Friday, September 20, 2019

Government statement on Desert Star Holdings (DSH)

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PRESS STATEMENT:-Castries, Saint Lucia, August 5th 2016 – The Government of Saint Lucia has been alerted to the many comments, queries, and concerns and expressed views that have been circulating in the media since the July 29th announcement of the proposed integrated development project of Desert Star Holdings.

The Government welcomes any questions and scrutiny that naturally follows from such a potentially transformative project, which promises to significantly reduce unemployment levels, enhance the tourism, sporting and entertainment product, widen the opportunities for local businesses, and improve the attractiveness of Saint Lucia as an investment location of choice.

The Government of Saint Lucia therefore wishes to clarify a number of critical points in response to these expressed concerns.

Firstly, the Government of Saint Lucia wishes to acknowledge what appears to be consensus with the Parliamentary Opposition that the proposed DSH project is indeed a significant project, which is anticipated to advance the socio-economic status of the southern part of the island.

Accordingly, we believe that both Government and Opposition should adopt a posture that will best enable the success of the project, particularly in respect of the signals sent to the local and international investment markets.

Secondly, the Government wishes to ensure that the general public and all concerned parties clearly understand the purpose and rationale for the signed agreement including its principal terms, as this agreement, save for two (2) provisions, was largely negotiated during the tenure of the previous Administration, now in Opposition, through the efforts of the Citizenship by Investment Board and Invest Saint Lucia.

Needless to say, through the continued efforts of these two state institutions, the two (2) doubtful clauses have recently been negotiated out of the final Agreement. The Agreement is, in general terms, a commitment on the part of the Government to provide the policy, regulatory and administrative framework within which the project could be implemented. Nothing in the Agreement purports to guarantee the investor any licenses, approvals or other concessions without due process. Indeed, every undertaking in the Agreement is limited to the requirements of the relevant legislation.

Thirdly, the swift conclusion of the Agreement is predicated heavily on the seizing of opportunities and the making of quick but informed decisions, without compromising probity and good governance.

DSH and its chairman, Mr. Teo Ah Khing have made at least six (6) trips to Saint Lucia, at their considerable expense, since March 2015 and have made several detailed, high quality presentations to the Cabinet of Ministers and representatives of selected agencies including the Development Control Authority (DCA), Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIP), National Trust, Southern Tourism Development Corporation (STDC), Vieux Fort Town Council and Invest Saint Lucia. Indecision and irresolution has certainly caused the long gestation period of this project and has tested the commitment of DSH. The Government of Saint Lucia has therefore chosen to facilitate a proven developer for the general benefit of all.

Fourthly, the Framework Agreement has not, and cannot by definition; grant CIP approved status or DCA approval to the project. In fact, DSH is currently pursuing its DCA approval and indeed will be making its application for CIP status once the Government has fulfilled its obligations to make the necessary changes to the CIP legislation.

These changes would allow a mixed-use real estate development enterprise involving, inter alia, entertainment and sporting facilities, as a third category under the real estate provisions of the CIP legislation.

In the case of DSH, their proposal encompasses a project that meets that basic stipulation but further entails, a horse racing track, high end hotel and residences, a casino, free trade zone, an equine disease free zone, and marina.

Fifthly, the Government of Saint Lucia believes that it is irresponsible to suggest that a project, which is intended to develop 700 acres of undeveloped land, will dislocate the citizens of the South.

To even state that it would be disruptive is to disapprove of any form of large scale development.

Indeed, the very large scale nature of this project, when seen within the context of the inherent commercial risks to the investor and the tremendous potential benefits to Saint Lucia and its people, lends credence to the need to facilitate a supporting framework that seeks to ensure the commercial success and economic viability of the project, which would provide some comfort to the developer.

This is standard practice in smaller countries where such large scale developments are contemplated. The developers have also pledged to partner with the Government of Saint Lucia in holding a series of town hall meetings in the South of the island to inform the immediate communities and the general public on the project and to receive and address all legitimate concerns.

Finally, the Government of Saint Lucia wishes to assure the public that the Framework Agreement was worded to ensure that the development was conducted in accordance with the laws of Saint Lucia and standard commercial practice, and is not so framed as to breach the laws of the land

or the integrity of the process including the necessity of having an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

This Government is a responsible government; and DSH is a proven reputable global developer. Both parties have agreed to mutually beneficial terms, which we are confident will impact positively on the economy, physical environment and people of Saint Lucia.

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