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Marriott ‘atrocity’ must be stopped – GTUC – 13th Feb 2013

shot0001The construction of the Marriott hotel without any Guyanese workers is an “atrocity” that must be stopped, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) declared yesterday.

The Congress said the Marriott construction contract violates the constitution which guarantees Guyanese the right to work. As such, the GTUC is putting together a team of lawyers to block the project.

The Government over the weekend said that it bargained with the Chinese contractor to lower its construction cost by US$9 million in exchange for freedom to choose its own workers, and so the Chinese workers were brought in.

The Government also argued that employing a Chinese workforce was a better guarantee for construction at the rate the company would want.

According to the Trade Unions Congress, this is the same as saying that Guyanese workers are lazy and also gives the Chinese company the go ahead to employ foreign workers and flout the labour laws of this country.

The Government also claimed that Guyanese lacked the required skills for the project. The GTUC said that this claim is misplaced and dishonest since Guyanese are the ones who built the infrastructure of Guyana, including the Guyana Pegasus, the seawall, the Demerara Harbour Bridge, “all of which were considered phenomenal feats at the time of their construction.”

The Government’s claim that the language barrier was one of the reasons the Chinese firm hired Chinese workers makes no sense to the Trades Union Congress. It said that any contract entered into force should have the criteria of language compatibility to cater for the Guyanese workforce, so there should be no excuse for shutting out local labour.

The only money so far being put into the Marriott project has come out of the public coffers – $2 billion of it has already been handed over to the contractors and there is no sign of the investors the Government talks about.

Private investors are expected to contribute US$27 million, but even the low end of the operations is posing a headache for the Government busy trying to prove the project is feasible. Repeated advertisements for investors in the restaurant, casino and nightclub have had no takers and the advertisement was again placed in today’s edition of state newspaper, the Guyana Chronicle.

The Government has a special arrangement that guarantees the private investors that they would get their money if the project folds.

So, if in a scenario where the project fails and the value of the property depreciates to a value below what the investors have plugged, then the investors will get back their money, and there would be nothing to return to NICIL (National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited), one of the investment arms of the Government which holds its assets. Thus taxpayers’ dollars would go down the drain.

The Government is participating in the project by way of equity, in the sum of US$4 million. This is being committed through NICIL. The equity contribution determines the Government’s strength in Atlantic Hotels Incorporated – the company created to see the project through. As it stands, the Government is currently the sole shareholder in the company.
However, apart from the equity contribution, financing for the project would also come from “subordinate loan stocks” of US$15 million invested by NICIL. Adding the US$2 million, NICIL will end up spending in development costs for the project, including design and other preliminary studies altogether, US$21 million. So, in total, the amount of money the Government is pushing into the project is just about what it should cost in Guyana to complete the project, industry experts say.

The additional US$40 million remains a mystery.

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