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Monday, June 21, 2010

Speightstown Out - St. Lucy In

Prime Minister David Thompson in St. Lucy last week

A frail-looking Prime Minister David Thompson gave the clearest hint yet that government is leaning toward St. Lucy over Speightstown, St. Peter for the planned second cruise port for Barbados. This comes just over a year after Tourism Minister Richard Sealy's statement indicating that Speightstown had the nod. Yesterday the Barbados Advocate reported:
"While stating that the [Pickerings New Town] project has the potential of increasing market opportunities for St. Lucy he [the Prime Minister] said that he was “convinced” that MP for St. Lucy Denis Kellman may get a “long overdue airport and cruise terminal”.
He stated that Government has had offers from people to establish private airport facilities for private jet aircraft and a cruise terminal could be beneficial since a lot of activities take place in the north..."
Some might say that again politics seems to be trumping common sense on the location of the cruise port, as indeed, some have been criticizing the whole Pickerings/New Town project which is to be built on some of the best agricultural land in St. Lucy (much of it already owned by government). In a land-scarce country the question must be asked - what kind of example government is setting vis-a-vis reviving agriculture? It has not gone unnoticed that one of the principals of the company behind Pickerings/New Town is a high ranking member of the governing party and a former parliamentarian for St. Lucy himself. This clue to how things get done in Barbados may also be instructive on how the decision will come down at the other end of the island on the Long Beach/Chancery Lane wetlands project where yet another governing party politician has designs.
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  1. Arthur Blasts Pickerings Development

    "FORMER PRIME MINISTER OWEN ARTHUR says Government has not given Barbadians the full facts on its mooted billion-dollar Pickering Town Centre project in St Lucy.

    In fact, Arthur charged last night that Government had been feeding Barbadians a lot of propaganda, trying to create a “feel-good” effect, rather than trying to stem the slide into which the country had slipped.

    Speaking at a Christ Church West branch meeting at Arthur Smith Primary School, Arthur said the people behind the project did not even have money to pay initial start-up costs.

    He said they had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with a company from Ireland to borrow money to pay basic fees.

    “Developers had to borrow $600 000 to help pay pre-investment costs and they are now looking around to find an investor,” he stated.

    Arthur added: “They [St Lucy investors] have not yet even bought the land. They have acquired an option to buy the land on the understanding that the option is going to be meaningful if they get planning permission.”


    The former prime minister said he did not mean to be disrespectful, but he did not know how many people would want to invest in central St Lucy.

    “. . . Because if you are going to invest that kind of money, you will be looking to recover your capital and get a return on it. But these people do not have any money. They do not have any investors to work with them, but you had a groundbreaking ceremony in St Lucy to create the image that something is happening,” Arthur said.

    The St Peter MP said Government seemed to believe that feeding the public a lot of propaganda to create a good feel in the country was a substitute for serious policies and programmes.

    “Week by week all the fundamental things the public should be having a voice about that concerns their welfare are not being addressed,” he said, revealing that Government was now secretly selling off shares at the Insurance Corporation of Barbados to raise capital.

    Arthur noted the David Thompson-led administration had promised in its 2008 manifesto that it would seek a two-thirds majority in Parliament to change agricultural land for development purposes, but had not kept that commitment with respect to the development at Pickering.

    Greatest concern

    He warned Barbadians that their greatest concern should not just be the poor ratings international agencies had given Barbados’ economic performance over the past two years, but they should be alarmed that the structures which held that economy together were all starting systematically to crumble.

    Arthur said Government had failed to do anything about the continued recession and enterprises were starting to buckle. He said many of them had been drawing down their reserves from the banks to maintain their viability but this could not continue forever.

    He added that while Government remained nonplussed as to what to do, Guyana’s economy was on an upward economic curve. He noted that while tourism officials in Barbados were crying that they were losing the British market, British visitors were flocking to Jamaica, even in the face of the negative worldwide media associated with the recent Tivoli Gardens upheaval.

    Arthur said Barbados had prospered as a premium destination but now Government was deviating from a tried and tested policy by looking to low-end markets in Brazil and Panama and taking “a slow boat to China”."

    Source: 7/19/10

  2. Pickering Snag

    "THE MASSIVE PICKERING, St Lucy building project might not be getting off the ground any time soon.

    That’s because developer North Ridge Development Company Limited has so far been unable to attract investors to raise capital for the proposed BDS$1.7 billion initiative.

    Among the potential investors that the company has approached has been Cellate International & Construction Group [CICG], an Irish company now facing a lawsuit for misappropriation of funds in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This has resulted in CICG’s assets being frozen.

    The company has a subsidiary, Cellate Caribbean, located at 1st Avenue, Belleville, St Michael.

    At a ground-breaking ceremony in May, Prime Minister David Thompson said the project would include 1 161 residential units, a 200-unit hotel, a private day-care centre, a primary school, supermarkets, convenience stores and several other amenities.

    The SUNDAY SUN has obtained a copy of a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which shows North Ridge has been seeking an investor to purchase a substantial percentage ownership interest; purchase up to $40 million non-voting redeemable preference shares; superintend the Pickering project; undertake construction of the proposed development; and source all additional funding required to complete construction and product sales.

    The document also revealed North Ridge Development has outstanding financial obligations for the land purchase at Pickering, as well as to a number of professionals.

    These include a cost of $24 million for about 230 acres of land, as well as payments to a surveyor, attorney-at-law, engineer, architect, financial/tax consultant, an environmental impact assessment team and other named individuals totalling $4.2 million.

    North Ridge’s proposal to CICG to purchase a 30 per cent financial interest was priced at $16 million. Among other proposals put to CICG was that within 21 days of signing a MOU, $24 million of the $40 million was made available to close the land purchase. North Ridge proposed that the additional $16 million be placed in escrow to cover fees and other expenses.

    On the cards was for CICG to receive a basic project management fee equal to three per cent of revenues and for North Ridge to receive a developer’s fee equal to five per cent of revenues.

    CICG did not sign the agreement.

    Two weeks ago former Prime Minister Owen Arthur suggested Government’s launch of the Pickering project was a façade. He alleged North Ridge Development had no money even for initial start-up expenses and had to borrow $600 000 to help pay pre-investment costs.

    “These people do not have any money. They do not have any investors to work with them, but you had a groundbreaking ceremony in St Lucy to create the image that something is happening,” Arthur said.

    In a July 27 statement to the SUNDAY SUN, the board of directors of North Ridge Development Company Limited said it was not appropriate “to respond to public statements on the status of investors”.

    Efforts yesterday to reach North Ridge developers through their attorney-at-law Wayne Cumberbatch for further comment were futile."



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