Former finance minister and international investment banker Wendell Mottley has been named chairman of a negotiating team to arrive at an agreement between Government and all-inclusive operator Sandals Resorts for two hotels in Tobago.

Announcing the team yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the members were Dr Terrence Farrell, Dr Rolph Balgobin, hotelier Michael Small, small farmer Glen Leslie and head of public/private partnership in the Ministry of Finance Nadira Lyder and two representatives to be named by the Tobago House of Assembly.

“This group will do the negotiations with respect to this project that we are pursuing,” he said during the post-Cabinet news briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair.

Rowley said Government had asked the Sandals group to bring its label to Tobago because it was confident that a Caribbean of international standard and worldwide acceptance, which exists as a major part of the tourism thrust in the Bahamas, Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia and Grenada, could bring significant benefits to the tourism potential in Tobago.

He said after certain site selections were done, the Cabinet had received presentations on what the possibilities were.

“A site was identified in Tobago and Sandals was asked to express its interest and it has done so and certain architectural presentations were made to the Government, where a project to the scale of two hotels of 750 rooms in partnership with the government of Trinidad and Tobago is something that we are actively considering,” he said.

Petrotrin debt

Rowley said Mottley was also in charge of another important assignment involving Petrotrin's debts.

He said Mottley was appointed to that assignment at the same Cabinet meeting at which Malcolm Jones's resignation from the Standing Committee on Energy was accepted. Petrotrin has some “bullet (debt) payment in 2019 which is causing me to pull all my hairs out,” a bald-headed Rowley said.

Asked about the possibility of a repeat of the experience of the Hilton and Vanguard hotels in the sister island, the Prime Minister said Sandals would bring better management and a positive outlook.

He said Government couldn't say that Tobago should not have another hotel because of Vanguard fell apart or because it ended up with the Magdalena.

Rowley said the Sandals deal was important in the diversification process because tourism development was an important aspect of the economic transformation of the country.

He added that the project stood to earn foreign exchange for the country.

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