Folks, seems there’s trouble in paradise. Based on the bombshell document that was filed in our High Court last week, a big investor with special economic zone (SEZ) privileges, is suing another with the self-same privileges, for a tidy sum of money. Of course, we here at NEWSCO are not surprised at this embarrassing spectacle of one special investor suing the other for non-payment of monies owed. We always felt that these investors were all flash and no substance.
One would have thought that these special investors had sufficiently deep pockets to make good on monies that they owe. After all, in light of our government’s supposed due diligence on those to whom they were giving away the store, Antigua and Barbuda should be awash with benefits. Sigh! Sadly, that has not been the case. Seems, our genius administration has been snookered by the two-bit special economic zone (SEZ) investors. We have played warri with them, and we are getting “no-seed!”
That is, except he of a high place – the same good gentleman who negotiated the indefensible and odious SEZ deals. Seems, he is getting a neat US$20,000 per month from one of the principals of one of the SEZ entities for rental of his mansion. Hmmmm! Not bad for a day’s worth of negotiating. Our negotiator-in-chief negotiates a sweetheart deal for himself.
To be sure, ever since the collapse of the highly-touted YIDA agreement, we suspected that the shysters who wink and sign these deals have no real money. They arrive at our shores with precious little in their empty briefcases, and hoodwink desperate governments such as ours. They proffer all sorts of lame excuses as to why their monies are being held up in the lands from whence they came, and they get concession after concession, becoming States within a State, even as they fail miserably to deliver on the vast sums (Eg: EC$200 million per year) that they promise would be forthcoming. As you can imagine, the SEZ investors are laughing all the way to the bank. And why not? They cannot believe their good fortune. After travelling all over the world, unsuccessfully looking for fatuous leaders who can be easily fooled, they encounter cluelessness, and much personal greed, in high places right here in St. John’s. For them, taking this blessed country to the cleaners is much like taking candy from a three-year-old kid, never mind the supposed smarts of our negotiator-in-chief. Chupz!
The ugly disagreement between one SEZ investor and the other should be quite an embarrassment to he of a high place, assuming that he has any modicum of statesmanship. But he does not, and he will stand on his soapbox and twist himself into a pretzel, desperately trying to convince anyone who cares to listen, that the SEZs which he signed are good for Antigua and Barbuda. He speaketh in vain!
Here is the poop on the squabble between one SEZ investor and the other. Seems, the SEZ investor up at Crabbs, he who once made like Brer Anancy, shedding crocodile tears on national television, while professing love and good intentions for Antigua and Barbuda; he who theatrically wiped his eyes when talking about not feeling appreciated by the people of Antigua and Barbuda; he who declared that he is willing to pull up stakes and leave our fair shores, except that our good PM has persuaded him to stay put, is raging mad. According to him, he is being stiffed to the tune of US$$425,000.00 by the other SEZ in the Jennings/Five Islands area. Of course, in our minds, the fact that the SEZ entity up at Crabbs is willing to go to Court, suing the Jennings/Five Islands SEZ entity after only a handful of months of allegedly being stiffed, tells us that the Crabbs entity is desperate for funds. It also tells us that the Jennings/Five Islands SEZ entity is stone-cold broke. The two big SEZ briefcases are empty!
In a submission to the High Court of Justice in Antigua and Barbuda dated 06/01/22, YIDA International Investment Antigua Limited (Crabbs) is the claimant alleging that Western Imperial Capital Limited (Jennings/Five Islands) owes it monies for leased property. According to the Court filing, “By an agreement dated and signed 18th June 2021, it was agreed that the Claimant would lease the ABSEZ Complex and two villas situate at the ABSEZ to the Defendant under a lease agreement from 1st July 2021 to 1st July 2022. It was agreed that US$100,000.00 would be paid by the Defendant 10 days after the signing of the agreement and that the rental would be paid on a quarterly basis in the amount of US$300,000.00/quarter at the beginning of each quarter beginning 1st July 2021. It was subsequently agreed between the parties that the quarterly rent due would be reduced by 50% so that the quarterly payment would be US$150,000.00/quarter. . . .To date, the Defendant has only paid to the Claimant the sum of US$125,000.00 including payments of US$50,000.00 and $25,000.00 made on 19th November 2021 and a payment of US$50,000.00 made on 17th December 2021. On account of the foregoing, the Defendant is in breach of the lease agreement, and the sum of US$425,000.00 is now due and payable to the Claimant. . . .” Hmmmm!
Western Imperial seems to be in a bad way. Normally, when relationships such as these are in their infancy, the lessees try to pay on time in order to build credibility and goodwill. Not so with these Western Imperial folks. From the outset, they are proving to be deadbeats. It’s a tawdry affair, and one that does not portend well for the future. Needless to say, we suspect that there will be more acrimony in the weeks and months ahead, and he of a high place will be left with more egg on his face. After all, he brought these two entities together with the weird and gratuitous language contained in both SEZ agreements.
We found it quite senseless that the Western Imperial Medical Centre (WIMC) was opening its doors on the YIDA property. Something seemed incongruent to those of us who reside in the real world. We also found the grand opening ceremony at the WIMC to be anything but grand. It was a sparsely attended affair, in big empty rooms, with a few strategically placed gurneys and other cheap medical paraphernalia lying around for the photo op. And despite the obligatory ‘happy talk,’ the few attendees looked like they were going to a funeral. It was that bad!
And what’s more, is the downright awful condition of the YIDA property itself. There is grass and bush everywhere. The perimeter fence and the main entrance are rusted and decrepit. The signage at the main entrance appears as though it was put together by a primary school student. (With apologies to primary school students). Indeed, the signage on the building being rented by WIMC to house the supposed university, also appears quite amateurish. The area surrounding the university is unkempt, in desperate need of serious landscaping. If the grand opening was designed to be a glitzy affair (as are most grand-openings) to attract medical students from abroad, it failed miserably. No self-respecting medical student would waste precious time and money studying there.
Meanwhile, with the sort of ‘catfighting’ that we are seeing so early in the relationship between YIDA and WISEZ, the future does not look bright. Not that Antiguans and Barbudans much care, because either way, WE GET NO BENEFIT!!! For shame! Of course, he of a high place will care. After all, with the slacker record of the WISEZ, when it comes to paying their bills, he of a high place could soon be taking them to court for monies owed for their rental of his mansion. Don’t laugh, folks! Truth is stranger than fiction; you can’t make this stuff up.