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St. Lucia’s Finance Minister: 400 Horses, 800 Persons Employed

By Melanius Alphonse

News Americas, CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Tues. Jan. 17, 2017: Prime minister and minister for finance Allen Chastanet made mention at his press conference recently that 400 horses will be part of the initial phase of DSH Caribbean Star Limited racecourse on the island and that two persons will be employed to attend to each horse.

He also indicated that investors have confidence in his government and, in his closing message, said:  “2017 is to tighten your seat belt and to embrace the change, it’s going to be difficult, it always is to leave what you are accustomed doing and to try something new, but we have no choice. Honestly the country is in a financial quagmire and there is tremendous amount of potential but we now need to convert that potential in reality and its going to require fundamental change…” 

Indeed, my article published on July 16, 2012, comes to mind: What went wrong? Buckle your seat belts Saint Lucia!

But above all, the country is navigating towards 83 percent GDP, faced with an unemployed population of 45 percent primary school and 90 percent secondary school education and an unemployment rate of almost 25 percent.

Despite this the prime minister and minister for finance was without resolve and, as his usual self, lacked sound and solid impetus on the country’s socio-economic and sustainable development ethos to meet the dynamics of change.

In fact, no direction was proffered to improve the skills required to boost productivity at work and at home through productivity enhancers in science, technology, engendering and maths (STEM), to take the country to the next level.

In like manner, the attending journalists at the press conference missed the following questions:

• What is the required skill-set of the two personnel to attend to one horse and are they going to be Saint Lucians specially trained to care for valuable thoroughbreds, “prized with Saint Lucian heritage though citizenship by investment program (CIP)”?

• Without a reformed and repurposed universal education system compatible with a global education system, what type of investment and jobs are being sourced for Saint Lucians?

• Please explain the background of Chinese partners to the signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the government of Saint Lucia and DSH Caribbean Limited, China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited (CSCECL) and China Communication Construction Company Limited (CCCC);

• Why not make public and discuss the contents of the MOU?

According to China Horse Club News: “The following morning a senior representative of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited (CSCECL) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the government of Saint Lucia and DSH Caribbean Limited to play a lead role in the project’s development. CSCECL was one of two major Chinese construction firms that was in attendance at the ground breaking ceremony, with China Communication Construction Company Limited (CCCC) also represented.

Note: CCCC was formed from a merger between several companies, including China Road and Bridge Company (CRBC), which was adjudged by the World Bank to have irregularities in a past road construction project in a neighbouring country. As a result, the World Bank barred CRBC from engaging in any road or bridge projects financed by it.

Thus irrespective of what the prime minister and minister for finance says to the Saint Lucian public, it is conveniently contradictory.

In the light of numerous examples in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean region, Chinese firms bring Chinese workers to do the work at what unions describe are lower wages; therefore, the prime minister and minister for finance is either naive in dealing with Chinese companies, reading and interpretation of the DSH contract, the somewhat secret MOU or simply has his renowned ability to massage the truth.

Nevertheless, the job market and the Saint Lucia economy will be under severe pressure, per DSH clause 3.4, “be exempt, in the ordinary legal manner, from income taxation in Saint Lucia in respect of the Project for a period of 25 years.” 

“Clause 5.1 The Government warrants, represents and undertakes that the Master Developer shall be permitted, without being required to obtain any further approvals, licences or consents, to engage and/or terminate any contractors or sub-contractors, suppliers or other specialists that the Master Developer selects in its absolute discretion (regardless of the jurisdiction of the relevant contractor, sub- contractor, supplier or other specialist) on such terms as the Master Developer determines.”

“Clause 5.4. The Government of Saint Lucia agrees to waive, and agrees to procure the waiver of, statutory Work Permit fees and Personal Income Tax for personnel of the Master Developer domiciled in Saint Lucia for the duration of the Project.”

“Clause 9.2 Any and all licenses, consents and/or approvals granted to the Master Developer and/or in connection with the Project pursuant to this clause 9 shall be irrevocable … and in the case of licenses in relation to casinos, wagering and broadcasting, the licenses shall be continuously renewable, in accordance with the existing legislation governing the specific license, with said renewability not to be unreasonably withheld.”

In addition, the thought process to rebrand Saint Lucia “the cheapest” CIP and perhaps later “the cheapest tourism destination”: analysts merely view the changeover to a perceived “tourism authority” as a handover to a local marketing agent.

Sir Derek Walcott once noted that the only difference between slavery and tourism is that “at least the slaves did not have to smile”.

It would be so much better if the Chastanet-led administration would be honest and disciplined and not prized in the fabric of falsehoods with shameless abandon.

In many aspects is it not extraordinary that the thought process behind a five-month festival of “creative” employment that is being described as an endeavour to mask the frills of prosperity with conspicuous consumption the likes of supermarket/wholesale concept El Cheapo, buy before best used by date.

Saint Lucia has far too many problems associated with the lack of discipline, order and stability, alcoholism, suicides and sexual abuse.

But really, how should one expect a Chastanet-led administration that does not understand much of how things work to explain anything with clarity, if only, to highlight continued weakness, mental blindness, poor decisions and policy outcomes.

This conspicuous social and “financial quagmire” requires corrective action in the course of a national social policy, a practical vision and leadership of high quality and competence that will not exploit, plunder, marginalise and disperse Saint Lucians to the exclusive Chinese enclave/state within Vieux Fort, to re-enslave the country for 99 years and empower the elite.

If there is any lesson learned, in all likelihood, it is to drive such persona from power through regime change (Chase those crazy baldheads out of town! ~ Bob Marley), liberate our land, and return power to the indigenous people of Saint Lucia.

Melanius_AlphonseEDITOR’S NOTE: Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality. He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and NewsNow Global analysis. He can be reached at melanius@newsnowglobal.com