The proposed horse-racing venture in Vieux Fort gives me great hope for the future. Government’s intention to lease land at $1.00 an acre for lands that will facilitate the success of the venture is understandable. I believe there may already exist a precedent for this in terms of hotels occupying portions of land considered to be part of the Queen’s Chain – lands close to the sea. I know in Trinidad there are areas of land in St. Ann’s, near Port of Spain, where property owners are living on land that have 100 year leases and are rented out at peppercorn rates. This was done years ago to facilitate and stimulate home building, jobs and family ownership of homes.
That said, I see Government’s policy with DSH needs to be replicated in several parts of Saint Lucia so that persons desirous of owning their home (i.e. first time home owners) will now have the possibility of renting a suitable lot of land, say 5,000 to 7,000 square feet, for $1.00 a year from Government for 100 years with an option to renew for another 100 years. This will allow them to obtain a mortgage/loan from banks to assist them in building their home. Depending on the inflow of funds from passport sales, Government would also be responsible for putting in the infrastructure for these lots; yes a cost but an investment that will redound to the proper and sustained development of the country for years to come.
Society depends on functional families and housing to help underpin this. Without this, we will regress in the direction of Desert Sands with nothing to hold on to.
The second benefit I see from this horse-racing venture is related to agriculture. Saint Lucia is at a crossroads with its agriculture. For years I have been of the opinion that Saint Lucia should become a 100 percent organic-growing country. The benefits are numerous and I think outweigh the existing practices. To date there is only one country in the world that has set a goal of becoming 100 percent organic by the year 2020, and this is Bhutan, a country of several million, which borders with Pakistan.
With the availability of a steady supply of horse manure, I think we could now achieve this goal much easier than if not available. Being 100 percent organic would take our agricultural culture to new and higher levels both in prices and nutrition. There is much that can be elaborated on but I leave that for another time. Yes it will take training, a new mindset and time, say four years (consider it a university degree for all farmers). This will make us beautiful again. This will make us unique and an attraction for all visitors.
Never look a gift horse in the mouth. “Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage.”
By Geoffrey Devaux