Four Seasons Resort Buckles under Threat from Premier

 
This time the property has found itself caught up in a public scuffle with the Nevis Island Government and in particular its Premier and Minister of Finance, Joseph Parry. The issue explained Parry last Friday night (5th October, 2012), at a political rally in the Village of Fountain, is the resort’s refusal to pay huge sums of outstanding taxes that have been repeatedly demanded by local authorities.
 
Therefore, last weekend, an angry and obviously frustrated Parry issued an ultimatum to the hotel’s management, telling them in no uncertain terms, to “pay up” outstanding taxes owed to the Nevis Tourism Authority, or have its utilities disconnected.
 
In the end, the hotel buckled and on Monday (8th October) paid up the monies to avoid the obvious serious consequences that would have resulted had they refused the demands of the Premier.
 
At the rally, Parry told supporters of his Nevis Reformation Party, NRP, that the Four Seasons Resort owed the Nevis Tourism Authority a substantial amount of money but it was refusing to pay its bills to the statutory corporation which is responsible for the marketing of the destination. This said Parry was greatly affecting the Authority in its ability to carry-out its mandate.
 
Parry explained that the hotel had stated that since government also owed it money, the resort would not pay government until the Administration settled its outstanding amounts with the resort. But Parry indicated that the money Four Seasons was withholding was not theirs and was being held in trust for the Tourism Authority. The Premier however used the occasion of his public meeting to issue the ultimatum to the Four Seasons Resort, telling the management that if the money is not paid next week, they would be given 48 hours, and if at the end of that period the funds are still outstanding, government would disconnect the water and electricity supplies of the hotel.
 
“I am sending a warning to them tonight; come next week, when I say 48 hours, you better give us our money. Let somebody go and tell Four Seasons that Joseph Parry said so in Fountain tonight.” He said that if one understood the history behind his comments, one would better appreciate why he had to go public with his strong statement.
 
He explained that the matter had been brewing since last November when new legislation was passed to introduce a 2% Hotel Accommodation Tax on all hotels in Nevis. He said though all other hotels on the island, during a meeting, agreed to pay the tax, the Four Seasons unilaterally rejected the plan, saying that according to their agreement with the government no government legislation should affect them. Parry said for months he and his administration tried to reason with the management but the hotel continued to resist.
 
After the legislation was passed in November 2011, the new tax came into place from 1st January 2012, but still no payment was submitted by Four Seasons, while all the other hotels complied. The discussions continued but still no breakthrough. In the meantime the Four Seasons requested the approval of the government to increase an environmental levy that the hotel was charging its guests to help pay for a sea defence system in front of the property to help protect it from strong ocean waves and storm surge during the hurricane season. The government then suggested that since they had not yet paid the accommodation tax then they should split a portion of the increased levy with government, so that the Tourism Authority could receive funding, recognizing that the body was starved of money. Parry said however that the “hotel did not take us on.”
 
Thereafter the hotel wrote government indicating that they would begin paying the tax from 1st June, 2012; but for six months they ignored the government and Parry said despite that they still did not go public with the issue, they continued with their quiet discussions.
 
The Premier went on to explain that it was only last week while speaking with the CEO of the NTA, he was informed that the authority was facing some financial challenges. It was then that Parry was reminded that despite the commitment to pay from June, the hotel still was not paying the funds. He said when he contacted his Permanent Secretary for Finance, he said, “They said they are not giving us because we owe them some money.” Parry then called the hotel’s General Manager, Andrew Humphries but he said that he did not know anything about it, explained Parry.
 
Parry stated that having reached that stage, where they had been waiting for the payments for almost a year, it was felt that the government had to take some sort of drastic action to get its money. It was then that he said he decided to go public.
 
“You can’t allow (the) investors to control you or take over and do whatever they want to do with the country. And so I took a position based on the fact that as Premier of the country, to me, they were disrespecting me. They disrespected the country. They are disrespecting the people. We had to issue an ultimatum because we were being pushed around,” stated Mr. Parry.
 
However, two days after the ultimatum was issued, Parry said that he received a call on Sunday 7th October, from the resort’s General Manager, who told him that the government would receive the payment on Monday 8th October. Parry said this has been confirmed. The hotel said that they were also making a payment on other outstanding taxes owed to the government.
 
Government meanwhile has also provided the necessary Cabinet approval to have the Ministry of Finance settle its own debt with the hotel.
 
Parry was adamant when he stated, “They must not try to push us around and disrespect us.”

 

Montserrat Secondary School and Charlestown Secondary School Capture First Places in 2012 OECS Essay Competition

Tiffannie emerged winner of the age 14 – 16 category with her essay on the topic: “What Viable Steps Should OECS Countries Take to Stimulate Their Economies and Significantly Reduce National Debts?”  Tiffannie is of the view that OECS countries can achieve this goal by diversifying their economies to non-traditional industries and advancing agricultural industries. She suggests that member governments must set and achieve clear financial targets, cut the public sector wage bill and develop a privatisation strategy in order to reduce their national debt.

Al Flemming, who wrote on the topic: “Discuss the Role of Young People in Shaping the Future of the OECS”, won the age 17 – 19 category.  According to Al, “the single most important tool for optimal youth participation in the development process is quality education.”  Hence, young people should take advantage of every educational opportunity. He adds that young people need to be more entrepreneurial, embrace the OECS Economic Union and engage in advocacy and volunteerism.

The OECS Essay Competition is aimed at encouraging critical thinking and raising the awareness of secondary school students of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) on issues of economic development. The competition, which is part of the ECCB’s community outreach programme, is open to secondary school students in the eight member countries of the ECCU.

Three hundred and twenty-one (321) students from schools across the ECCU submitted entries. The essays were assessed for content, soundness of points, logical development knowledge of the subject, command of language and presentation.

Andy Scott of the Grenada Seventh Day Adventist Comprehensive School and Candace Greene of the Washington Archibald High School in St Kitts and Nevis were adjudged second and third place respectively in the age 14 – 16 category. While Tashaun Williams of the Washington Archibald High School and Theon Tross of the Charlestown Secondary School won second and third places respectively in the age 17 – 19 category.

The first place winners in each of the categories will each be awarded a $2,500 cash prize and a grant of $1,500 will be awarded to their respective schools.  The students who placed second will receive $1,500 and their schools will be presented with a grant of $1,000; while the third place winners will each receive $1,000 and their schools a grant of $500. 

The Antigua Girls High School will be awarded a grant of $500 for submitting the most entries.  Certificates of recognition will also be awarded to students in each category for the essays which did not place among the top three but were adjudged the best in the respective countries.

2012 OECS Essay Competition – Best in Country Winners

Name of Student

Country/School

Hackeem Alves

Anguilla – Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School

Divinia Byran

Antigua and Barbuda – Antigua Girls High School

Jade Alexander

Commonwealth of Dominica – Dominica Community High School

Kesan Samuel

Saint Lucia – Vieux Fort Comprehensive Secondary School, Campus B

Shanea Solomon

St Vincent and the Grenadines – St Vincent Girls’ High School

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