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Antigua-Barbuda and Sandals trade barbs

By Caribbean News Now contributor

ST JOHN’S, Antigua — The impending three-month closure of the Sandals resort in Antigua has resulted in a flurry of accusations and legislation, with the latest salvo taking the form of a statement by Sandals on Thursday accusing the government of Antigua and Barbuda of intimidation and defamation.

Sandals Antigua suddenly announced last month that it will close for three months from September, prompting the tabling of emergency legislation in Parliament to prevent other similar closures.

The Investment Amendment Act applies to hotels with more than five percent of the local room stock and, if they close for more than two months without giving the government adequate notice, “that hotelier may have some of his concessions withdrawn”, said chief of staff, Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst.

The government described the Sandals Antigua closure as a hostile act meant to force the granting of more concessions; however, the company denied that its closure was sudden and said instead that its purpose is to undertake much-needed improvements to the property.

According to Sandals, the government of Antigua and Barbuda signed a memorandum of understanding in March 2000, which granted to Sandals relief from the hotel tax and guest levy in exchange for constructing 100 new rooms.

The hotel tax and guest levy was replaced by the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) in September 2006.

In January 2009, the then-government granted Sandals relief from a portion of the ABST so as to maintain the value of the original concession benefits.

In 2016, the current administration abolished the 2009 agreement.