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No contention with Sandals—Robinson-Regis

Published: 
Sunday, November 19, 2017

When Prime Minister Keith Rowley said that Sandals principals were wary of the "kind of welcome" they might get in T&T, he was referring to people in the country who had objected to the Sandals plan.

So said Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis yesterday after Rowley announced in Parliament last Friday that there was a "slight setback in terms of time" with Government's signature project.

He said Sandals was dealing with hurricane damage at other resorts. They also feel other Caribbean territories are more welcoming than T&T and have replaced their interest in Tobago with Barbados. Rowley said T&T was lower down their list of priorities and initially thought to have been second, is now fifth.

He also thought Sandals was very wary of the kinds of "welcome" they might get in T&T. Rowley said Government and the private sector are still interested in the plan and Massy and Guardian Life responded to participate as equity investors.

Sandals CEO Adams Stewart did not reply yesterday on why Sandals may have found other areas more "welcoming".

Robinson-Regis said at a September meeting, where agreement on the initiative was signed, Sandals indicated they had other ongoing projects in Barbados and was rectifying hurricane damage elsewhere.

"There's been no contentions with them and we still have the agreement," she added.

But she said signals Sandals received from other quarters may have been unwelcoming. "There were Opposition objections and people, including in Tobago, were against the location and Sandals coming. But in other islands Sandals received big welcomes.

"In Grenada and Jamaica, there was a tempering of strident opposition attitude in favour of working for those countries' interest. The lesson in this is we're not the only country investors are examining. If we're not welcoming and have things in place, other states are willing and able."

She said there was no timeline for Sandals to begin work in Tobago. "We expect as soon as their schedule clears, Tobago would be next in line as they say they're still very interested in the location."

If the two-and-a-half-year project does not break ground this year, it was projected it would not be ready by 2020.

The investment

Details of the investment Sandals could have brought to T&T were given at a May meeting which Sandals owners held with a Government team to showcase the Tobago plan.

Sources said Sandals made no demands but projected what might be needed and done.

This included:

• 1,900 jobs plus training of 95 per cent of staff from Tobago.

• Annual supply of 172,00 pounds of paw paws, 222,000 pounds of yams, 179,000 pounds of limes, 46,000 pounds of onions, 73,000 pounds of plantains, 200,000 pounds of cucumbers, two million eggs.

• A Greg Norman championship class golf course. Legendary US pro-golfer Greg Norman partnered with Sandals to provide a championship golf course for Sandals' Bahamas resort in 2014.

The May meeting was the only one of that kind, they said.