Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says that he would rather not be asked who is being considered for management of the Buccament Bay Resort.
Gonsalves repeated in Parliament on Thursday his statement a few weeks ago that he would be disappointed if the resort does not reopen by December, two years after it was forced to close.
“Now, there is, Mr. Speaker, an entity, an entity with persons who have all invested hitherto, reputable persons, in this country who are working with the trustees in bankruptcy and also with the inspectors.
“There is an important issue that they have to clarify,” he said, adding that a meeting was taking place at that very moment on that issue.
He was responding to a question by Opposition Leader Godwin Friday.
Friday noted that the resort was abruptly closed over a year and a half ago.
“Since the government has, in various statements, indicated that the resort would be reopened soon,” he said in the preamble to the question, which was initially directed to Minister of Tourism, Cecil “Ces” McKie.
The opposition leader had asked the minister to indicate what is the status of plans to reopen the resort; who will be operating the resort; and whether it is being sold or leased to the new operators.
However, McKie said that because the prime minister has been intimately involved in the discussion, he wanted to revert the question to him.
Gonsalves said that while he had said he would be disappointed if the resort does not re-open by December he would be disappointed, “It doesn’t mean that it would happen.
“I said I would have been disappointed if it did not happen. I chose my words very carefully,” Gonsalves said.
He said there are many investors in Buccament Bay Resort – which closed in December 2016 when the state-owned electricity company severed its connection to the grid.
The development came after weeks of protest by employees over the non-payment of wages.
Gonsalves said that there are many members of the cabinet who are urging that he lead the charge for the government “to acquire what there is to be acquired and to proceed with a management company.
“I demurred from that and my demur rested, despite the urgency in getting it going, my demur rested on my judgment that we have set up a process through a modern insolvency act, … that we should allow that process to work.”
The prime minister said if the government were to intervene, many investors might accuse it of behaving as if it is a bandit state.
He said there was “wisdom” in the approach suggested by the Cabinet. “But you may build something with wisdom, but you have to complete it with understanding. So says the good book.”
Gonsalves said that [at] any point in time the state were to intervene in the way in which it has demurred, the public would know that they have acted because finally that is the best way to act in all of the circumstances.
He said that the country is very concerned that the resort has remained closed for a year and a half.
The prime minister further said there are “some concession issues because we have to appreciate that investors require concessions but it depends on the nature and type of concessions and the extent of them”.
He said there are some concessions on which they can agree and others on which there must be further discussion.
“I am asking that since I do not have the legal responsibility to tell you who will be operating the resort if you do not push me and I would not say who the persons they are talking to.
“That is the business of the trustees in bankruptcy to speak of. And, whether it is being sold or leased to the new operators, you will see, from the description I have given of the property, the various elements, you may conclude that there are some aspects that will involve sale and some aspects that will involve lease.”
As an example, Gonsalves said that the state would not sell the seabed.
“I believe that I have provided enough information as to the process of where we are, and the judgment which I have given you, so that honourable members would see that we are at a stage for a solution. It is at hand and I am hopeful that with all of the difficulties that have been defined that there would be a resolution, so that I would not be disappointed as I had indicated that I would be if it were not re-opened by December,” he said.
However, Friday asked the prime minister if by saying that he would be disappointed if the resort were not re-opened by December he also meant that he expects it to be opened by December.
“If I were to say that I expect that it would be open by December, I would have said so. Because I understand both sets of words which are spoken and you may well have an announcement imminently,” Gonsalves said.
Friday retorted, “But you can’t be disappointed if you don’t have an expectation.”
“Well, you can analyse and parse it,” the prime minister said.