Using political influence to gain land

first_imgDear Editor,In light of information coming to light on the ‘land grab’ that has accelerated since December 21, 2018, I feel compelled to share my personal experience with the process of land acquisition.My quest began in 2013, six years ago, following the success generated by the E-Networks Baseball Star programme, I wrote to GuySuCo’s CEO, Mr Paul Bhim, (11.3.2013) asking for consideration in the sale of a plot of land suitable for a baseball facility. I was referred to the Guyana Office for Investment as the proper channel for application. I spent two years providing GO-Invest with detailed business plans, feasibility studies, supporting documentation of various types and results of our pilot programmes. The proposed multi-sport facility encompasses baseball and ten other sports whose National Governing Bodies have indicated interest. In December 2014, Baseball Guyana got our approval and GO-Invest wrote GuySuCo directly and attached a satellite photograph of a plot of land suitable to the first phase (of 3) of development.There were many negotiations with GuySuCo, offers, counter-offers and finally an offer was made to us for the plot identified by GO-Invest at $25 million per acre. We accepted the offer as fair market value and asked for time to raise the required $522 million. It took two years of explaining our unique circumstance to benefactors in the baseball world that we needed funding to purchase land. Unique, because in those countries, projects such as ours would have states and counties competing to offer land and tax breaks to attract such a facility.In May 2019, I wrote to GuySuCo in my capacity as CEO to inform that Guyana Baseball had acquired the funds for purchase as promised and we could make a payment in full if needed at any time. The land committee of GuySuCo met and affirmed our agreement; what followed must rankle even the most jaded of observers, NICIL was informed of our pending sale and issued a “cease and desist” letter to GuySuCo on June 5, 2019, on which I was copied.Upon the advice of our lawyers, I replied and provided the extensive paper trail to support our application and agreement for the purchase of this 20.9-acre plot of land. I have to date received no official reply. Imagine my surprise to learn via a social media post that the plot of land identified in 2014, has been surreptitiously offered to various individuals by NICIL.That NICIL could even contemplate sale to ‘Johnny-come-lately’ individuals, with no regard for the arduous process that is required to ensure the State benefits fully from disposal of assets, not only monetarily, but in the benefits of our project which include opportunities for youth, jobs, education and tourism revenue along with intangibles such as positive self-image that would come when (not if) we develop our first Major League stars.In reading the replies of Eric Phillips and Charles Ceres to revelations of questionable land acquisition, it is interesting to note that Ceres relinquished 1299 acres previously acquired because he lacked the wherewithal to develop same and Phillips is forging ahead despite losing his investors. This is what makes it difficult for Guyanese with projects, ideas and solid backing to be taken seriously. Officials have seen the rosy plans and ideas with no financial backing fail time and time again. These speculative ventures and strategic acquisitions by those who clearly lack the financial means to execute any project is the bane of development, they use their political influence to gain land and then fail to develop anything other than debt for themselves and despair for others.Editor, I am cognisant of my rights as a citizen of Guyana; my passion for ethical and honest behaviour in life, both public and private, is well known. I do not intend to fail the youth of the nation. The Guyana Baseball League has moved to the law courts of Guyana to seek redress of this grave injustice to ourselves and the youth of our nation; we will yield no ground willingly to hustlers.Respectfully,Robin Singhlast_img read more