Government’s chief of staff, Lionel Hurst, in an interview with the Daily Observer yesterday said that the $8 million the government is considering to spend to purchase the Deluxe cinema is a mere pittance when one takes into account the amount of money the government spends yearly.
“The government spends more than $1 billion annually. That’s one thousand million dollars so $8 million to acquire additional property is not a burdensome amount given the amount the government will spend. It will be less than 1 percent or even less than one tenth of 1 percent but it will be a significant property that the government will own afterwards,” Hurst explained.
He said that the value of property in the city increases rapidly and therefore the investment in the Deluxe Cinema will only become an asset to not only the government but to the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
He acknowledged that the money could better be spent upgrading the country’s lone prison facility, the country’s boys training school, home for girls, the debt owed to civil servants or putting internet into schools, but he contended that ownership of property is one of the best investments one can make.
He also warned that dragging out the acquisition process could result in the price going up if private parties begin to bid on the property.
It was in October 2016 that OBSERVER media first learned that the Antigua Commercial Bank was foreclosing on the Deluxe Cinema. Charles “Max” Fernandez, MP and Cabinet Minister was the second largest shareholder in the business behind his brother Joseph Fernandez up to 2009, according to records at the Intellectual Property Office. But the government’s planned purchase of the property was only announced in March 2017. It was met with stiff political and public condemnation from those who saw it as a bailout for Fernandez and his family.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)