Press Release:-In the opening statement at his first press conference for the year 2017 Prime Minister Honourable Allen M. Chastanet sent out New Year greetings to all Saint Lucians and in particular to his Constituents of Micoud South.
The Prime Minister, also the Minister for Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and the Public Service, met with the local media at the studios of the Government Information Service on Thursday January 5th 2016 and took questions on a variety of issues affecting Saint Lucia.
During the live press conference, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to thank his Cabinet colleagues for their support and hard work over the last six months.
Civil servants also came in for praise for embracing some of the new ideas of the Government. The Prime Minister took time to thank the Opposition for their “spirited debates” while adding that he looked forward to working with the Opposition in 2017 “in moving this country forward together.”
“We have a very exciting agenda for 2017,” the Prime Minister said. “We are in the last quarter of our fiscal year and we are in the process of announcing our new plans.”
He singled out the Ministry of Justice for significant attention in tackling crime and ensuring justice is as swift as possible.
“Criminals must know, understand and appreciate that when you do commit a crime that the judicial system is going to move very swiftly to convict you and there is a penalty,” the Prime Minister said. “I want St Lucians to know that we are very aware of the escalating crime in this country. We also know the grievance that it causes many Saint Lucians and we are never going to take our eye off the ball. This is going to require the efforts of all of us. We have to get to the point where we are ashamed and embarrassed by crime itself. The solution to crime is not just through the judicial system, it is in our social system. So we have to do more work in the schools, more work in our communities and get policemen to not only arrest people but be part of the process of preventing crime from taking place.”
The Prime Minister said that his Government will soon announce more projects for 2017 which will stimulate economic activity.
“We have some great news coming out with regards to the announcement by Sandals of the construction of a new Sandals La Source in Saint Lucia which will be located between Sandals Grande and The Landings,” noted the PM. “This will be a 350-room resort and it’s promised to be a six-star project here in Saint Lucia. We will also be announcing further investments in the south of the island.”
The Prime Minister also spoke about the extensive plans for parts of Vieux Fort, including the already announced Desert Star Holdings project and the commencement of a racetrack.
“We are working with Mr. Teo Ah Khing [Chairman of DSH] to put together a master plan for the other parts of Vieux Fort and we are also working on the Black Bay development, the Sabwisha development, as well as Cannelles,” he said. “I am hoping that we will be able to make announcements very soon in the New Year as to what is going to happen on those projects.”
In his opening Prime Minister Chastanet also spoke about the agriculture sector, stating that despite being affected by Hurricane Matthew in late 2016 there have been strides.
Said Prime Minister Chastanet: “I am excited about the inroads that we are making in agriculture. Despite Hurricane Matthew we were able to put money back into that sector to bring production back up. Our meetings with the banana producers in Martinique as well as the marketing companies in France are going well. We have commenced exporting bananas through London to Paris. For the next three months we are going to be testing our bananas in that market and hopefully we can help generate a new market in addition to our US market.”
Prime Minister Chastanet then turned to issue of road rehabilitation which he said was a priority for the Ministry of Infrastructure.
“We are having several meetings with donor agencies to be able to get additional resources,” he said. “We have made the decision to curtail the amount of money that we are going to spend on the Gros Islet to Castries Highway and we are going to be spending more money now on the back roads. We are looking at resurrecting the highway from Gros Islet all the way down to Vieux Fort. We believe that this is the long term solution to some of the traffic problems we are going through right now. In the meantime we will be beefing up the back roads and also bringing in some new roundabouts. The Ministry of Infrastructure is working hard to come up with some temporary solutions because we all recognize the delays that people are going through. At the same time we will be putting plans in place for the extension of our road network.”
The Prime Minister ended his opening statement by saying: “I am looking forward to 2017. I am looking forward to the many changes that we have been talking about and I want to say to Saint Lucians how grateful I am for their support.”
Prime Minister Chastanet then took questions from the media and questions submitted via facebook on issues including but not limited to the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), the Desert Star Holdings Project, healthcare, the water situation and Constitutional reform.