Press Release:-Members of the community of Vieux Fort got the opportunity to put questions to Government and Invest Saint Lucia during a Town Hall Meeting held at the Vieux Fort Primary School on Wednesday evening.
The exercise is part of an ongoing drive by Government to share information and engage the community about the “Pearl of the Caribbean”, a fully integrated development earmarked for Vieux Fort. The project is proposed by master developer Desert Star Holdings under the guidance of Teo Ah Khing of the TAK Group in conjunction with the Government of Saint Lucia.
The meeting started with a welcome by Vieux Fort Town Council Mayor Orricia Denbow-Bullen, following which Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Commerce, Industry, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs Honourable Bradley Felix delivered opening remarks.
Minister Felix shared with the public that the agreement with Desert Star Holdings for the Pearl of the Caribbean was still very much an ongoing exercise.
Said Minister Felix: “There were concerns after going through the details. We did a walk through at the Mangroves site and we had some concerns as the Mangrove was too much of a delicate area for the community of Vieux Fort and vital to our eco-system. We also recognized the reef which was also going to be affected and so we decided we had to renegotiate. We looked at alternative sites and went into another framework agreement. As a Cabinet of Ministers it is not
a situation where the Prime Minister says something and everyone agrees. There is extreme debate. There is extreme consultation.”
The Minister noted that with a project of this size concerns from the public are anticipated and welcomed.
“For whatever reason the incorrect information has been spread out there and that is the unfortunate thing; people are out there spreading misinformation. So we have begun our consultations . . . and we felt it necessary to bring people from various competencies to answer the questions.”
The hall was packed to capacity as presentations on the project were delivered by the team from Invest Saint Lucia which included CEO McHale Andrew, Corporate Secretary/Legal Counsel Seryozha Cenac and Corporate Communications Officer Dainea Augier followed by a presentation from Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Auria King-Cenac.
CEO of Invest Saint Lucia McHale Andrew in his opening remarks noted that Saint Lucia was a country at a crossroads.
“We are struggling economically. Our development and that of most other countries in the Caribbean were based on three things. One, generous inflows of aid from developed countries; Two, access to concessional funding and aid for most of the capital projects that we would have undertaken and the third one is one way preferential access to developed country markets for our exports. What that resulted in was that we were able to attract investors trying to avail themselves of the opportunity to sell in those developed country markets without competition.”
(Invest Saint Lucia team responds to queries (from left) Mc Hale Andrew, Dainea Augier and Seryozha Cenac)
The CEO reminded the members of the community of the many factories which used to employ persons in the community in the past.
“Very few of those factories are still alive today and we now have to earn our way to prosperity,” he noted. “We will get into the details of the DSH agreement and we will be able to debate and answer your concerns and also provide you with the facts.”
The team from Invest Saint Lucia further explained to the gathering that the development is expected to be carried out in 25 phases over a period of 20-25 years. The only part of the project which is nearing approval stages is the racetrack at Beausejour pending an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Phase One will include specifically: Grandstand, International Race Track, Polo Field, Equestrian Lawn, Receiving Barn, Equine Clinic & Quarantine Barn, Infield Park, Fractional Ownership Homestead Villa, Domestic Barns, International Barns and the Race Course Boulevard.
The Invest Saint Lucia team listed the benefits of the project and also shared the associated risks.
Among the benefits are:
* Stimulation of the economy
* Employment generation across various sectors
* Improvement in the overall standard of living
* Training component: on proper care of equine facilities and equine veterinary health;
* Trade benefits: expansion of new and existing channels of trade – importing and exporting goods
* Supplementary businesses opening up for a wide range of novelty goods and services across a spectrum of fields
* Beautification of existing landscape
* Job opportunities : about three jobs per horse for the horse care alone
* Development of Vieux Fort: productive use of underutilised strategic lands in Beausejour
* Creation of new ancillary services
* Creation of construction and construction related services
* Boost in the agricultural sector (creation of new and expansion of existing farms)
Some of the associated risks noted by Invest Saint Lucia were the environmental which will be determined by an EIA and pressure on infrastructural utilities. Invest Saint Lucia noted at the meeting that ISL and DSH met with the various utilities and service providers and based on information received, any concern relating to the inadequacy of such utilities and services were allayed.
Following the presentations the audience was invited to ask questions of the panel.
The Government continues its ongoing engagement exercises next week meeting with the business community and Vieux Fort youth.
(Minister with responsibilty for investment Bradley Felix takes questions )