A map of Antigua and Barbuda

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Chinese developer set to transform Antigua with $1bn resort

22 August 2014 | By Joe Quirke | 1 Comment

A Chinese developer will invest $1bn in a 1,600-acre mega-resort in the tiny, debt-ridden Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda on land formerly owned by an infamous fraudster.

The so-called “Singulari” scheme, to be launched by Beijing-based Yida International Investment Group, would cover 900 acres in the north of Antigua island and 700 acres across the country’s other islands, reports news agency AFP.

It will include several luxury hotels, hundreds of private homes, a hospital, school, golf courses, a horse-racing track and the Caribbean's biggest casino, making a major physical impact on a country that has a total land mass of just 108 square miles.

The project is being developed on land previously owned by the Texan financier Allen Stanford, who was sent to jail for 110 years in 2012 for fraud and for running a $7bn ponzi scheme. 

Before his arrest in 2009, his Stanford Financial Group was the biggest employer in Antigua’s private sector and its demise was a blow to the economy of the country, whose national debt amounts to nearly 90% of GDP, AFP reports.

The scheme is seen to be of such national significance that a memorandum of agreement was signed between Yida International Investment Group and Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne on June 13, just one day after Browne won a general election.

Yida said the project would create 1,000 jobs in the country, which has a population of just over 90,000. 

AFP reported that a Yida spokesman said job fairs would be held within weeks to ensure locals were given first priority for the 200 positions available this year as the land is prepared, while 800 more jobs would be created next year when construction starts.

The spokesman said Yida Group and its partners would bring an extra $2bn in GDP to Antigua thanks to new economic activity and foreign direct investment.

Sam Dyson, of Luxury Locations real estate agency – credited with introducing Yida to the islands last year – said the mega scheme will give the tiny Caribbean nation an economic boost and make it “a tourism force to be reckoned with.”

Chinese firms are active in the Caribbean region. China Harbour Engineering Company is planning to invest in and build a large but controversial transshipment hub on protected islands off Jamaica, while China State Construction Engineering Corporation is building the massive, $3.5bn Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas.