Thursday, 26 July 2012 02:30
By Everton Barnes
Antigua St. John’s - The Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda has given conditional approval to the proposed multi-million dollar development at Gravnor Bay in Barbuda, and such conditions have put it at odds with the majority of the members of the Barbuda Council.
The Council approved the development several months ago and presented the proposals to the Cabinet for final approval as required by law.
But Barbuda Member of Parliament, Trevor Walker, and head of the Council’s finance committee, Fabian Jones, are known to have opposed the project, questioning whether or not the developers, Stan Hope Shepard Ltd., had the finances to undertake the development.
Their opposition may have been one of the reasons for the lengthy delay by the Cabinet to respond to the Council.
In a letter dated July 12, the Cabinet indicated that it would give its approval if the developers meet a number of conditions. Firstly, it wants the developers to indicate their seriousness towards the project by placing into an escrow account the sum of US $5 million. This must be done within 14 days of receiving the letter of approval from the Cabinet.
Additionally, the developers must spend US $75 million dollars on the project within two years of attaining the lease for the land.
These demands have placed the Cabinet and the Council at odds as the Council is of the view that the conditions are prohibitive rather than being helpful.
Council member, Senator Arthur Nibbs one of the staunch supporters of the project, said the Council discussed the Cabinet’s demands at a meeting Tuesday night and the majority favours seeking a meeting with the Cabinet to discuss the matter.
“A seven-man committee has been named to meet with the Cabinet in an attempt to persuade it to adopt a different approach to the matter. We feel that asking the developers to put US $5 million into an escrow account is money that could be invested directly into the project. We believe that the Cabinet concerns can be addressed in very detailed performance clauses with attendant penalties,” Nibbs stated.
According to Nibbs, the Council is of the view that rather than place the money into an escrow account, that amount could go towards conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment study, conduct land surveys of the area, and complete designs and plans for the project.
“In today’s environment, money is hard to come by, and to place all that money to sit idle is unproductive,” he noted.
Instead, the senator said the Council will recommend to Cabinet that the performance clause could include timelines by which specific aspects of the project must be completed, and at completion, the estimated employment complement that must be guaranteed.
The seven Council members who will comprise the delegation are chairman, Kelvin Punter, Atkinson Beazer, Dorcas Beazer-White all BPM members, and Nibbs, Tyrone Beazer, Bentham Lewis, and Calvin Gore, who are the opposition members on the Barbuda Council.
Beazer-Williams heads the Tourism Committee, and reports are that while initially she voted against the project, her opposition has subsided to the extent that she is prepared to go along with the majority view.
She could not be reached for immediate comment.