The recently advertised Expression of Interest (EOI) for the casino located at the government owned but branded Marriott Hotel is mystifying and quite surprising. One remembers the 2016 forensic audit had indicated the Marriott hotel was projected to cost US$60 million, but it actually cost taxpayers almost US$90 million. Indeed, the deal was made more burdensome to Guyana by the granting of 5 monopoly agreements to the Marriott brand without their investment of a single dollar. This reminds us of the Janet Jagan giveaway of oil blocks and the repeated argument that Guyana was negotiating without any leverage. One remembers that the previous PPP government was giving away the shop by offering 67% of our US$90 million investment to a Chinese group for US$8 million, after Guyana had borrowed high cost money from Republic Bank to build.
My mystification with the current EOI lies in the memory that an Entertainment Centre comprised of a high end casino, a five star restaurant and an upscale nightclub worthy of the Marriott’s blessings was to be built for approximately US$12 million and would have had a separate investor from the lease arrangements of the Marriott brand.
Reading the current EOI, it seems as if the Atlantic Hotels Inc Board is seeking an entity to invest millions in a casino with the benefits of the restaurant and an upscale club again being grabbed by the Marriott. Again without a single dollar being invested by the Marriott.
Is history repeating itself?
Why does this EOI smell fishy or targeted? It seems as if only the casino is being offered, which means the Marriott brand will receive all the benefits of the new client base with the Government of Guyana again being asked to invest taxpayers’ money in building the nightclub and the restaurant to be managed by the Marriott. It appears as if someone wants no competition to the already very expensive restaurant in the Marriott that many Guyanese cannot afford in their own country.
I believe an Entertainment Complex should be its own holistic investment. The casino, nightclub and restaurant would make it attractive to any serious investor, as these three entertainment elements would work cohesively, as is done in better governed jurisdictions.
The real question is, why has the original sensible idea of an Entertainment Complex comprised of a casino, restaurant and nightclub, not owned or managed by Marriott, now seemingly discarded? Why should the monopoly position obtained by the Marriott during the last deception by Winston Brassington and his Chinese investors be allowed to continue under this new government? The numbers should speak for themselves as the significant payments made to date to the Marriott brand is one of the reasons the government is burdened to pay the Republic Bank loan and has yet to receive any profits from the colossal investment.
This should be a new era of common sense, fiscal judiciousness and de-monopolization in Guyana. The current EOI does not appear to make business sense. It should be reviewed with the goal of seeking investors for an Entertainment Complex and to prevent the Government of Guyana from further investment in a complex it owns 100% but from which it receives little profit.
Eric M Phillips