A former Secretary of Tourism in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has described the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Sandals project as “cat in bag.”
George Stanley Beard says there is nothing in the MOU that says Trinidad and Tobago will benefit in any way, that “everything seems in favour of Sandals.”
In an interview with Newsday Tobago, Beard said:
“I have no problems with Sandals, but John Public knows nothing as to what we’re really getting out of that, all we see… everything seems in favour of Sandals. There is nothing in the MOU that says that Trinidad and Tobago will benefit in any way or form and then further to that, it implies that if Sandals has any operations to be utilised in the management of the plant, that Agency also has to have work permit stories granted to them and tax concessions granted to them for the 25 years in the first instance.
“We are buying cat in bag… I am not sure that after 50-odd years of independence, we need to be caught like this and I am sorry for my island and for my people.”
The MOU was signed in October 2017 between the Government and Sandals Resorts International (SRI), and made public on November 28, one day before former chairman of the Joint Consultative Council, Afra Raymond, was to appear in court for hearing on a judicial review lawsuit he filed because of the State's failure to provide him with details about the deal which he had sought under the Freedom of Information Act.
Raymond has contended that the proposed resort to be constructed at the Golden Grove Estate in Buccoo, the cost of construction to be borne by the State, after which Sandals will manage, would impact on the use of water, electricity, solid waste and further infrastructural development of the airport in Tobago.
Last Thursday Beard also told Newsday Tobago, that a review of the MOU shows that there is not even any investment in Tobagonians.
“The MOU has a blanket statement that says that the Government would provide work permits for their staffing. If you don’t have the staffing on the ground, it means that you have to bring in the workforce, which means work permits would have to be given to the people they want to come in to work in the hotels.
“In other words, you are not investing in the island people, training them for jobs in that industry. We do not have anybody in Tobago to work in an all-inclusive and if they (Government) were serious about it, our hotel school since last year should have put out the need for 300 or 400 persons to be trained in the various hotel operations so that at least they would be prepared for the jobs when they come,” he said.
Beard was also concerned about the area proposed for the resort, noting that the Buccoo Wetlands was an area mapped out as environmentally sensitive and identified for preservation.
“You do not go in and put that there… The best thing to do with that area is to develop it as a marine and oceanographic research station, so it is educational and scientific work going there.
“Not golf courses that actually pollutes … because of all the insecticides and pesticides and fertilisers that you have to keep the greens green. The run off, you actually going to be generating a run off. You are going to remove the mangrove which is a natural barrier and protection for the coastline in that south-west area,” he said, adding that he would support a marine and oceanographic research complex in a university of Tobago there.