Categorized | News, Regional

Government acquires lands housing major hotel, but says no plans to nationalize private property

Gaston Browne in parliamentAntigua, Oct 23, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda parliament has given the nod to a government move to acquire the land on which the Halcyon Cove by Rex Resorts occupies after indicating that the owners did not fulfill a promise to upgrade the property.

But Prime Minister Gaston Browne sought to give the assurance that his administration was not moving to “nationalize people’s private property” as his administration moves to transform “Antigua and Barbuda into an economic powerhouse”.

Prime Minister Browne, who tabled the resolution, said that the owners have been struggling to meet lease payments and other statutory responsibilities in addition to an over abundance of guests voicing their displeasure with the current state of the property.

The resolution grants the Secretary to the Cabinet authorization to issue a declaration to effect that 12 acres of land on which the property sits be acquired for public purpose.

Browne told legislators that the property has created a problem for the image of the country’s tourism product and the owners have not fulfilled a promise to the former administration to undertake an upgrade of the property.

Browne said that while there is a high demand for Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism product, the country does not have the viable rooms to meet the demand.

He said two of the island’s bigger hotels continue to struggle and that the situation demands attention and tourism experts and owners of other properties have been clamoring for an intervention by government.

“My Government is a responsible government and will not seek to acquire anyone’s property interest without justification.  In this case, what is at stake is our tourism product.  What we are trying here is to be proactive and to bring a number of rooms that are not in circulation back into economic circulation so that we can grow the country’s economy and put our people back to work,” Prime Minister Browne said.

“We are not seeking to acquire the property willy nilly.  We have had discussions with a number of interested parties to turn the property into a five-star facility.  Before acquisition, we will ensure that we have the resources to cover any liability and compensate persons on a timely basis.  Acquiring the lease to this property is in the public’s interest,” he added.

Prime Minister Browne said that the owners of Sandals and Couples hotels have already approached government to build a new 300 room resort on the Halcyon Cove property and this will create over 600 jobs on an operational basis.

Browne said that the government is also likely to acquire the Valley Church property which encompasses 10 acres of beach land, which is currently in the possession of Bap Project officials.

“They did not put one dollar into acquiring that property from the former government.  Now they are seeking to flip that property.  I want to put everyone on notice, that anytime the principals of BAP sell that property to anyone, no permission will be given to build anything on that land.

“This is a message to the world.  They have forfeited the title to that property on the basis that they have not performed.  No one can build anything there.  No approval shall be given to any entity to build anything on that property,” Prime Minister Browne told Parliament.

He said that the government proposed to construct the proposed Simon Bolivar Resort, in collaboration with Venezuela, on that property.

“We are not seeking to nationalize people’s private property.  There are likely to be other acquisitions.  We cannot have properties like Royal Antiguan with about 300 rooms sitting idle.  If we do not get an undertaking from the owners that he would upgrade and place the property into economic circulation, I guarantee that we would acquire that property,” said Prime Minister Browne.

“We are about transforming Antigua and Barbuda into an economic powerhouse and we cannot do this with thirty-percent of our hotel rooms shut.  We must take the necessary steps and make hard decisions to bring them back into circulation.

“We will ensure however, that severance payments and any liability arising from acquisition are taken care of with funds that the new owners would be required to put in an escrow account,” said Prime Minister Browne.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Gaston Browne in parliamentAntigua, Oct 23, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda parliament has given the nod to a government move to acquire the land on which the Halcyon Cove by Rex Resorts occupies after indicating that the owners did not fulfill a promise to upgrade the property.

But Prime Minister Gaston Browne sought to give the assurance that his administration was not moving to “nationalize people’s private property” as his administration moves to transform “Antigua and Barbuda into an economic powerhouse”.

Prime Minister Browne, who tabled the resolution, said that the owners have been struggling to meet lease payments and other statutory responsibilities in addition to an over abundance of guests voicing their displeasure with the current state of the property.

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The resolution grants the Secretary to the Cabinet authorization to issue a declaration to effect that 12 acres of land on which the property sits be acquired for public purpose.

Browne told legislators that the property has created a problem for the image of the country’s tourism product and the owners have not fulfilled a promise to the former administration to undertake an upgrade of the property.

Browne said that while there is a high demand for Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism product, the country does not have the viable rooms to meet the demand.

He said two of the island’s bigger hotels continue to struggle and that the situation demands attention and tourism experts and owners of other properties have been clamoring for an intervention by government.

“My Government is a responsible government and will not seek to acquire anyone’s property interest without justification.  In this case, what is at stake is our tourism product.  What we are trying here is to be proactive and to bring a number of rooms that are not in circulation back into economic circulation so that we can grow the country’s economy and put our people back to work,” Prime Minister Browne said.

“We are not seeking to acquire the property willy nilly.  We have had discussions with a number of interested parties to turn the property into a five-star facility.  Before acquisition, we will ensure that we have the resources to cover any liability and compensate persons on a timely basis.  Acquiring the lease to this property is in the public’s interest,” he added.

Prime Minister Browne said that the owners of Sandals and Couples hotels have already approached government to build a new 300 room resort on the Halcyon Cove property and this will create over 600 jobs on an operational basis.

Browne said that the government is also likely to acquire the Valley Church property which encompasses 10 acres of beach land, which is currently in the possession of Bap Project officials.

“They did not put one dollar into acquiring that property from the former government.  Now they are seeking to flip that property.  I want to put everyone on notice, that anytime the principals of BAP sell that property to anyone, no permission will be given to build anything on that land.

“This is a message to the world.  They have forfeited the title to that property on the basis that they have not performed.  No one can build anything there.  No approval shall be given to any entity to build anything on that property,” Prime Minister Browne told Parliament.

He said that the government proposed to construct the proposed Simon Bolivar Resort, in collaboration with Venezuela, on that property.

“We are not seeking to nationalize people’s private property.  There are likely to be other acquisitions.  We cannot have properties like Royal Antiguan with about 300 rooms sitting idle.  If we do not get an undertaking from the owners that he would upgrade and place the property into economic circulation, I guarantee that we would acquire that property,” said Prime Minister Browne.

“We are about transforming Antigua and Barbuda into an economic powerhouse and we cannot do this with thirty-percent of our hotel rooms shut.  We must take the necessary steps and make hard decisions to bring them back into circulation.

“We will ensure however, that severance payments and any liability arising from acquisition are taken care of with funds that the new owners would be required to put in an escrow account,” said Prime Minister Browne.