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APNU rejects private sector’s concerns about anti-Marriott comments

The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has accused A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) of scaring away investors from major multimillion dollar projects but that opposition coalition on Wednesday refused to recant its position that the Marriott Hotel project is a bad investment.

PSC Chairman, Ronald Webster on October 17 wrote Opposition Leader, David Granger expressing its “profound dissatisfaction” about APNU frontbencher Joseph Harmon putting banks on notice that APNU would be very reluctant to honour any commitment made by Atlantic Hotel Inc; National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) because the hotel project lacks economic justification and has not won parliamentary approval.

But Granger said APNU saw nothing wrong with Harmon’s comments and they could not affect business climate more than NICIL’s unsatisfactory operations. “I have not seen that anything that Mr. Harmon said was untrue,” said Granger. He added that NICIL’s conduct has a greater impact on the perception of foreign and domestic investors about how the country is being managed.

Harmon added that none of his statements were new and they included concerns about NICIL and AHI’s refusal to provide the findings of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the project, no action taken on a parliamentary approved motion on that project and government’s refusal to identify investors in the project.

The APNU parliamentarian vowed to stick by his statements in the face of continuing contempt for Guyanese by AHI and NICIL. He did not believe that his already well publicized utterances would adversely impact on Guyana’s investment climate including increased political risk. “I don’t know that it is going to create any confusion where political risk is concerned. People must be warned. They must know any how that when you are going to invest in projects that do not have the support from the opposition then you are taking a risk any how,” he said.
Harmon shrugged off the PSC’s view that his comments would heavily impact on the future cost of capital and erode the private sector and Guyana’s access to international finance. “What I say represents the interest of the Guyanese people.”

Despite the business organisation’s concerns about his comments, Harmon does not plan to refuse the PSC’s invitation to discuss the objectives and implications of its policies. He assured that he did hold any personal grudge.

The PSC complained to Granger that Harmon’s statements had far reaching and very serious negative investment consequences for all private businesses in the country, most especially those which are seeking to access capital overseas.“We ask that APNU appreciate that political statements of this nature, made by a senior member of the major party in opposition, impact on the political risk of every business as it can be interpreted that we are a country which cannot be trusted by an investor to honour its international obligations,” said Webster.

Webster said the PSC expected the leadership of APNU to fully understand that it is dangerous for any state wishing to attract investment to be known as one which does not honour its legal obligations. “It should be appreciated that agreements entered into by the State transcend government.”

APNU’s putting banks on notice, according to Harmon, were extremely premature and suggested that a large regional financial institution had not performed its due diligence “Such a presumption is unwarranted and can only be seen as a political threat to intimidate foreign investors and financial institutions from supporting projects sponsored by the government.

On the aspect of APNU not necessarily abiding by any contract entered into by the current government, the PSC said it was “entirely improper” for any political party or parliament to pronounce on a matter deliberately intended to undermine the contractual obligation of the State.

The PSC questioned APNU’s logic of pushing for job creation, economic development and the improved welfare of the society while being opposed to projects such as the Airport Expansion, Specialty Hospital, Amaila Falls and now the Marriott Hotel.