I wish to register my disappointment in the way our most significant Caribbean hotel chain and its principal owner, Gordon “Butch” Stewart has been publicly abused and insulted in Antigua & Barbuda. And up and early may I mention Yida who is most foreign, not a Caribbean relative, and has not yet performed, but has been pulled close to the chest and given an entire Economic Zone to do as they please. Yida does not have to ask for exemption on anything because they are, for all intents and purposes, a State within a State.
“Butch”, as he is fondly called by all and sundry has been a strong support of Antigua & Barbuda from the first day they he came to Antigua, and I personally know, because I have handled his aircraft and watched the man grow in love for this little island.
Sadly, for all the years that I handled his plane he was never made to feel threatened enough to need security on his plane until this week. A state of war against “Butch” and Sandals was clearly declared, and so the investor wisely required his private plane to be put under 24-hour security on the ground at the airport – first time!
Years ago, when Baldwin Spencer in opposition sued Dato Tan, the Indonesian investor, he got a tongue-lashing from the then ALP administration and became the politician of ridicule who sues and runs investors. Yida has inherited this same property and, as we have said, now owns a state in our country. So, what do we call those who are doing everything in their power to downgrade all the good that the Sandals brand has done for the economy of Antigua & Barbuda?
Let us look at how we in Antigua seduce investment by concessions. Half Moon Bay was built on the finest beach and lands which were given away to Mr Kelsick for cents per acre in order to have a hotel which fed off Mill Reef spillover; Jolly Beach with its massive swamp and mangroves (all removed) were sold to Dr Erhart for cents, also to build our marina hotel; the Nicholsons were given Nelson’s Dockyard to establish the most historic yachting marina in the Eastern Caribbean at no cost; Hawksbill Hotel was given the best package of concessions for the special lease which assured their profits; and last but not least by any means, Allen Stanford bought our airport lands for US $0.59 per square foot and valued it in his empire at US $100 per square foot the day after the purchase, inflated by the quantum of concessions given by this administration.
So, what is the real reason for this disdain meted out to “Butch”? I feel his pain, because I see all of our black Antiguan and Caribbean investors treated like unwanted ‘nuff and edge-up’ people trying to ‘get in’ the circle of approved investors in Antigua. We have to beg and crawl on our bellies if we are to be accepted by these rulers, and this excluded none, there is always an issue which forces us to negotiate for that which is given gladly to our Foreign Direct Competition.
Some of us refuse to crawl on our bellies; we will stand up and shut down the business first!