The government has leased out the state-owned Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard, weeks after the opposition raised questions about who it was being leased to an under what terms and conditions.
Contrary to a promise he made in early May, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves did not shed any further lights on these when he announced the lease at a press conference on Wednesday.
“Last week Wednesday, Cabinet approved, under my recommendation, an agreement which has been worked out with some investors, including some local and some foreign, some overseas for the lease of Ottley Hall,” Gonsalves told reporters.
“Cabinet approved in principle — they wanted to have a list of all the equipment which is currently there. We have to preserve, improve this place, prevent its decline,” Gonsalves said of the marina, which was the subject of an inconclusive inquiry and for which the country had received EC$165 million debt relief.
In May, Gonsalves announced that his government was discussing leasing the marina “on certain conditions and with certain investment requirements.
“Cabinet has taken certain decision in relation to the process and certain specific things which we want to see,” Gonsalves said in response to a reporter’s question.
“As advised, with all the elements, I think it is a good decision we have taken. I think it’s a good thing. It would create more jobs there, it would create more value and it would arrest any deterioration,” Gonsalves said in May, but stopped short of giving details of the lease.
“I wouldn’t want to give you detail until matters are concluded. There is a good man in charge of the negotiations for the government,” he said of Director General of Finance and Planning, Maurice Edwards.
The Prime Minister was speaking sometime after Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace read on radio an April 2, 2015 letter in which Gonsalves told the intended recipient “the Government has received and accepted the operational business plan for the Ottley Hall Marina introduced by Mr. Daniel Sandoval Ravetti, Mr. Mark Lulley and Mr. Wolfgang Olsawenski.
“There is the intention to offer a lease to the gentlemen for the period of 15 years with the option to renew at the end of the period. This lease proposal is now pending Cabinet’s approval but it is the intent to enter into an agreement for this lease no later than April, 30, 2015,” Gonsalves wrote in the letter.
Gonsalves also announced on Wednesday that his government is hoping to sign an agreement soon with investors for a development at Mt Wynne, but said there is one matter to be concluded.
“I am hoping we can sign that pretty soon and the company can get on the road to do the work. And when that happens, we can inform everyone what all the details of it,” he said.
This is 2015 and St. Vincent is still in the information dark ages. How in this day and age can Vincentians be in the dark about significant decisions already made or going to be made in relation to Mt. Wynne and Ottley Hall, two matters very significant for our economy? How can we let the government get away with not divulging any information of any significance? How can Vincentians air their views on these potential developments if we don’t have the relevant information to form an opinion? Or is it that we are not entitled to opinions? We are not entitled to air our views? What kind of democracy is this? Information about investors and the nature of what they intend to do should not be state secrets.
The government couldn’t get away with this in any other country. If we had freedom of information legislation then we wouldn’t be having this information blackout because they would have to divulge the details. Why are we not agitating for freedom of information legislation? This is not just the job for the political opposition only. Where are the various interest groups? Where are the investigative journalists? Why is no one asking questions with regard to such important things for our economy and society? When did we become such a passive people?
I agree that we badly need freedom of information and other accountability legislation. The problem is that neither party will ever put any in place with much teeth — and even if they did, how many Vincentians would actually understand the information that was given?
As for “When did we become such a passive people,” you uncritically assume, with no evidence, that during some past golden age of wisdom we were an enlightened and intellectually active people.
As I tirelessly write on this site, in a democracy people get the government they deserve. To put it more crudely, Comrade Ralph is one of us and we are are one with him.
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