KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 19, IWN – The government has provided concessions to developers at the Buccament Bay Resort but has taken tough positions against them when necessary, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said on Monday.
He made the point during a call to Star Radio, from Haiti, as he defended himself against an accusation by a BBC journalist that Dave Ames, chair of Harlequin Resorts, went to the Prime Minister’s office with a briefcase/suitcase of money and left without it.
“Why if all these English people — all these white people — fall out with each other for whatever reason … that you are going to drag my name into it?” Gonsalves said.
He added that it was the first time such an accusation was levelled against him during his more than 40 years in politics.
“… I would not compromise my office in that sort of a way. I mean it’s — that is something which is very established,” Gonsalves said.
“On the contrary, I have taken very tough positions in relation to Dave Ames and his project. Of course we have given him — we have given the project — a lot of concessions because it is multi-million dollar — in fact, I am told it is US$130 million or thereabout they have spent,” Gonsalves said.
He said the investors at Buccament Bay “will get a lot of concessions”, adding, “but so do other investors.
Gonsalves said Buccament Bay Resort is the largest consumer of electricity here — some $300,000 a month.
He said the Comptroller of Inland Revenue, Chief Executive Officer of VINLEC, Thornley Myers, and chair of VINLEC’s board of directors, Rene Baptiste can vouch for how he dealt with the resort when its VINLEC account was in arrears.
“I said deal with people in arrears in the way in which you always deal with your big customers who are in arrears, or any other customer for that matter.
“You notify them and you give them a time to settle and if they don’t make arrangement to settle, you do what you have to do — you cut them off,” Gonsalves said.
“It has never reached to that but Rene or Thornley will tell you,” Gonsalves said.
“When they (the resort) didn’t pay over their VAT and their PAYE on time, I said to the Comptroller of Inland Revenue, do what you have to do.
“So, this idea of Dave Ames being mollycoddled by the government is just absolutely rubbish,” Gonsalves said, adding that when some persons complained about access to the beach he “dealt with that emphatically.
“Sam Commissiong (the resort’s lawyer) could tell you that…
“So, I don’t know where this foolishness come from. I know that Ames has had problems with people who have worked with him, people who are close to him, people who were contractors.
“I know they have their problems. In fact, there are lawsuits involving them. I understand that there are problems involving some of the investors. But, that has nothing to do with me. That’s their problem.
“All I am concerned about is that when you come to build something in St. Vincent, you ain’t bringing money-laundered money, you are not part of a criminal enterprise, you come with your plans, you come with your programmes –we check you out. And, we give you permission to go ahead with the development,” the Prime Minister said.
He said the resort employed thousands on the construction side and hundreds in the actual resort.
“And it is a good quality resort. Everybody who goes there comments on it. Can anybody lift up that resort and carry it anyway? It is there forever for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Just think about the amount of VAT, think of the amount of PAYE, think about water consumed. Think about all these things; purchases which they have to make.”
Gonsalves said he has raised with Ames, his manager and his lawyer, issues of people not being paid for their goods and services.
“… what I can do is talk to them but you will have to put them in court if you delivered the service for which you were contracted.
“They may have a defence, I don’t know. I don’t get involved in those things,” said Gonsalves, who is also a lawyer.
“So, I don’t mollycoddle any investor. … We do our checks, we provide incentives; [if] we consider the project good for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we say yes,” Gonsalves said.