|THE UDECOTT OFFICE PROJECTS
The sense of things
Published Thursday 17th July, 2008
Policy has never
been put to the public for discussion or comments. In a democracy, that
method of proceeding with major policies is incompatible with the
We are faced with
the strategic move towards owning and not renting occurring alongside
It is clear that
the Udecott has significant supporters and not just within the ranks of
the party in power. One of the most frequently heard arguments in
support of the Udecott programme I have been criticising is that there
really are important strategic goals which this programme will achieve.
The point of those
supporters being that, even if you leave out all the financial details
and criticisms set out in previous columns, there is considerable merit
to the strategy. The strategic intention is stated as being to improve
the standard of both the offices occupied by civil servants and, at the
same time, upgrade our capital. There is also an additional advantage in
that at the end of the day, the buildings will belong to the State, so
there would be no rent to pay in the future. That is progress, say the
supporters, and that can never be cheap. After all, our country has the
money now and there is no better time to make these advances. Some even
drive the point home by saying that any good businessman would prefer to
own than to rent.
The reply is as
simple as it is worrisome.
There are three
obvious contradictions to the policy in terms of actual actions.
Policy has never been put to the public for discussion or comments. In a
democracy, that method of proceeding with major policies is incompatible
with the fundamental ideals.
are faced with the strategic move towards owning and not renting
occurring alongside contradictory moves. The largest of the new private
office developments in the capital is in the Broadgate Place Project to
be developed by Transcorp Credit Union at South Quay. The Prime Minister
turned the sod for this project on April 9 2007 and during his address,
he stated that “...the Government is supporting the project through the
granting (sic) of a head lease of all the office space in the building.”
statement can be accessed at
Broadgate Place is
to contain 341,000 sq ft of office space. Additionally, we have to
consider unconfirmed reports that the State might have entered as yet
unpublicised commitments to occupy a large portion of privately-built
has to consider the fact that the costs of these office projects are
being borrowed as shown in Udecott’s accounts. We are not, in fact,
building with the windfall funds, but by borrowing. That point will be
expanded upon when we have sight of the 2007 Udecott annual report.
Business Guardian editorial started to explore the implications of some
of these borrowings and it is interesting to consider the balance of
power between a borrower and a contractor which is allied to the lender.
for the Cabinet?
The Central Bank
has embarked on a National Financial Literacy Programme. This critical
information is shared through the media and in my view is a positive
contribution to national development. The programme makes creative use
of simple slogans and one of these caught my ear the other day: “loans
should only be taken for essential purposes.”
Of course we know
that in today’s market, people are encouraged to take loans for
everything—from Carnival costumes to vacations—but that is now a fact of
life. It is interesting to note that the unproductive and unprofitable
office projects now being erected are being financed by loans. What a
Afra Raymond is a
director of Raymond & Pierre Limited. Feedback can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.