Adam Stewart stands strong against Gaston Browne’s Sandals allegations
The Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda Gaston Browne continued his volley of allegations against Sandals Resorts International (SRI), this time on Cliff Hughes’ Nationwide radio show in Jamaica.
SRI’s CEO Adam Stewart took the opportunity to go on the show yesterday, vehemently refuting the Antiguan Prime Minister’s claims.
Browne claimed that SRI was manipulating the Antiguan tax system for its own benefit, forcing the government to write off millions in taxes.
The Sandals CEO declared, “There is no tax write off. We were given legally binding concessions which they have chosen not to honour. Now they are claiming that our calculations as a result of the granted concessions are not right.”
Sandals has operated in Antigua since 1991, becoming one of the largest employers on the island. Stewart said that Sandals has made a concerted effort to employ Antiguans at every level of operations and favours using Antiguan products and services.
“At Sandals we very much believe in linkages and helping to boost the local Caribbean economies by engaging their goods and services. This is our policy right across the Caribbean. We think that should be the case economically and morally," said Stewart.
“Gaston Browne has a vendetta against Butch Stewart. He is a broken record going on and on. We began in Jamaica and then moved to Antigua because we believe in the country and its people. Antiguans have been very good to us and we are good to them.
“The Sandals University means that you can enter practically illiterate and end up with an MBA in hospitality. We are the largest trainer and developer of human capital on the island.”
Gaston Browne has said that his government would like to implement a policy of ‘entrepreneurial socialism' which would see his government holding stakes in hotel developments in the country. On this Stewart said, “For decades we have worked amicably with Caribbean governments and will continue to do so. If Gaston Browne thinks he can be the next Butch Stewart, well why doesn’t he try going into hotel development and let’s see how he does."
“At the moment there are about 25 development projects in Antigua and not one has broken ground yet. Right now Trinidad & Tobago is looking to have a greater tourism presence and we have signed an MOU with the government on a Sandals project. Now would we do the same with a Gaston Browne led government? I don’t think so.”
The Antiguan Prime Minister went on to say that Sandals was killing the local taxi business by using a fleet of luxury vehicles to ferry guests instead of seeing to it that locals got that business.
Adam Stewart explained: “The Prime Minister needs to understand that 98% of this business goes to local taxi drivers. For our top tier visitors and regular visitors to Sandals we offer a limousine service with a luxury car. There are about 60 buses a day carrying Sandals visitors and those buses are all operated by Antiguans.”
The Sandals CEO went on to say that his company takes pride in its Caribbean origins and promotes the region every opportunity it gets. He said one only has to look to CNN, Fox, Bloomberg, NBC, ABC, Sky and all major TV networks to see this. He added that in many cases Sandals promotes the destinations more so than Caribbean governments, thus underscoring its commitment to the region and its people.
“We are not going to pull out of Antigua as a result of Gaston Browne’s accusations. He is libellous, radical and preposterous. Politicians will come and go but we are proud of our accomplishments and thankful and grateful to the people of Antigua in helping to make Sandals Grande Antigua a fabulous Caribbean hotel.”
A senior SRI executive told Loop News, “Gaston Browne must prepare himself to face the lawsuit of lawsuits. It probably will be one of the biggest ever seen in the Caribbean. He continues to make allegations that he cannot substantiate and cannot be allowed to sully the good name of Sandals.”