In the face of rising popular support locally and internationally for the development and positioning of a large modern ecotourism destination on some of the uninhabited islands of Kiribati’s Southern Line islands and in contrast to the apparent commitment of the Kiribati President to implement one of his campaign promises to turn some of the nation’s most remote, uninhabited, totally idle and almost useless islands into great assets, which cannot be better demonstrated than his readiness to take the tough beating of almost a week’s long tough ride on the patrol boat’s rough trip from Christmas Island to some of these islands, the Foreign Investment Commission has all of a sudden, without prior discussion, dialogue and negotiation notified Mr. Anton Bakov that his proposal has been declined. The letter reads:
“Dear Anton Bakov
Tourism Development in the Islands of Malden, Starbuck and Millennium.
Firstly, thank you or your interest to invest in Kiribati as per your application which we received on 22 November, 2016.
For your information your application went through the Foreign Investment Commission (FIC) for assessment and thorough examination. The assessment of FIC with recommendation were then submitted to Cabinet for consideration and endorsement.
According to the minutes of the Cabinet meeting No. 6/17 confirmed on Friday 17th February, 2017, I regret to foramally inform you that the application for the tourism investment on the islands of Malden, Starbuck and Millennium is declined.
Thank you very much for your interest in the tourism industry and I wish you the best in your future endeavours.
Signed for FIC”
In an interview with Mr.Bakov he was asked how he felt about the decision and he replied saying he was shocked. He could not believe that the FIC could decide on the basis of the papers tendered without inviting him to elaborate or even to enter into negotiation with him. He said he could not figure out where he had gone wrong was the amount to be paid to the government or to be invested in infrastructure too little, was he asking for too many islands at one time, was the mention of Romanov Empire too frightening or what was it that made the FIC and Cabinet decline the proposal. Asked on how his fellow investors would react to this decision, Bakov said they would all be shocked as well as they were all looking forward to come to invest in the project when approved. In order not to let his fellow investors down he had decided not to give up yet and he said he had decided to re-apply but with a reduced amount to be invested by $10 million US dollars. He said he was relieved to learn that the decision was made in the absence of the President and the Ministers responsible for the Line Islands and the Environment/ Wildlife Conservation.
Asked whether he should now consider those other countries who had expressed their interest in his investment, he said he had fallen in love with Kiribati and her friendly, smiling and kind hearted people and would like to give it another try with his re-application to be followed by a proactive approach to have as much dialogue and discussion and negotiation with the technical and administrative people on whose advice and recommendation the FIC and the Cabinet would rely. Also asked if he could forget about the Romanov empire and just concentrate on the tourism , Bakov’s reply was that the name could be changed to Romanov commonwealth if the word “empire” is going to be a psychological barrier to the project. He is also outraged by false and dirty hints that he was allegedly attempted the sovereign rights of the Republic of Kiribati. Neither in the investment proposal nor in the replying of the government the issue of the sovereignty of the islands was never negotiated.
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