by S Brian Samuel
I like SilverSands, a project conceived and financed by a good old-fashioned equity investor, putting his millions where his dreams are.
With CBI financing yes, but no one could accuse Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawaris of not having a major stake in Grenada, personally and financially. But then: how much is too much? There was outrage a few years ago, when plans became known to sell Camerhogne Park, one of only 2 public spaces on Grand Anse Beach, to Sawaris, to compliment the adjacent Riviera beach land he already owns. That plan may now be dormant, for now, but these things never die; they just go behind closed doors. In addition to SilverSands, Sawaris has gone on a buying spree, scooping up Grenada’s prime tourism properties:
- Jenny’s Place: Grand Anse Beach
- The Edge: Grand Anse Beach
- Riviera site: Grand Anse Beach
- Mount Cinnamon: Grand Anse Beach
- Deep Pool: Golf Course
- Beach House: Magazin Beach
- Port Louis Village: Lagoon
Such strong belief and investment in Grenada is to be applauded, and Sawaris has proven that he doesn’t just sit on his acquisitions, he develops them. Within just a few years, he has grown to become a major player, some would say the major player, in Grenada’s tourism investment market. But, there’s always a but. The question must be asked: is too good much of a good thing, a bad thing? As any economist will tell you: excessive market concentration into the hands of one single entity is dangerous. This stranglehold on Grenada’s prime assets means that one man will control a significant part of Grenada’s tourism product. Design, marketing strategies, architecture – everything that constitutes ‘Pure Grenada’ will be in the hands of one man. It also strengthens his hand, even more than it already is, in negotiations with the government over fiscal concessions.
We used to exert controls over Grenada’s small land base, through the Alien Landholding Act and the policy of not selling land freehold on Grand Anse Beach. The Cherman brothers, Grenadian pioneer owners of Coyaba Hotel, would have loved to have purchased their land freehold, yet all they got was a 99-year lease. But nowadays the Government is pushing as many prime properties as it can, into the welcoming arms of one man: here, take it all.
Finally: a word on Maurice Bishop International Airport. It needs tarting up here and there, but what it does not need, is to be privatised. The thought of trying to find an international operator to take over MBIA is just ludicrous; it’s way too small. What MBIA needs, is to be run in a professional, serious, and courteous manner, yes of course, with better efficiency. The job of Customs and Immigration is not to smile at people; it’s to protect our borders. I’ve been through Cairo Airport. No one smiled at me, no one fawningly welcomed me to Egypt, and I wasn’t out in 2 minutes.