An investment agreement revealed that the former government gave excessive incentives to a company with no track record of doing business anywhere in the world.
At a House sitting on Feb. 7, Prime Minister Hon. Allen M. Chastanet accused the Opposition party of having double standards.
“I’m being accused that I rushed on the DSH project; that I had one phone conversation, one follow-up letter, and two physical meetings for a project that so far is in excess of $2.5 billion,” he said.
He countered the accusations with a letter penned by the former Prime Minister Dr. Kenny D. Anthony. The letter detailed an agreement between the Government of Saint Lucia and Equator Lands Limited, a company based in the United Kingdom, to acquire and develop 4500 acres of land which included the Le Paradis property.
What was alarming, Mr. Chastanet said, was the short period in which the agreement was entered into, leaving no room for due diligence. Within three months, cabinet members of the former administration had agreed to the company’s proposed investment. The Prime Minister questioned whether the necessary research was done to ensure that the company was in a position to make such investments on the island.
“Lifestyle group PLC, and the other company, Equator Lands, were registered in December of 2015 and January of 2016,” he said, adding that the former administration drafted incentives to the company for a period of 20 years on the condition that they met two requirements. The incentives included the waiver of personal income tax, the waiver of corporation tax, and the exemption of all forms of VAT and import duty during the construction phase.
“Not only do they give them the incentives for 20 years, but should they meet the investment requirements, they will give it for another 20 years. So for 40 years,” Mr. Chastanet said. “You would have thought that after we spent over USD$1 million on the Grynberg matter that we would not have found ourselves in this situation again.”
Prime Minister Chastanet further explained that the former administration had given the UK company the rights to extract and keep all natural resources found during its development of the 4500 acres of land.
He said the agreement should never have been drafted nor agreed upon, and chastised the members of the Opposition for giving away so much to a company that has no track record of doing business anywhere in the world.