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Thursday 19 September 2019
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Afra Raymond laments culture of secrecy in mega-projects

Afra Raymond
Afra Raymond

Chartered surveyor Afra Raymond has lamented the "culture of secrecy" surrounding the construction of mega-projects, including resorts, in TT.

Raymond said before one constructs a resort, one must negotiate before any agreement is reached.

"Before you could build a resort and put up a resort, whether it is Hilton, Hyatt, Magdalena, Sandals, whatever, you have to have an agreement to build a resort. But before you have an agreement, you have to have negotiations to reach that agreement."

He added: "Those negotiations are what I call the underlying commercial arrangements. And I can tell you something: those negotiations are never discussed in public."

Raymond was among four panellists who spoke at a forum on Wednesday, titled Resort Development: Power, Politics, People, at the Tobago Hospitality & Tourism Institute Campus, Blenheim, Mt St George.

The other panellists were Diane Hadad, chairman, Tobago Division, T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce; Louis Lewis, CEO, Tobago Tourism Agency; and Dr Leslie-Ann Jordon-Miller, senior lecturer, Hospitality and Tourism, Department of Management Studies, UWI, St Augustine.

Raymond won a judicial review lawsuit in October 2018 after the Government failed to provide him with the details of the proposed Tobago Sandals project.

He had contended the hotel resort, which was to be constructed on prime state lands, would have had an impact on the use of water, electricity, solid waste and infrastructural development of the airport.

Raymond applied for details about the project under the Freedom of Information Act, but was not presented with a copy of the memorandum of understanding and other documents relating to the construction of the hotel. The project was shelved in January.

Raymond said during the forum the commercial arrangements surrounding such projects should be subject to public scrutiny.

He told participants: "Yuh know yuh have big people business, things yuh don't discuss with the children. So you discuss everything else. You discuss the number of jobs. You discuss the number of nights for parang and limbo and Miss Ivy pepper sauce.

"You discuss the supplies of fruits and vegetables . But yuh could never get any of our political leaders to discuss the underlying commercial arrangements."

For example, Raymond said many people do not know the financial arrangements governing the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann's.

"How much money did that make last year? Do you know? How much of that is our money? What is our proportion of that? Do we know? The answer is that we don't know."

He said the same could be said for the Magdalena Resort, Tobago.

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