Deal duplicitous, lacks transparency, elections gimmick – Opposition Leader

2nd Marriott in Guyana

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has called out the David Granger-led Government for its “hypocrisy” as well as lack of transparency surrounding a deal undertaken to construct a new Marriott Hotel in Guyana.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

While the APNU/AFC were in opposition, they had heavily criticised the PPP Administration for pioneering the current Marriott hotel; however, on Wednesday, it was announced that the caretaker APNU/AFC Administration made a secret move with the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) to facilitate the construction of another hotel under the same brand.
On Thursday, Jagdeo addressed the matter at his weekly press conference, stating that while investors are welcomed in Guyana, the secrecy of the arrangement was surprising.

Flashback: Minister Ronald Bulkan confronts a Police Officer during a protest in 2015 during the opening of the Marriott Hotel (Stabroek News photo)

He pointed out that there are many aspects of the deal which have not been revealed.
Calling the deal, a “campaign strategy” and an elections gimmick by the coalition Govt, the Opposition Leader stated that it is uncertain whether permission was given from Marriott to use the name – a company which manages a string of hotels worldwide. This was confirmed by the investor later on Thursday who admitted that there is no franchise agreement in place.
“We welcome investment in new hotels and we welcome investors to Guyana but what was surprising about this is the secrecy through which the whole arrangement or deal was struck. And so we sought to get some answers about what the land deal was all about, how many land deals were given to the investor and what price; not just for the hotel but for the surrounding areas,” the Opposition Leader informed.

AFC General Secretary and now Public Infrastructure Minister among protesters at the opening of the Marriott in 2015 (News Source photo)

He added, “From what I gather too, no environmental permit has been issued so the Government talked about this project starting next month is designed for campaign purposes because there is no environmental permit as yet. We’ve also sought to find out if Marriott has officially approved this because it’s a laborious process that we had to go through to get Marriott to agree to use their brand in Guyana”.
Moreover, Jagdeo reminded that when the PPP/C Administration had embarked on constructing the current Marriott Hotel, it faced intense levels of scrutiny from the public as well as heavy criticism from the then APNU/AFC Opposition. In fact, the applicants were even taken to court to have the construction of the hotel blocked. The APNU/AFC held several protests in front the Marriott and on the day of its opening its members including some who are now ministers turned up in front of the five-star hotel and confronted Police who attempted to calm the situation.

Director-General Joseph Harmon protesting outside the Marriot Hotel project while in Opposition

During the 2015 elections campaign, the coalition party had talked about selling off the multi-million-dollar tourism flagship project as well as making it into a hospital facility. While in Opposition during the 10th Parliament, the APNU and AFC had criticised the construction of the Marriott Hotel and other major projects undertaken by the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration. They had conducted picketing exercises in front of the hotel from the inception of its construction in 2011. In 2012, Khemraj Ramjattan had introduced legislation to block the PPP’s move to construct the Marriott.

Worthy investment
Reflecting on the highly criticised project, the former President contended that it was a worthy investment.
“You will see some of the very players in Government, how duplicitous they have been…Now this is one of the most profitable Marriotts in the world. The one that we have here in Guyana. It’s covering all its costs and it’s doing extremely well. This just shows you the level of scrutiny and hurdles that we had to overcome to get that Marriott built and the same people who are saying that it’s a ‘choke and rob’ operation…now NICIL has secretly done this and sprung it on us just yesterday (Wednesday)”.
In a statement on Wednesday, NICIL’s acting Privatisation Specialist, Racheal Henry, disclosed the agency and the CEO of Triniyuana Investment Inc, John Aboud, held discussions before arriving at the decision to construct the hotel.