Press Release:– STATEMENT BY HON. ERNEST HILAIRE ON RANGE AND SALCC AT THE SAINT LUCIA LABOUR PARTY PRESS CONFERENCE AUGUST 23 2018
Members of the media,
Today I will deal with two issues – the Range Development and SALCC.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party has been calling on the Prime Minister to provide full public disclosure on the proposed Range Development.
We had learnt that Range Developments requested a settlement of about EC$20m for costs incurred and that this should be settled by July 1st.Apparently, was no settlement even after the Prime Minister had publicly accepted responsibility for the delays in the Project. We would further learn that Range Developments had served the Attorney General a notice of intent to sue. This time the claim will be for cost and aggravated damages totally over EC$100M!!!!
We also learnt that in pursuance of the Agreement with Range, the developer brought in about 250 CIP applicants. Given each donation is US$100,000 and less commissions, the developer expected about US$20m to be available. We asked why was no money was available. Where is the CIP money?
Accordingly, we called for the following:
- That the Minister with responsibility for Investment, Hon. Bradley Felix, and Mr. Pinkley Francis, Chairman of Invest Saint Lucia, to make a public statement on the Range Development;
- That the Prime Minister account for the CIP monies which has been earned since the launch of the Programme; and
- The Cabinet of Ministers to make every effort to settle this matter in the best interest of Saint Lucia and avoid tax payers having to be burdened with a decision of the Court which may not be favourable to Saint Lucia.
Hon. Bradley Felix and Pinkley Francis did not see it necessary to provide any explanation to the people of Saint Lucia.
The Prime Minister explained that he had used the money thinking that he can use it until his Attorney General told him that this was wrong. But he also argued that he had permission to use the money. It makes no sense to state that you had permission as it was stated in the Estimates then say that you were using until your Attorney General advised otherwise. In the same comments, the Prime Minister contradicts himself over and over.
We have now learnt that Cabinet has agreed for the Government to settle with Range and pay the sum of about EC$20m. We have learnt that Range has closed its offices in Saint Lucia and relocated to St.Kitts where they are planning to build a hotel. We have also learnt that Range has removed the Black Bay Project from its website. Yet, we have heard no official word or explanation from the Government.
Accordingly, we are asking the Government to be accountable and inform the people of Saint Lucia whether the Government has in fact signed a settlement deal of EC$20m with Range Development for its responsibility in the failed project.
For a Government action or inaction to catastrophically destroy an investment project causing the people of Saint Lucia to pay EC$20m is a sad indictment. Worse, it is the second time that the Prime Minister has been involved in a fiasco involving Black Bay. The first fiasco costed the country about $60m and another $20m!
This Government is a failure. Every single project that it puts its hand on is tainted or grossly mismanaged. And every time it is the people of Saint Lucia to pay the price. We cannot continue with such gross incompetence in Government. We must mobilise and demonstrate our rejection of the UWP Government.
The failings of the UWP Government are present in all areas of our development. I want to take you to the comments made by the Prime Minister on Monday at the Cabinet Briefing on the situation at the SALCC. It is a frightening statement on the thinking of the Prime Minister and his Government.
I recall my days as a student leader and youth leader when one of our main causes was to establish that education is a right, not a privilege. Saint Lucia has moved on, and since universal secondary education, it is accepted that the state has an obligation to provide education to all. We accept that at this stage that we cannot afford a full fledge university so we cannot yet provide accessible tertiary education for all. However, it must remain a medium to long term aspiration. But surely the present day reality must be that no child that meets the matriculation requirements should be denied the chance to attend Sir Arthur Lewis Community College plain and simple.
But let us reflect on the words of the Prime Minister.
Firstly, the Prime Minister is of the view that the Government is being generous to SALCC. This is an absurdity! Truth is Government is NOT meeting its full obligation to SALCC. What is this about the Government being generous to SALCC? The school is part of our governmental education system much like CCSS, LHCSS, Ave Maria and Camille Henry to name a few. It is to educate our children and youth; it is not being generous as if it is a favour. Are we being generous to our children when we feed them?
Secondly, the Prime Minister says that SALCC is not yet self-sufficient and that they should be. We accept that SALCC should charge affordable fees to students. Affordable to ensure that there is access to every Saint Lucian child who meets the matriculation requirements. For SALCC to be sufficient, in the Prime Minister own calculation each student will have to pay $9000 each year! $9000! Can Saint Lucia children afford that? No. So it is for the Government to provide the balance. The child pays X amount and Government the balance. The same way that CCSS, LHCSS, Ciceron Combined and La Croix Maingot Combined are not asked to be self-sufficient. Since when schools that are built to educate our children are asked to be self-sufficient?
Thirdly, the Prime Minister says that SALCC is not even paying rent. Paying Rent? When did schools ever pay rent? And to who? I have never heard of a school paying rent. Is this going to be a new Government policy? Do the SALCC buildings even belong to the Government or any private person? Can the Minister of Education please inform the people of the Saint Lucia with clarification on this matter?
Fourthly, and the most frightening statement of the Prime Minister, is that when Government changes its policy, listen to his words,
“…WHEN GOVERNMENT CHANGES ITS POLICY… “
and anyone who wants to pursue post-secondary education he would give them a scholarship of $3000!. Now that means that since it cost $9000 for each child, then each child must find $6000 to attend SALCC. So if you thought the proposed fee increase was high imagine your child having to find $6000. Further, if the Government is not going to subsidize SALCC and will only give scholarships then who will be responsible for the running of SALCC? Are there plans to privatize SALCC? When will Government be changing its policy? Are there local private colleges and schools that are lobbying Government to offer scholarships instead of subsidizing SALCC so they can now enrol these students?
Education is a right, not a privilege. Education is the most valuable tool for social mobility for the vast majority of Saint Lucians. Most Saint Lucians don’t have the social connections nor the sponsors to elevate their lot in life. It is education that provides the tool for the average Saint Lucian to become a lawyer, doctor, farmer, engineer, accountant, or manager. Most Saint Lucians cannot afford to go to private school or boarding school. We must protect the right of all our children and youth to get a tertiary education!