Although bemoaning the government “red tape” and other issues that have slowed the completion of the US$45m MovieTowne Guyana at Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara, developer Derek Chin has announced that he and his partners are working towards opening the cinemas and some concessions at the facility by the end of August, while the others, including the Hard Rock Café, will be opened by yearend.
Chin, the Trinidadian founder and Chairman of the MovieTowne franchise, made the announcement yesterday when a site visit was held for the Private Sector Commission (PSC).
Among those in attendance were head of the PSC Eddie Boyer and other PSC representatives as well as Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GGCI) President Deodat Indar and other officials.
Chin explained that they wanted to update the Guyanese public on the progress of the project and noted that they were disappointed that they have not met their previously announced timelines, which he blamed on bureaucracy on the part of some government entities, as well as the lack of foreign exchange in Trinidad and Tobago.
He noted the slow installation of necessities, such as an electricity connection, are slowing down the project’s progress and added that there needs to be more collaboration between the government and the private sector.
“Areas like electricity connection are giving us a bit of a challenge,” Chin noted, while explaining that the facility has been waiting for more than six weeks to receive a temporary connection so that it can test its systems.
He also said that despite promises by the government to rehabilitate the road west of the project site, the developers had to eventually do it themselves. He said that they have also asked the government to look at the possibility of constructing a roundabout to mitigate the traffic congestion expected when MovieTowne opens its doors but they have not received any feedback since.
“We have met with people in the government but they don’t seem to have discussions anymore about how things are going or any interest,” Chin noted, while highlighting that setting an efficient and active communication link with the government is very important.
Chin said he believed there is a need for the government to ensure that there is an overseer to monitor the progress of such major projects to ensure that small setbacks are not resulting in delays that can eventually cost investors millions of dollars. “I need to tell the government you need to start [loosening] up the red tape. Things take too long and we want to move fast to get things done. I want to be able to enjoy it during my lifetime,” Chin said.
Highlighting an experience at the Guyana Revenue Authority, Chin explained that at one point he had to leave goods at one of the local ports for more than six weeks, which resulted in him having to pay money for storage, since he had to wait more than a month for a signature from the Ministry of Finance for the release of his goods.
Despite the slow progress, Chin announced that so far they have over 90% occupancy and they are currently working on creating more spaces to accommodate more businesses.
“…We are doing our utmost to ensure that we are delivering to the people of Guyana a truly great experience. We spent a lot of money to try and get it right. A lot of things still have to be put in but they are pretty far advanced,” Chin said, while noting that they are working towards opening their eight cinemas along with some franchises and stores by the end of August. The eight cinemas are expected to cater for some 2,100 persons and a tour revealed that they are almost completed.
Chin was unable to say how many concessions will be completed by then but pointed out that the major ones, such as Hard Rock Café and the 60,000-sq ft Massy Super Store will be completed and opened at the end of the year.
In addition to the Hard Rock Café setting up its first outlet in the Caribbean in Guyana, Chin also noted that other international franchises, such as Starbucks and IHOP (International House of Pancakes), are “knocking at the door.”
“There’s nothing wrong with competition. It’s about opening up and setting new standards and becoming world class… No longer must Guyana be behind everyone. We have other things we want to do and we are quietly negotiating behind the scenes to try to take it to a next level,” Chin added.
Boyer, in brief remarks, said that the obstacles that are currently hindering the project’s progress are “miniscule and solvable” and urged the government to lend its assistance to rectify the issues.
He also echoed Chin’s sentiments about the need for a project overseer from the government’s level to ensure that there are no unnecessary hindrances to similar projects.
Indar also made brief remarks and promised to be the middle man between the private sector and the government to ensure that there are no other major obstacles that result in delayed projects.