The US Embassy in London is making headlines for a two reasons; 1) Trump has denounced it as a bombastic waste of taxpayer funds, and 2) It is a gauche representation of American pompousness… replete with moat, indoor gardens, and exquisite flamboyance more befitting a Qatari 5 star resort.
The embassy at 24 Grosvenor Square was originally built in 1960 with a very utilitarian design befitting post WWII and a representation of government economy of need. It has 600 rooms. And while it is true that in London, the land on which nearly every building is constructed is leased, the US government lease was for 999 years. We had 931 left…
In October 2008, Bush declared that the US embassy in London was not secure enough against terrorists and sought to list the property for sale. But it was after Obama assumed office that Obama renigged on the anticipated deal to sell to real estate developer Ballymore Group, an Irish developer who has won numerous awards, and instead sold to a Qatari firm, Qatari Diar.
Qatari Diar has released plans to renovate the embassy into a five star 137 bed hotel with five restaurants, six shops, a spa and a ballroom. It isn’t the first Qatari investment in London, and wasn’t the last. In 2007, they bought Chelsea Barracks from the UK government for 1 billion pounds. They own the Berkeley Hotel, 50% of One Hyde Park, 1, 2 and 3 Cornwall Terrace, 10% of the London Exchange, a shared percentage of the 97 acre Financial District, Canary Wharf, a 20% stake in Camden Market through a share purchase of Chelsfield Group, the Connaught Hotel in Mayfield, a percentage of the UK’s athletes village, the Shard, Harrods, and the Claridge Hotel, a city landmark.
Whether the initial ‘decision’ to sell the former embassy was made by Bush is irrelevant, the decision to quash the sale to the Irish and give it to the Qatari’s was Obama’s. The decision to turn a conservative government building into a lavish Las Vegas style extravaganza – was Obama’s. And the decision to spend $1.2 billion was also Obama’s.
Qatari Diar is owned 100% by the Qatari Investment Authority; aka the Emir. It is estimated that holdings in Britain aggregate 30 billion Euros, in France 10 billion and in Germany 5 billion. This does not include ownership interest in banks such as Barclays and Credit Suisse. Their goal is to invest $35 billion in US real estate and $10 billion in China.
Since 1985, foreign ownership of US Treasuries and equities has climbed significantly, rising from roughly 20% to 65%. When the US allowed private citizens to sue the Saudi’s over their involvement in 9-11, they threatened to divest their upwards of $750 billion in holdings which could have devastated our economy until we were able to reabsorb the assets. But according to the Federal Reserve, the Saudi holdings of US Treasuries is minimal, with China and Japan being holding the largest percentage. In fact they don’t even rank in the top ten…
During the Obama administration, US debt virtually doubled to roughly $20 trillion. As a percentage of GDP, debt rose from 67.9% to 103.4% as spending outpaced. The interest rate was halved thereby creating a level interest payment over the same period. But should the Federal Reserve start raising rates back to pre-Obama terms, the government could see an annual interest expense of nearly $1 trillion.
Given the numbers, spending $1.2 billion on a lavish building in the UK may seem trivial, but if Dave Ramsey were budgeting the checkbook, it would have been red-lined and nixed without question. Not to mention that the entire purpose of a new building was ‘security’ and the exterior architecture of the US Embassy is now 100% glass. Glass exteriors typically cost about 5 to 6 times more solid facades such as brick, stucco, or stone.
And while the media trenched Liberal UKers have made themselves quite clear regarding their opinion and grace for Trump, their attitude is matched only by the Liberal denouncers in the US. It is an abomination of a building that serves no purpose other than lavish extravagance. For Trump to make an appearance to cut the ribbon on the US embassy in London would be rather hypocritical and truly without point.