A Barbados government deal will bring Hard Rock to the country but a politician has taken issue with promotion of a foreign culture over Barbadian, loss of taxpayers’ money and a drain on foreign exchange.
Opposition Barbados Labour Party political candidate, Marsha Caddle, has slammed government’s deal to remodel one of its properties, the Blue Horizon Hotel, into a hospitality venue under the American Hard Rock brand.
In a deal not announced until the Nation Newspapers broke the story earlier this month, officials through a special purpose company ceded control of the hotel in a private / public partnership arrangement with the new majority business owners stating that their plan is to make the property into a Hard Rock Hotel that celebrates the American spirit of rock-n-roll.
“I find it unthinkable that we would have to take a state asset, a hotel, and turn it into a Hard Rock Hotel that is meant to showcase the icons of somebody else’s culture, that no matter what is the nature of the partnership — public / private — that runs the hotel that would see the repatriation of earnings to wherever the ownership is,” she said.
Caddle, an economist who last worked for the Caribbean Development Bank before taking up political candidacy, noted that Barbados is currently in a scramble to earn foreign exchange.
“And our approach to that is to create a foreign brand, bring it here and then possibly repatriate 100 per cent, or some percentage of the earnings,” she said, pointing out that all the cultural imports will have to be paid for in foreign currency.
The Central Bank earlier this month reported the island’s foreign exchange reserve at Bar$635.5 million (Bar$1 = .50 cents US), enough money to pay for 9.7 weeks of imports into the island, and the lowest since the last 1990s.
“We have icons too,” she said and suggested, “we might have a cricket legends of Barbados hotel.”
Caddle contended that with a hotel showcasing Barbados’ world renowned cricket legends as she suggested, it could open markets in newsplaces such as India, South Africa, Pakistan, along with the traditional English who make up the bulk of the island’s tourists.
She argued that these are “markets that understand cricket as a product, and would be [happy] to be a part of that experience. That is a world class international brand.”
The economist also criticized the partnership deal in which government gives 51 per cent owner ship to a business group for Bar$5 million and retains the remainder of asset value.
Pointing out that hotel had been valued at Bar$10 million and the initial asking price was Bar$15 million but government settled on Bar$5 million, she said there was a lack of accountability in the deal.