The Government of Saint Lucia in collaboration with Invest Saint Lucia (ISL), last week hosted a community meeting in Vieux Fort.
The exercise is part of an ongoing drive by the government to engage the community on the Desert Star Holdings’ Pearl of the Caribbean development earmarked for Vieux Fort.
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Commerce, Industry, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs, Hon. Bradley Felix, told the public that the agreement with Desert Star Holdings was ongoing.
“There were concerns after going through the details. We did a walk through at the mangrove site and we had some concerns as the mangroves were too much of a delicate area for the community of Vieux Fort and vital to our eco-system. We also recognized the reef was also going to be affected and so we decided 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,” he said.
CEO of Invest Saint Lucia McHale Andrew said 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 third, 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.”
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.
The development is expected to be carried out in 25 phases over a period of 20 to 25 years. The only part of the project that is nearing approval is the racetrack at Beausejour, pending an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Phase One will include a grandstand, race track, polo field, equestrian lawn, receiving barn, equine clinic and quarantine barn, infield park, fractional ownership homestead villas, domestic barns, international barns and the race course boulevard.
The Invest Saint Lucia team listed the benefits of the project and the associated risks.
Among the benefits are stimulation of the economy; employment generation across various sectors; improvement in the overall standard of living; a training component on the proper care of equine facilities and equine veterinary health; the expansion of new and existing channels of trade; the generation of supplementary businesses; beautification of the existing landscape; job opportunities; productive use of underutilized lands; creation of construction and construction related services; and a boost in the agricultural sector.
Some of the associated risks noted were environmental, and will be determined by an EIA, and pressure on infrastructural utilities.
The community meeting was held at the Vieux Fort Primary School last Wednesday. The government will meet next week with the business community and Vieux Fort youth.