McHale Andrew, Invest Saint Lucia’s chief executive officer, on Monday opened his dialogue with the media by recalling George Orwell: “We seem to have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” The day’s press meeting was convened to dispel doubts related the recently inked agreement between the government and Desert Star Holdings (DSH).
Andrew dismissed media comments and assertions by the opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party as unfounded, illogical and without basis. According to ISL CEO, what was signed last week was simply a framework document that provides “the broad parameters within which the project can be implemented.” What was signed, he said, reflects “a common understanding of the limits to what the government and country are willing to tolerate, and what the investors are willing to accept.”
Andrew assured attendant journalists at Monday’s press meeting that the agreement contains a specific clause that will implement an unbiased Environmental Impact Assessment. “If we were to do nothing because of rumors,” he said, “we would be consigning ourselves to perpetual underdevelopment.”
The proposed integrated development project of Desert Star Holdings has sparked many concerns, at any rate since the most recent press meeting of the SLP—until June 6 this year, the incumbent party. The related project has been before the government of Saint Lucia for either three years or 18 months, depending on who’s telling. For his part, the ISL CEO said the DSH first came to the attention of the Saint Lucia government, then headed by Kenny Anthony, in March 2015.
“I say the government of Saint Lucia,” Andrew explained, “because as far as I am concerned, the government of Saint Lucia negotiated with the investor from the onset, and it is the government of Saint Lucia that finally signed the agreement. As far as the investor is concerned, there is only one government.” On Monday Andrew described the development as isolated, but part of a “larger, undocumented vision for the Vieux Fort community.” For certain it is by far the largest projected land use plan in the island’s history. The framework agreement was not signed until July 29, 2016. As for those who questioned why it had taken the government so long to sign the agreement, Andrew vehemently there had been any unusual hold ups. He said some negotiations have taken up to four years before arriving at a final agreement. Rumors to the contrary were, he said, “illogical and without foundation in fact.” He also denied rumors that the majority of workers on the project will come from China. On the contrary, the majority will be from Saint Lucia, Andrew assured reporters.
Moreover, there was “an undertaking to train Saint Lucians, in some instances in as short at time as three months,” to do the artisanal work related to the equine industry. That undertaking was also “encapsulated in the framework agreement which goes one step further to propose the establishment of a training institution for Saint Lucians.
Andrew would not say how many Saint Lucian passports would be issued in relation to the project. He said the DHS developers were seeking CIP status through the due diligence process. In the circumstances how many applications would or would not be approved could not be confirmed. The ISL’s counsel Seryozha Cenac added that although all questions were welcome, there were aspects of the arrangement that could not be revealed to the press on Monday because certain negotiations were on-going.
Also at the head table on Monday was Mr. Bradley Felix, a minister in the office of the prime minister. He said the chairman of DSH, Mr. Teo AH Khing, had made “several trips to Saint Lucia since March 2015, and made detailed and high quality presentations to the [then] Cabinet of Ministers.”