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JCC objects to Govt’s plan for Invader’s Bay

Call for open talks
Published: 
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Photos: Marcus Gonzales

The request for proposals (RFP) put out by the Ministry of Planning in August for the development of the Invader’s Bay area, Audrey Jeffers Highway, evoked strong responses from different sectors of the society, including the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC) and Port-of-Spain Mayor Louis Lee-Sing. In a September 16, 2011, letter, the JCC requested that the Government withdraw the RFP for review. The JCC and Lee Sing have charged that there was insufficient consultation with them before the RFP was advertised. In the RFP, the Ministry of Planning invited developers interested in developing the 70-acre site to submit plans. The deadline for submission of proposals is October 4, 2011.

JCC meets with Government
On Monday, the JCC met Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie and Trade Minister Stephen Cadiz.
According to JCC president Afra Raymond, a broad delegation including members of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) and the T&T Transparency Institute (TTTI) met with the ministers. Raymond told the Business Guardian on Tuesday via e-mail neither Tewarie nor Cadiz was prepared “to change or withdraw the RFP.” “Minister Tewarie did promise to involve the JCC after various proposals were received and also to prepare a framework for RFPs going forward.” Raymond said the next step is to go public with their concerns “over this opaque RFP process.” “It is disturbing to see the haphazard, top down approach from the Ministry of Planning.

It appears to be a continuation of the approach of the last administration, in which the largest projects were hatched in secrecy.” MovieTowne was mentioned in the JCC’s letter to the Ministry of Planning, where it was pointed out that the RFP requires that new developments in the Invader’s Bay area must be “complementary to the existing development.” In its letter, the JCC called this “an inexplicable and impractical requirement, with absolutely no basis in proper planning practice.” Raymond said the JCC is not attacking any one developer or proposal, but it would like to see transparent development.
“We are in no way against any particular person or proposal. All we want to see is a proper process for the development of the country,” he said.

“For far too long in this country, we have had lopsided development. This must change. “Look at the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) and the Uff Report and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). There are lessons to be learnt from these cases. Correct processes are important.”
Raymond said the JCC wants to see T&T properly developed. “What we are calling for is a road map of development. It’s okay for everyone to have different views and we have no problem with that, but we want to see broad consultation among all stakeholders.”

Derek Chin: No preferential treatment
Derek Chin, chairman of the three MovieTowne cineplexes—trading as Multicinemas (Trinidad) Ltd—told the Business Guardian on Tuesday he has in no way tried to influence the Government to get preferential treatment with regard to the RFP. “In fact, I was surprised when the Government put the RFP out in the media. I didn’t even know about it. I was out the country.” The first MovieTowne opened almost eight years ago at Invader’s Bay. The area comprises ten screens, a shopping complex, several restaurants and a video arcade. Chin said he has had meetings with past and present governments and there were “three or four” other developers who also had an interest and proposals in developing the area. “Some people were interested in building a hospital for health tourism and others, condominiums and other proposals, so it’s not only me who has had proposals for a long time.”

Chin said all he wants now is 35 acres for his Streets of the World project. “All I need is 35 acres out of the 70 acres that the Government has allotted in this area.” Chin said he intends to follow the law and will take his proposals and now submit them under the terms of the RFP. “Obviously, we will have to make some adjustments and make this conform to the RFP, but it will not be the first time. We have been making changes and proposals since the (Patrick) Manning administration,” he said. Chin said it is possible that the cost could increase if MovieTowne’s investors are given the land for the project. “Right now, we estimate that the cost would be a $1 billion for the Streets of the World project, but that  could change. Even now, we are still spending money on MovieTowne.” He said who ever the Government gives the land to, he wishes them the best. “People think that you can become a billionaire overnight, but they are wrong. Who ever gets that land will be taking financial risk. Since 2003, I still have not made money from MovieTowne and I am still paying off loans. It is the reality.”

Architect: A boost to the economy
Raul Poon Kong, director at NLBA Architects—the lead architect for the construction of MovieTowne—told the Business Guardian on Monday that Chin getting permission to move ahead with his Streets of the World project at Invader’s Bay would help stimulate the economy. “I would think that the Government would want to stimulate the economy. The previous government borrowed money and put us in debt. Just look at the budget deficit. The Government has to do this to stimulate private sector spending,” Poon Kong said.
He said there are a few ways for a government to stimulate the economy.
“The Government can take a loan and invest in infrastructure projects.
“The second way is through taxes and levies to raise money.
“The next way is to stimulate and set the environment for private sector to stimulate the economy,” Poon Kong said.

The architect said he has nothing against the JCC and recognises that it is an important stakeholder that provides “checks and balances,” but stated he is not clear on the JCC’s position. “The Government has their job to do and then the JCC is there, too. It’s always about a balance and I guess the JCC is there to act in terms of checks and balances. However, if there are things that the JCC does not understand, then they should come to me,” Poon Kong said. Poon Kong said that when MovieTowne was being built, only local labour was used. “We have all used local content. In fact, for the Streets of the World project, Chin agreed that four other local architectural companies will be used. There is also the work of three Carnival designers that will be used. All this is local content.” Poon Kong said the culture in T&T is that successful people who have contributed to the country’s development are always attacked.
“We have to look at the social consciousness of this country. We have pulled down successful people like Brian Lara and Peter Minshall. We have always said negative things about people who are successful,” he said.


The JCC’s position:

“The JCC has serious concerns regarding the request for design/build proposals (RFP) for the development of Invader’s Bay as a result of the Ministry of Planning and the Economy’s advertisement in the press in the last week of August. “The publication of the RFP suggests a commitment to an open and transparent development process, for which we have been long-term advocates. “However, the JCC considers the RFP to be ill-conceived for these reasons: “The proposals are to be submitted by October 4, 2011, which will allow a maximum of six weeks for potential developers to comply with the Ministry of Planning’s requirements for the development of this 70-acre site.

“The JCC is aware that there are several unsolicited proposals from private sector developers for the development of Invader’s Bay, which have already been submitted to Government in the form of design concepts. There is little doubt that those took far longer than six weeks to prepare. “Given that the likely construction cost of this development is estimated to exceed $5 billion,  and the demanding requirements of the proposals, one can scarcely believe that the publication of this RFP will elicit any new competitive design and build proposals. “In addition to the JCC’s serious doubts as to the true effect of this RFP, its definition of scope is far too generalised, which leaves the evaluation and selection process open to potential abuse or the ‘whims and fancies’ of personal preference.”


Flashback:

Below is part of an article that was published on July 7, 2011, in the Business Guardian following an interview with Derek Chin.

Derek Chin, chairman of the three MovieTowne cineplexes, is working on another mega project: Streets of the World. “If you thought MovieTowne was great, this will be greater. My next project is worth $1 billion. The money is available and I am ready to go. This is behind MovieTowne in Invader’s Bay where 80 acres of land is available. We will take the culture of a country and make streets out of them.” Chin announced his next billion-dollar project on June 22 at the Fourth Biennial International Conference on Business, Banking and Finance at the Hilton Trinidad hotel, St Ann’s.  Chin gave more details at a follow-up interview on Monday at the Woodbrook office of his company, Telecom Systems (Trinidad) Ltd.
Although he originally budgeted the project to be less than $1 billion, the eventual cost will be much more. “We did the preliminary budget and the first budget came up to $780 million, but it’s going way past that.”

Chin gave a breakdown of the budget. “We get approval for the lands. Then we have the infrastructure works, the drainage, the sewerage, the underground lines, electrical connections and utilities. The infrastructure works could cost a couple hundred million.” Add to those cost items planning and building.
“Assuming the building is $1,200 per square feet, we have to come up with how many hundred thousand square feet it is and we multiply it by the $1,200 square feet. That could be a budget of $500 million. We are talking about building a city, after all.”


No consultation with PoS mayor

As reported in the Trinidad Guardian on Tuesday, Port-of-Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing raised concerns about the lack of public consultation from the Ministry of Planning in inviting developers to submit ideas for developing Invaders’ Bay. He said Invader’s Bay belong to the city of Port-of-Spain and development is being proposed without consultation. “These lands cannot be developed without the assent of the (Port-of-Spain) City Corporation,” he said. The Trinidad Guardian reported that Planning Minister Tewarie said he intends to have talks with the Lee Sing on this topic.