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SANDALS DOES NOT DESERVE TOBAGO By David Walker

posted 27 Oct 2017, 05:47 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 27 Oct 2017, 06:08 ]
Image result for Sandals st lucia
So the Minister of Tourism Shamfa Cudjoe thinks that we deserve Sandals. This is the lady upon whose expertise our tourism thrust depends. She tells us that she has enjoyed their luxuries on a few occasions and has decided that we should invest billions of dollars and place all Tobago’s tourism eggs in an allegedly gilded Sandals basket.

I don’t care whether the Minister or anyone else thinks we deserve Sandals. We’re paying for it and will be paying for decades to come. We’ll be tying our hands with respect to receipt of taxation on what is promised to be the largest economic activity on the island for the next twenty years. 

We’re accepting the employment and business practices of Sandals blindly. We will see all its foreign exchange earnings parked outside of Trinidad and Tobago. No my friends, the question is not whether we deserve Sandals and what they bring. The real question is whether Sandals deserves Tobago and what Tobago is offering them. Yet we do not know what Tobago gets in return.

The rush to Sandals breaks every tenet of good procurement practice as articulated in our recently passed legislation. Our esteemed
Prime Minister Rowley has chosen to ignore his excellent advice in this case in favour of an opaque and unseemly deal displaying utter contempt for the legal custodians of Tobago tourism at the THA. 
Prime Minister Rowley was clear about the benefits of the legislation. He told us how badly it was needed in the fight against corruption and bid rigging. Yet he has chosen to ignore his excellent advice in this case in favour of an opaque and unseemly deal displaying utter contempt for the legal custodians of Tobago tourism at the THA.

We are told that Sandals is good for us, not that a specific plan is good, or any details of the plan. We keep hearing what a great company Sandals is and that we should be proud that they want to come to Tobago. But without figures or details of the type of “deal” that is being done why should we accept the nebulous claims being made on its behalf? They don’t even bother to tell us what the expected benefits will be in numbers.

Since our money is being spent why are we being told that we should not ask for Value for Money? Sandals is not the only provider of this type of all inclusive hotel in the Caribbean. The highly regarded website hotels.com did a survey last year of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. Sandals was not in the top three. There are several other operators with reputations in the same league as Sandals.

If we wanted the best value for money, the way that is achieved is clear. With or without external advice, we would have examined the market, evaluated what Tobago had to offer, considered the existing tourism policy and plan for Tobago in order to determine exactly what we wanted. Procurement practice would then have kicked in and a Request for Proposal (RFP) prepared which would have gone out to prospective bidders. All the steps of best procurement practice could then have followed with the prospect of excellent value for money coupled with maximum transparency and accountability.

Instead, we have procurement practice Trinidad and Tobago style courtesy of the current administration.

Supplier (Sandals) and future Prime Minister meet socially and promises made
Prime Minister assumes power
Prime Minister takes over control of Tobago tourism contrary to THA Act (no protest from THA)
PM appointed committee “negotiates” with Sandals for hotel of unknown specification
No details shared with public about the arrangement e.g.

◦ What will the development cost Tobago and Trinidad

◦ What taxes will be paid/not paid by Sandals and for what period

◦ What other costs will we bear (desalination plant, etc.)

◦ What will be the Foreign Exchange footprint during development and operations, positive or negative


Shamfa Cudjoe, Minister of Tourism and Butch Stewart, founder and bossman of Sandals

We now have a deal engineered by the Prime Minister of which we know nothing other than the fact that the Tourism Minister spent some quality time at Sandals and thoroughly enjoyed it. No comparison is made with other providers who have similar reputations. No information is shared about the costly and decades long impact on the Tobago economy. This is what our leaders encourage us to accept. Why bother with Procurement Legislation and Procurement Best Practice when our leaders “like it so”?

For Tobago this is a defining moment that will be remembered for decades to come, as the cost of this folly is borne by our children. We seem fond of rushing to decisions without the benefit of data and information. We’re prepared to accept that this unknown arrangement is good for us simply because it comes from the Prime Minister and is supported by the Tourism Minister. I doubt whether any of the persons promoting or supporting this farce would invest their own money in such a cavalier manner.

Let me close by inviting you to reconsider this arrangement with a few name changes. Imagine that Kamla Persad Bissessar, Watson Duke or Jack Warner had come to Parliament and said that as a result of a private meeting with a supplier, they would be issuing a billion dollar contract to a well known builder for an unspecified project. Public and Parliament could not be told any details until said agreement was finalized and commitments made. I wonder how people would have reacted? How do we tackle Corruption and Waste when the Prime Minister is the loudest advocate for driving a coach and horses through the legislation?

Sandals does not deserve Tobago while it operates outside of our Procurement Legislation and is encouraged to ignore key aspects of procurement best practice like transparency.


d.walker@alcindorwalker.com
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