Barbados protecting international reputation - Sinckler
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday January 12, 2012 – After months of speculation and closed-door negotiations Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Christopher Sinckler has confirmed that the Barbados National Insurance Scheme (NIS) will invest in the beleaguered Four Seasons resort project.
Paradise Beach Limited, the company seeking to restart Four Seasons, had sought last year a BDS$60 million investment from the NIS, and Minister Sinckler confirmed yesterday that the entity would join the national insurance schemes of Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines as minority investors in the Barbados-based tourism project.
At a function of the Barbados Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (BARAIFA) yesterday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Complex, Sinckler noted that while the project had become an international failure following the inability of the original developers to complete the project on time and within budget; by the failure occurring on Barbadian soil, the island became negatively associated.
Sinckler noted that the controversial hotel and residencies at Paradise Beach, St Michael, that had attracted some of the world’s wealthiest, including Simon Cowell and Andrew Lloyd Webber, but this had also led to “a certain circus” in the international media because these powerful people had invested a considerable amounts of money in that project and have nothing to show for it.
“That is not something we wanted on the face of Barbados’ good name, therefore the late Prime Minister [David Thompson], having contemplated all of these issues, surmised that we had to find a way to get this project restarted,” the Minister said.
Following the settlements of outstanding debts of US$60 million to suppliers in November 2010, there was an air of optimism that work would have commenced in full. However, this was not to be.
Nonetheless, it is expected that with the injection of funds from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Four Seasons should be on its way in 2012.
Sinckler said: “We are in the process to move ahead. The IDB, ANSA Merchant Bank and Four Seasons Company have agreed to put US$180 million into the project to get it going again.”
He added, “The IDB will give formal approval of the investment in February, and from there hopefully we can get this project on the way. The villa owners have indicated that once they are provided with this information they are prepared to start their investment in the project as their investments will be protected.”
Sinckler said, “Four Seasons would bring tremendous value added to Barbados tourism project. Just consider the fact in the last thirty years we have not had a major brand name property on that high level.”
He pointed out that Barbados is one of the few countries in the Caribbean that doesn’t have a major brand name. As such, all of the expertise training, human resource and marketing power in the tourism sector is supported predominantly by Government providing money to the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) to market properties in this country.
He explained further that the other problem with Four Seasons is that when the original operators of the projected decided to close it down they left close to $120 million in debt owed to various suppliers, the majority of them small businesses.
Government therefore intervened to get those resources to assist the affected businesses.
The original contemplation of international financial advisor, Professor Avinash Persaud, and his group was that if that the $120 million was cleared, the original villa owners would put their money in.
However, he noted that they expressed dissatisfaction that the original operators closed the project down.
“They were not confident about coming back to put money in a project and had nothing to show. Persaud and his team were overly optimistic at that time. However, Government will not turn its back on the project,” Sinckler added.