PM Browne wants Sandals feud to end

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“It is Sandals who is fighting us … as far as I am concerned, this issue is dead!”
Those were the declarations made by Prime Minister Gaston Browne who yesterday publicly chastised the chief executive officer of Sandals Grand Resort, Adam Stewart who accused the Antigua and Barbuda government of fighting the company and treating it unfairly.
Stewart first stressed that the company has been giving back its fair share to Antigua and Barbuda by buying local produce and educating its staff as well as donating money to environmental awareness and other community projects.
But, speaking passionately in a radio interview shortly after Stewart came off air, PM Browne said the company has failed to prove any allegation of unfair treatment while he reiterated a point he has been making for several months which is that Sandals was not paying its fair share in taxes like other hotels.
The PM further said, that contrary to Stewart’s claim, Sandals did not have a legally binding agreement with the government of Antigua and Barbuda as it relates to what was to be collected under the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax. It was only paying 35 percent of the ABST applied to room rates for the guest.
Stewart had this to say: “The thing that became unfortunate with the agreement is that we woke up and he [PM Browne] broke the agreement and we said we are to move forward and at no point in time was there any contention. At no point in time did we realise that the prime minister had an axe to grind with Sandals Resort.”
He said Sandals is now paying the requisite tax. Effective January 1 this year, the hotel was required to pay the full taxes after signing a Deed of Release and Settlement Claim with the government. In that settlement arrangement, dated December 2, 2016, the government waived over EC $101 million which it said Sandals owed since the agreement made for the reduction in taxes, starting in 2009, was flawed and contravened the law since it was not approved by the parliament.
While Sandals also signed the document, part of the settlement statement indicated that “without acknowledging or agreeing the said claim, Sandals has agreed with the government to settle the said issue and their differences whereby Sandals will pay ABST at the full statutory rate … thus waiving any rights to a discounted rate as from January 1, 2017.”
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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