Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles said on Saturday that the Assembly was not involved with current negotiations for the proposed Sandals resort for Bucco but would be involved in the execution stages.
Charles was responding to questions from reporters on whether he privy he was to the conversations with Sandals’ representatives at a press conference at the Mt Irvine Bay hotel following the end of a two-day retreat for Secretaries to discuss the 2018 national budget.
“The conversations at this time is at the level of the request for concessions and what can be given and that kind of stuff. I am kept informed from time to time with the Minister Stuart Young; so when we get to the point when a firm decision is taken, then the THA will get involved in the execution phases of the project,” he told reporters.
“The THA is not now engaged in those preliminary conversations at the table directly in respect of requests by Sandals and some of those modalities,” he added.
Charles did remind that a board “would have been established, that board at the time of its establishment was under the Ministry of Finance, it has since been sifted to the Office of the Prime Minister”, and that one Tobagonian was on the board.
A special purpose company incorporated by the central government earlier this year, the Golden Grove-Buccoo Limited, which is under the Office of the Prime Minister, is chaired by Neil Wilson, who served as the chairman of the Tobago arm of the People’s National Movement for 18 years and also as the Tobago House of Assembly’s Secretary of Tourism between from 2005 to 2009. All legal arrangements for the land and hotel development is expected to be done through this company.
Wilson told Newsday Tobago in May that the negotiating team officially began discussions with the Sandals group on April 11, but he was not a part of those discussions.
“The company (Golden Grove/ Buccoo Limited) is represented on the negotiating team, but the company itself or me personally is not a member of the negotiating team. I am not a member of the negotiating team, but we are represented on that team. They are expected to report to me as it goes along,” he said.
Also asked on Saturday at the Mt Irvine press conference whether he felt the THA was being undermined in that most of the information regarding Sandals was coming from the Office of the Prime Minister and not from the Assembly, Charles responded:
“I do not see that as a undermining. I have indicated on many occasions that our part going forward is a question of enhancing delivery, strengthening partnerships. We have stated quite categorically that it is a joint collaborative effort between the central government and the THA that is required to facilitate development of Tobago and we don’t see that as an undermining whatsoever.”
A release from the Office of the Prime Minister last Friday said a Memorandum of Understanding on Sandals was expected shortly.
The release said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Minister of Planning and Development, Camille Robinson-Regis, Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe and the Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young met with a team from Sandals Resorts Inc led by Butch Stewart last Wednesday “to continue the conversation with respect to the establishment of a Sandals and Beaches resort in Tobago, the Sandals Golden Grove Tobago Project.”
“The discussions surrounded the type of structure that the project would follow, ie similar to the model that exists for Hilton Trinidad and Hyatt Regency Trinidad, meaning that Government would build the resort and Sandals Resorts Inc would manage it. Discussions also focused on the timing of the project and the use of private equity investment.
The parties are now working on a Memorandum of Understanding which it is expected will be executed shortly,” the release said, adding:
“The Government is committed to the successful pursuit of a Sandals Golden Grove Tobago resort as the positive effects would be tremendous. Citizens will continue to be updated with respect to the Sandals Golden Grove Tobago project as and when there is new information available.”