November 23, 2012
A top businessman is advising fellow entrepreneurs to "cut the deal and run" regarding the government's $15 million compensation offer. Dionisio D'Aguilar, the owner of Superwash, said he is well aware of the impact from ongoing road works. While he declined to give an official figure, he said $250,000 alone has been spent in infrastructure work to re-join his businesses to the new roads. What's more, at Baillou Hill Road and Carmichael Street, D'Aguilar claims 3,000 square feet of land has been permanently annexed on the construction.
The chairman of AML Foods called the government's current offer "far from ideal". But when dealing with a government that is "borrowed out", he told Guardian Business that businesses must now face realty. "In a normal environment, we should get more," he explained. "However, the reality is the government does not have the money that the business community wants and needs. I think it is much more dangerous to keep borrowing and dig ourselves into a bigger hole." The comments from one of the country's most influential business leaders might not be popular with others in the community. Ethric Bowe, spokesperson for the Coconut Grove Business League (CGBL), called the offer "ridiculous".
He agreed yesterday that government does not have money. "The government never has money. They use the resources of the people to damage some of the people. So now we have to use the resources of all the people to fix some of the people," he told Guardian Business. The CGBL, representing around 50 businesses, has estimated its losses alone at around $40 million. Bowe said the association is crafting a counter offer, which should be presented to government next week. The fate of Baillou Hill Road and Market Street is likely to be a strong aspect of the new offer.
CGBL wants assurances that these streets will be restored to two-way traffic thoroughfares. Businesses in the area feel two-way traffic is fundamental to long-term success. On the issue of money, he said greater compensation could be stretched over 10 years or more, alleviating the immediate burden on government. Bowe said performing an audit of grievances is indeed possible and not far-fetched. D'Aguilar disagrees on the practicality of an island-wide audit. "This offer is not ideal, but to go and audit every single business is not realistic.
It'll take them years and they'll burn up all the money doing it," he explained. "The government has to stop giving away money without a revenue stream to cover it. The days of Jamaica are not far away. The government is borrowing itself into oblivion. We can't continue to do this. The government has thrown us a bone. I'm surprised they did anything given their financial situation. Everyone is looking at the treasury selfishly." The Superwash chief said he particularly plans to avail himself of the real property tax and business license exception for six months.
Other aspects of the plan include a 10 percent break on electricity bills for 18 months, a six-month credit on customs duty and favorable loans from the Bahamas Development Bank. Michael Halkitis, the state minister of finance, told Guardian Business yesterday that the terms of the road works relief plan are still open for negotiation. The New Providence Road Improvement Project (NPRIP), which began under the previous government, has spiraled well over budget and fallen hopelessly behind schedule.
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