(click all photos for large versions)
Where are the workers? Where are the materials? Where are the walls?
Five months of photos at the H Hotel construction site show little, if any, real progress happening at this David Ames Harlequin project. Barbados Free Press first published photos of the worksite dating from February 16, 2012 to March 22, 2012 (BFP’s March 23, 2012 story here). Now, six months later we publish photos taken on July 18, 2012 and we cannot see any progress at all. Some piles of sand, some concrete tiles in the corner, a few internal supports removed – but this isn’t progress. It certainly isn’t what we would expect to see on an active construction project after nearly six months.
Does this look like six months of work on a healthy, vibrant project to you?
These photos will probably cause some Harlequin investors and prospective investors to do a doubletake, and perhaps they should. What work is being done? How much money has been spent on labour and materials in the six past months? Why isn’t this construction site a beehive of activity like every other healthy site you’ve ever seen? There is, however, precedent for this snail like pace by Harlequin…
Unless there’s something we’ve missed, folks who purchased units at Harlequin’s Merricks project six years ago have yet to see one customer unit delivered. Where is all that customer money now?
Perhaps we ordinary people don’t understand how the whole Harlequin project portfolio can support itself without using customer funds from one project to keep other projects going, and by using the funds from new investors to cover existing daily expenses. We don’t understand where the money will come from to build all those sold units at Merricks, because after six years of paying some of the highest sales commissions ever to ‘investment counselors’ who push Harlequin ‘investments’, we think Harlequin is relying on new investors to support the whole scheme.
And who will fund the units of those new investors when six years from now Harlequin decides to build three models? There will have to be yet more new investors, I guess. We don’t see how Dave Ames and his companies can keep all the balls in the air, but as we said, we’re certainly not financial genius developers at BFP. Yup, we’re a little slow here, and that’s probably why the whole thing has us thinking of a historical figure by the name of Charles Ponzi. We’re probably wrong to be thinking about Mr. Ponzi in relation to Harlequin, but for some reason we are.
Charles Ponzi (above) is the chap who gave his name to ‘Ponzi Scheme’, which is defined as…
“A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from profit earned by the individual or organization running the operation. The Ponzi scheme usually entices new investors by offering higher returns than other investments, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. Perpetuation of the high returns requires an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors to keep the scheme going.”
The blindness called ‘Too big to fail’
There’s also another concept we’ve read about called ‘Too big to fail’ where a business failure would have widespread consequences far beyond the project failure itself. In countries like Barbados and other small island nations we’ve seen many instances where sharp-talking operators throw around some seed money and the locals and their governments just lie down like slaves. (Ever heard of Sir Allen Stanford?) Individuals, communities and governments become so deeply invested in an unsustainable venture that they develop a kind of tunnel vision that prevents them from cutting their losses and getting the hell out. In the recent past there was enough Bajan credit and government money floating around that politicians could bail out their mistakes to at least delay a collapse until after the next election or their retirement.
But as we’ve seen, the old rules are taking a beating everywhere.
Is Harlequin too big to fail? Is Harlequin too big to allow it to fail in Barbados? Are Bajan politicians and our country’s prestige so heavily invested that folks have tunnel vision?
We don’t know the answers to those questions – but we do know that these photos of the H Hotel construction site give us the chills for Barbados and the folks who have their money tied up in Harlequin…
Photos from February and March, 2012…
(Click each photo to see large version)
Photos taken July 18, 2012…
Our thanks to a friend for the photos