed to completing the runway,” the president said.

While in opposition, the parties now in the coalition government had signalled disfavour with aspects of the project and voted against allocations for it in last year’s budget.

The project is funded by the Government of China through the Chinese Exim Bank. It provides for a new terminal building with eight boarding bridges, elevators and CCTV. It was envisioned that the runway will would be extended and there would be eight international parking positions.

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