Four Seasons Barbados wants your pension money

UPDATED: October 11, 2011

“Dear BFP,

Would you please comment on Finance Minister Sinckler’s insistence that NIS invest millions of our dollars in the Four Seasons project. Is this another CLICO in the making?” (from BFP reader “E”)

BFP says:

Hi “E” We sure will comment on this!

Our Minister of Finance came out yesterday with some very disturbing statements about the Four Seasons project disaster. Minister Sinckler told the press that the “government gives its word” that the project will be completed.

Put down your Coke before reading this or it will go up your nose…

Sinckler was in “full bullshit mode” (pardon our French) and says…

“Massive Returns…”

“Now if the Inter-American Development Bank [IDB] and others with their extensive expertise and expansive due diligence and investment analysis have looked at this project inside out, and have determined that it is a viable project that can bring massive returns to investor and country, why on earth would Barbados want to turn its back on this project?”

Finance Minister Chris Sinckler as quoted in The Nation: Government’s word

For Mr. Sinckler: Lesson 101 – Private sector investment vs. “investing” our tax money

The private sector walked from the Four Seasons “investment” because it is not viable. Now Sinckler and the DLP Government want to “invest” OUR PENSION MONEY in a project that the private sector has abandoned.

NO. Not one more dollar of public money, Mr. Sinckler.

This is an election issue. It might be THE election issue.

Not one more dollar. Mr. Sinckler and Prime Minister Stuart are badly misreading the public on this. We have nothing left to give and I’ll be damned if I will let you place my grandchildren in debt over this.

Name all the investors that our tax money will rescue! How many politicians or close family members are already invested in Four Seasons, Mr. Sinckler? Who are we bailing out?

Not one more dollar of public money. Not one dollar of our pension money.

The line is drawn.

Original story published September 28, 2011…

It’s called the “American Standard” investment!

Mega-project wants a public money bailout with no sure way to assess the future value or success.

“Do any current or previous members of government or their family members have a stake in this project? I want full disclosure before one more dollar of public money is placed at risk.”

Dear Barbados Free Press

The executive chairman of Paradise Beach Limited, Professor Avinash Persaud, wants $80 million of Barbadians’ pension funds to get the “stalled” Four Seasons project going again.

He says the company could go to outsiders for the funds, but as a special favour to Barbados, he’s letting us in on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to…

… To pour more public funds into a major project that can’t find private funding in a recession where tourism is tanking? To shore up underground caves that should have been found before the project started? (See Barbados Today Project push for Four Seasons Resort)

That’s quite an opportunity.

The Barbados government on our behalf has already guaranteed a $120 million bank loan on the project and that really made a difference (guffaw, cough, cough). Now they want more or else I suppose we’ll lose our $120 million dollars.

It sounds like that old story where if you owe the bank some money, the bank owns you – but if you owe big money you own the bank.

Only in this case, Paradise Beach Limited owns our pension funds and future. The government is already so far in that big money is already at risk.

How much of the project does Barbados own now? How much more money to completion? Can the project ever be profitable considering the costs?

What percentage of units have to sell at what price and during what time period to meet the interest payments? What occupancy rate at what room price for how many years for the hotel to function, perform reasonable maintenance and pay off the loans?

I doubt our government ‘experts’ know the answer to those questions any more than I do.

My opinion: Not another public dollar for the Four Seasons project.

Not one. Instead, take that $80 million NIS money (assuming it really exists as cash and in this I have my doubts) and buy Apple stock. It’s probably a much wiser, more profitable and lower risk decision.

If Avinash Persaud wants my pension money, tell him to put everything he and his family have into the project, all the family assets, and put himself at the end of the line for a payout. Once he is personally invested in the manner that he wants the Barbados public to invest – then I’ll listen to him.

The same goes for the other big ups who have a piece of the Four Seasons pie: get fully invested in the project and promise not to take a dollar out until the public is paid back. Then we’ll talk.

One final thought: Do any current or previous members of government or their family members have a stake in this project? I want full disclosure before one more dollar of public money is placed at risk.

Yours truly,

(Name given to BFP but withheld on request)

Further Reading

Friends, you should head on over to Barbados Today to read the following article, but as usual we have to reprint the whole thing because the Bajan news media makes it a habit to remove or change stories to suit whatever agenda is fashionable.

Barbados Today –  Season to invest

by Wade Gibbons

The board of the National Insurance Scheme is expected to make a decision soon on whether it will allow Four Seasons’ developers to access $80 million from its Pension Fund to get the stalled project moving again.

Barbados TODAY investigations have revealed that a proposal to invest in the project was made to the NIS board by executive chairman of Paradise Beach Limited, Professor Avinash Persaud. The two parties reportedly met again earlier today.

Sources said the comprehensive package presented to the board had met with favourable verbal response. Government has been very supportive of the project from the outset. Efforts to get a comment from Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler were unsuccessful. It is understood that he is overseas.

When contacted, Persaud confirmed the approach to the NIS and said that having made substantial advance in negotiations on a $180 million credit facility, developers were now concentrating on raising equity.

He said he believed that the region’s assets were not sufficiently owned by “ordinary citizens”. He added that as part of the process of “democratising and regionalising” the ownership of Four Seasons, an approach for investment had also been made to other national insurance schemes across the region.

“Four Seasons is the Gucci of hotel brands. It is the very top brand and ordinary citizens of this reason have never had the opportunity before, and probably never in the future, to own a piece of that brand.

“As a result of that I am going the extra mile to regionalise and localise the ownership of the assets. It would be easier for us simply to raise the money overseas and we have already spoken to many overseas investors,” he said.

Persaud revealed that Four Seasons Hotels Limited, which was a manager and an operator, was also “seriously considering” an investment in the Black Rock, St Michael development. He did not go into details of the presentation made to the NIS, noting it would be inappropriate since negotiations were at a delicate stage.

A source close to the negotiations said today Paradise Beach Limited had received a very strong response from regional investors but were in somewhat of a Catch-22 position.

“If we raise all the money from outside Barbados they will be people who will complain that we did not give the opportunity to Barbadians. If we raise all the money inside Barbados the same people will complain that we couldn’t get overseas investors. You can’t win,” he noted.

The source said he expected the approach to the NIS to be politicised for “narrow, self-serving” reasons but that the Four Seasons project had all positives for Barbados and not a “single negative”.

“This project will give such a major financial injection to the local economy that it can only benefit Barbadians, and I guess, any Government that is in power. So one can expect, for political reasons, some people trying to throw cold water on this approach to Government,” he said.

Government has previously guaranteed a $120 million ANSA McAL Bank Merchant loan for Four Seasons.

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42 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Business & Banking, Offshore Investments

42 responses to “Four Seasons Barbados wants your pension money

  1. Clueless Bajan

    MORE money down a hole!!! -a la CLICO, Trade Confirmers and goodness knows how many others yet to come.

  2. Micah

    This project has seemed to be stalled for some time, and that does not engender confidence that it is a viable of worthwhile one at least at the moment. Since the Government (i.e. taxpayer money) is involved already in the financial arrangements for the Four Seasons project, it would seem that it already has in significant local investment. I am a bit nervous about NIS (i.e. my pension) money being used for this purpose.

  3. X

    Persaud has lost much of the credibility he once had – what a shame. This person has a great point, let Persaud put his own money where his mouth is.

  4. Peltdownman

    There should be absolutely no way! The Barbados government has already given a guarantee. People like Persaud are trained to make projects look good financially. If experienced potential investors outside the country are unwilling to invest, there is a reason. We should run a mile from this suggestion until we see some private sector entities or individuals willing to invest.

  5. rasta man

    Did not know that the NIS was into “LENDING” money!!!!

  6. Adrian Loveridge

    I wonder why ‘we’ never seem to learn.
    How much did GEMS (Hotels and Resorts Ltd) get from the NIS?
    More taxpayer monies to compete with the private sector. How many more hotels have to close? (32 so far and counting).

  7. FearPlay

    DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH A DAMNED CENT OF NIS MONEY. What the hell does government think NIS funds are there for? Gambling? NIS monies are not to be viewed like the Consolidated Fund. Next thing we will be hearing is that the NIS cannot pay pensions because of a short-fall and retirement age will be advanced to age 85 or some such nonsense after increasing contributions once again.

  8. canajan

    How much money does Four Seasons have invested in Paradise Beach Limited?

    This from Wickepedia

    “Business model
    Four Seasons does not own most of its properties; it operates them on behalf of real estate owners and developers. The contracts between Four Seasons and property owners typically permits the company to participate in the design of the property and run it with nearly total control over every aspect of the operation.

    Four Seasons generally earns 3 percent of the gross income and approximately 5 percent of profits from the properties it operates, and the property owners are required to additionally contribute money for chain-wide sales, marketing and reservations systems. Four Seasons hotels have larger staffs than competing chains, therefore they create a separate reserve accounts to cover upkeep costs. While profit margins are relatively low, the reputation of the brand and the value of the hotel for sale as well as loan collateral generates developer interest”

    Apparently this project has not generated sufficient developer interest.

    If Four Seasons is simply going to manage the hotel and service the villas for a management fee, but has no skin in the game, why would anyone even consider commiting the pensions of ordinary Barbadian citizens to bail out a private sector venture which was announced over six years ago?

  9. Wily Coyote

    My limited superficial evaluation of the present NIS Fund to Government Loans does not look good. It would appear that almost 70%(available released government documentation) of the NIS Fund is presently on LOAN to the government for various under performing projects. These projects in no way will “To maximize return on investment for the Fund”, in fact these loans will likely result in significant if not total losses. This is no doubt why the government has chosen not to a Financial Audit since 2007.

    If I were now or a future Barbadian pensioner the ALARM BELLS should be ringing.

  10. English Bajan Gal

    Under NO circumstances at all, should the Government put anymore money into the Four Seasons project let alone “lending” out the people’s pension money. That is a very risky situation to put your citizens in. What if the money is not repaid?? What then?? Legal steps should be taken to prevent the government from lending out money at all. It is not for that use, it is for the use of its citizens. What the hell are ordinary citizens going to do with Four Seasons? They aint selling, no overseas investors are putting their money into it and the government should not either. I find this absolutely shocking that someone would have the cheek to even ask for the money.

  11. millertheanunnaki

    @ English Bajan Girl

    Girl, you wasting your breath; just like me a Bajan boy. This deal involves a lot of kickbacks, fees and commissions. Never mind the viability of the project or expected profitability of the venture, the boys and girls are all lined up at the pig’s trough. From the chairmen on both sides of the rip-off venture to the politicians, bureaucrats, bankers and lawyers. All are waiting for a piece of the action. Middle age Barbadians, there go your NI contributions and any prospect of a state pension. Expect to die before receiving on red cent. Another CLICO scheme in the making! You have been warned, Bajans!

  12. Cup Cake

    I think the first point should be for Mr. Persaud to tell Bajans how much money he has draw since being involved in the project. Is it hundreds of thousands, millions or tens of millions?

    This man has drawn a ball of money since 2009 and if we use a simple yardstick, he and the project has been a failure. In 2009 the project was shut, years later and tens of millions spent and the project is still in the position…..SHUT.

    Persaud no more money for you, get out of Dodge.

  13. Peltdownman

    As I read Persaud’s comments again, it is clear that they are nothing more than a “snow job”, not even a very sophisticated one. He can’t get the money from anywhere else, so he “big ups” the begging bowl by appealing to regional and local sensitivities. Read this statement carefully:

    ““If we raise all the money from outside Barbados they will be people who will complain that we did not give the opportunity to Barbadians. If we raise all the money inside Barbados the same people will complain that we couldn’t get overseas investors. You can’t win,” he noted.”

    Get it? This project will be worse than GEMS and future pensioners would do well to be very wary.

  14. Beefcake

    Maybe the pensioners can go to live at Four Seasons once it is complete?
    LOL

  15. David Thompson

    Is it true Super Centre is owed millions by National Insurance and no longer accepts NIS cheques?

  16. Random Thoughts

    I been paying into NIS for more than 40 years.

    I’ve only taken 4 weeks sick leave during that time, over the 40 year period I’ve averaged about 4 hours of sick leave per year. I’ve taken zero maternity benefits. I’ve taken zero unemployment benefits.

    If NIS doesn’t have my pension money ready for me when I ready to retire heads will roll.

    It will be time for the Barbados Spring.

  17. Random Thoughts

    ““Four Seasons is the Gucci of hotel brands. It is the very top brand and ordinary citizens of this reason have never had the opportunity before, and probably never in the future, to own a piece of that brand.”

    Why is Avinash Persad trying to sell me the Gucci (or Four Seasons) brand name, when all I can afford is a pair of rubber slippers?.

    Once upon a time we understood that to have champagne taste and mauby pockets led to financial ruin.

  18. Random Thoughts

    If Persaud and the boys would like me to invest in the Four Seasons project, then offer me some shares, then I can decide if to use my next meeting turn $1,200 to buy some a shares.

    But no way my pension money. If I do not spend my pension money on me, why should I spend it on Avi’s pet project?

    As of now I am required to work for 49 years before I can get my full National Insurance pension. I am sure that Avi and the boys do not plan to work for 49 straight years.

    The government has already changed the pension rules on me once, by changing my retirement age from 65 to 67. So now they want me to work, and work, and work, and work and drop dead so that I cannot draw my NIS pension; even while Members of Parliament can retire with a full pension after a mere 10 years of Parliamentary service.

    I knew that Four Seasons was an idiot project from the beginning of the project when I went to Batt’s Rock Beach, Barbados and saw how the “developers” had raped the site.

  19. rasta man

    @Random Thoughts: More than heads will roll if I do not get my BAICO money!!!!

  20. Ady Hotep

    Persaud sounds like a conman you don’t thow good money after bad. Four Seasons project dead in the water. Any further finance HAS to been private NOT public.

  21. Barbadosbeachesforitspeople

    The Four Seasons project should be fined massively for the environmental devastation they have caused to that site, and when they can’t pay the fine it should be compulsorily acquired by the government without compensation. Part of it should be returned to nature, part of it developed as a place where ordinary tourists AND Barbadians can go to the beach with their families, a kind of West coast Barclays Park. It is not just Bajans whose experience of the island is affected by so many inaccessible beaches (only the rockiest and/or most dangerous ones seem to be left to the public) but visitors.

  22. 123

    VERILY VERILY VERILY
    patience is a BITTER BITTER BITTER plant that
    produces a VERY VERY VERY …………….sweet SWEET sweet
    ………..FRUIT…………..
    MOTHER NATURE

  23. Green Monkey

    @Barbadosbeachesforitspeople

    You present an enticing vision of what could be. . Unfortunately, since that vision flies in face of the short term, economic imperative to turn as much as possible of the rapidly diminishing natural capital of Barbados into ugly, lifeless, sterile concrete and pavement such a suggestion is unlikely to receive any support from politicians or the financial movers and shakers who, by and large, finance the election campaigns of our politicians.

  24. John

    Neal and Massey is calling for $50 million from NIS fund to finance a purchase of its stake in the Almond Beach Hotel!!

    Avinash ain’t got a hope of getting his $80 million out of NIS!!

    Why build a big able hotel when an existing big able hotel is in trouble.

    … and then of course there is CLICO that’s going to be wanting money too!!

  25. Pingback: Release My Pension Money

  26. 226

    after paying out about 12 million to clear off the back debts, the rest of the money raised in Trinidad is now apparently “missing”.

  27. millertheanunnaki

    Excellent observation! Perhaps the Four Seasons Chairman can engender a measure of confidence in the project by letting us know the loan proceeds are being distributed. After all, the loan is guaranteed by the GoB, and by extension, the taxpayers of Barbados.

    Dr. P, a simple account is what we require. By the way, have any principal or interest been repaid to date and by whom?. If not, how much interest has accrued to date?

  28. J. Payne

    Barbados is borrowing money left right and centre like Argentina before their crash. Its a shame too…

  29. Esther Tudor Burton

    Time is of the essence for the people on the island Barbados. free up the systems and let the people live. free up the systems and let the people should have been done 8 years or so ago. live together care and share or die together like fools. Pray and pray without ceasing. It is the closing of the material age. plant more food and store more water.climate change will soon get us. then no tourist, then what? higher food prices. shall not the blind lead the blind and they all fall in a pit. blind leaders.

  30. Serious Doubt

    Seeing as Sinckler has just boasted about how much money the NIS has, it is more than likely that the money has been promised already, and he is priming us for the announcement. But this is public money, and we as investors in the NIS, have a right to see a detailed accounting of where any money already spent has gone, together with a financial plan as to how the NIS will be paid back. This financial plan should be based on REALISTIC estimates, and not on some fairy tale of what the developers would like to see. This means that they should be based on the worse case scenario. It won’t fly. It just won’t fly!

  31. millertheanunnaki

    I would support the investing of NIS funds on the following condition:

    Let Minister Sinckler, Chairman of the NIS and Dr. Persaud use their excellent understanding of investment risk and marketing skills to bring together a consortium of investors made up as follows:

    NIS funds
    COW
    JADA
    SOL
    Ansa Mcal
    Neal & Massey
    Jordan & Toppin recent windfall
    Avinash Estate
    Marshall Estate
    Sinckler chattel house soon to be a mansion
    Lashley county homes
    DB ill-gotten gains from the dingy marina

    After all, here is an excellent opportunity for Bajans to make loads of money just like CLICO!

  32. condo man

    I understand the professor earns GBP 50 000.00 per month from Paradise

  33. millertheanunnaki

    @condo man”
    Sounds like a good ball park figure of his consultancy fees payable to Capital Intelligence. Now people should know how the balance of US 60 million is being siphoned off!
    Listen to Boosy! He was once part of the rip-off brigade but has lost his place and is now a squealer.

  34. I told you so

    This government trying to crash this economy or what ?

  35. I told you so

    The country does not have any money ok. Our tourism is finished and all the other areas that make up our economy are in trouble. My wife went to collect some money from a pension cheque the other day for my mother in law at the post office and the cashier told her that he did not have that kind of money. I thought this was strange but then the other day they wanted to send the pensions to the banks but they pulled back from that. I suspect that we have not heard the last of that one.

    Voting for a different party is not the solution since both of our political parties are being manipulated and controlled by one source. It is called World Government and the sooner we understand this the better. We are forced to take loans which we cannot repay and then the people are taxed
    in order to repay these loans.

    Ask yourselves this question. Why would a government continue on a project which is not viable as shown by the private sector. What is up with the 120 million dollar loan. It is not about the project, it is about putting the country in further debt and raiding the peoples pensions to stall the economy and further make us slaves to that debt. Look at what is happening in the states and other World Economies: the same system is being implemented.

  36. TEMPORARY

    All,

    Wunna better listen to Boos yah, dat man mekking alot of sense. It is one thing to rack up oddles of debt and blow the consolidated fund as politicians like to do but it is other thing altogether to let them get their hands on the NIS funds.

    CAN ANYONE TELL US HOW WELL THE INVESTMENT MADE BY THE NIS IN THE BARBADOS HILTON HAS BEEN PERFORMING, IS IT NOT TRUE THAT WAS IT NOT FOR THE ANNUAL SUBSIDY BY THE GOB OF NEEDHAMS POINT HOLDINGS, THE NIS COULD NOT GET A RETURN ON THEIR INVESTMENT?

  37. invest?

    rasta man

    “Did not know that the NIS was into “LENDING” money!!!!”

    No it’s not

    that would require a return on investment

    Its called “burning” money that doesn’t belong to them

    let a private honest investor take the risk for 50% of the profit, tax free and the NIS gets paid back first from sales.

    That way everyone wins and government gets back the money it has already pi__ed down the drain

  38. rasta man

    Min Sinclair says that the NIS has money to burn and nowhere to invest it. Maybe some of these excess funds could go to the policy holders of CLICO and BAICO.

  39. Notunusual

    The politicians are between a rock and a hard place, revenues have fallen, the Civil Service is way too expensive for the size of our economy. All western economies need growth at a time when it is not happening. I would say that the NIS position must be made pubilic and clear, all financial statements brought up to date BEFORE any loan can be considered. Further, if as Avi says they can get overseas financing, then do it. That is a no brainer. If they can’t get overseas financing, then say so publicly. We do need job creation, we do need to reduce the expense of Government. It just seems that Govt spends it’s money foolishly. Small roundabouts at a fraction of the cost and time would have sufficed, I could do without them. I suggest the Govt sell the Hilton and use this to create a fund for further hotel development, maybe even a few dollars for the Four Seasons project. Obviously, this will take time and there is an election around the corner.

  40. Green Monkey

    Does this story from Las Vegas ring any bells?

    Busted flush: Las Vegas on a losing streak

    Four years ago Las Vegas was the fastest-growing city in the US. Now it’s America’s foreclosure capital

    Opened in 2008, the Trump International stands back from Las Vegas Boulevard, the main thoroughfare known as the Strip. With its 1,250 rooms and 50 penthouse suites on 64 storeys, the Trump is far from being the largest of the steroid-pumped hotel resorts along the Strip – it does not even boast a casino – and yet, standing in its perfect isolation, its windows clad in 24ct gold, it resembles nothing so much as a huge shimmering tombstone, a metaphor for the near-death experience that Las Vegas, where ‘thinking big’ is what they do, has gone through in recent years.

    Beside the Trump Tower is a vacant lot that was once the site of the New Frontier hotel. Opened in 1942 – the second hotel to open on the Strip, and in Las Vegas terms a building of outstanding historical importance – the New Frontier was the scene of Elvis Presley’s first Las Vegas appearance in 1956, and was briefly owned by Howard Hughes. In 2007 it was imploded – in the traditional Las Vegas style – to make way for a new $8 billion luxury hotel, provisionally named the Las Vegas Plaza, which was originally scheduled to open in December 2011. But the developers, hamstrung by the financial paralysis that has engulfed the town, have yet to break ground.

    Beside the deserted site stand the skeletal steel foundations of another mega-resort, the Echelon. This was once the site of another historic Vegas casino, the Stardust, which was blown up in 2007. Plans for the Echelon include five hotels, a convention centre and a shopping centre, but construction was halted in 2008 when the American economy went into chronic relapse. The project’s owners, Boyd Gaming, say it will take several years and a further $4.8 billion to complete. Work will not be resuming any day soon.

    Across the street stands the uncompleted shining blue tower of the Fontainebleau, a $2.9 billion, 3,889-room, 68-storey hotel, condominium and casino development. Building halted in 2009 when the Fontainebleau became the largest commercial construction to go bankrupt in the US. The property eventually passed into the hands of the corporate raider Carl Icahn for a song; the local rumour is that he is waiting for the price of steel to rise, when the hotel will be imploded and sold for scrap.

    http://refreshingnews9.blogspot.com/2011/10/busted-flush-las-vegas-on-losing-streak.html

  41. Newbie

    As a contributing member of NIS and a Bajan citizen it is my opinion that NIS funds should not be used to finance any project such as Four Seasons. All the private banks that are bleeding their customers should be more than happy to invest in such private projects, it makes you wonder when they have very little interest.
    Was the NIS offered a piece of the supposedly profitable pie at the start of negotiations or are they an afterthought now that the project has run into trouble. Also I have no problem with Mr Persaud finding the investors outside of Barbados, I cannot afford to gamble with what little I have so feel free to leave me out of the equation, try offering Iranian investors a piece of the pie, I am sure they would love the chance to own a piece of Barbados.
    LEAVE BAJAN’S PENSION FUND ALONE!!
    I would bet that most politicians own private pensions so why should they care about what may happen to the NIS in years to come.

  42. Pingback: Four Seasons Bahamas was a disaster for investors. Why will Barbados be different? | Barbados Free Press