Opposition Senator Damani Tabor said he does not believe the government’s claim that there’s a shortage of local construction workers thus they had to turn to foreigners for the Royalton Hotel project.
The government announced this week that the employment of Dominican Republic nationals was necessary because the majority of local construction workers are engaged in other government projects across the island.
Government’s chief of staff, Lionel “Max” Hurst said that the contractors were working towards a deadline and needed the manpower, so foreign nationals had to be employed.
But Tabor said the entire excuse is “laughable”.
“For ‘Max’ Hurst to claim that they imported all of these workers because all the Antiguans are sapped up in some construction boom, some ghost boom that does not exist is laughable,” Tabor told OBSERVER media.
The United Progressive Party (UPP) spokesman said that for the government to give the impression that the construction workforce in Antigua has been exhausted, is absurd.
Tabor said Antiguans have not been given priority in any major government development.
“You asked him for the exact number of Antiguans working on the project and he refused to give a number and the reason is that a vast majority of these gentlemen who are brought in from the Dominican Republic, and I just want to say that none of the high-quality hotel project or the 50 small properties, failed to have a majority of Antiguans,” he added.
Hurst insisted that it was necessary to import foreign workmen to complete the Royalton Resort on time.
Last year the then Royal Antigua Resort, located at Deep Bay, was sold to the Canadian company, Sunwing Travel Group, for US $27 million.
This occurred after Issa Nicholas of Trinidad and Tobago bought the hotel for US $18 million in 2004, with a performance clause to spend US $12 million to upgrade it to a first-class conference centre that was left dilapidated for years.
Nicholas later sold the property to Sunwing for a profit.