It was on the eve of another election that the then Prime Minister and Vieux Fort South Parliamentarian broke ground to commemorate the construction of a vendors’ arcade at the entrance of Coconut Bay Resort. More than a decade later, on the eve of yet another general election, not a column of the promised arcade has been erected.
The hard truth is that few people would say downtown Vieux Fort affords a competitive business environment, certainly not for small entrepreneurs including craft vendors. And so, back to the drawing board.
An administrative complex should not, given the current circumstances, take priority over a facility that provides more job opportunities, increased thrift in a dull economic zone, and an attraction of the tourist dollar that for countless years has eluded Vieux Fort and its environs. Further, it does not exploit the aesthetics of the proposed location as emphatically as a Vieux Fort shopping promenade given the structural emphasis on containment of an administrative complex’s internal environment where high tech furnishings need to be secured.
An administrative complex can function fully in another location. But, a shopping promenade, for this piece christened “Providence”, that begins exactly where the signs of this unwise venture are currently erected and ends with a boardwalk (the extent of which satisfies all shareholders) along Sandy Beach looking out into the Atlantic at Maria Islet and the majestic Moule-a-Chique lighthouse, is the pebble that will generate the ripples of economic activity for which VieuxFort hungers and thirsts.
This vision out-classes that of an administrative complex in that precise location at this time for the following reasons: A location more profitably suited to touristic activity which does not disrupt but potentially opens windows of opportunity to Bruce Ville residents; the opportunity for an alternative, more competitive venue for Vieux Fortian entrepreneurs struggling for survival; an opportunity to empower the local constituency council to manage this facility funded by NIC in a “turn-key” arrangement, generating many more jobs; an opportunity for this council to generate revenue through reasonably priced shop rentals to entrepreneurs primarily from Vieux Fort north and south; an investment opportunity for Vieux Fortians abroad to co-own businesses in “Providence” with local family members, thereby providing access to up-to-date business innovations increasing their competitiveness.
Also: Prospects for the docking of catamarans and other passenger vessels at our dormant seaport to disembark regional tourists seeking to partake in southern hospitality; an avenue to afford group medical insurance coverage to users of Providence, as well as to their extended families; a weekend hangout for all Saint Lucians in a safe, aesthetic and pristine location; a venue for local performers on weekends – on the boardwalk, under the stars, while audiences keep cool thanks to endless Atlantic zephyrs.
Finally: A home for craft vendors, shops for hair braiders, optometrists food caterers, bureau de change, NIC collection booth, and many other convenient service providers; long-term preservation of beachfront ownership to Saint Lucians at one of the few remaining beaches where nationals can frolic.
Editors note: It should be pointed out that in the 2006-2007 budget address the prime minister and minister of Finance Kenny Anthony also promised a waterfront promenade for Castries. Said Dr Anthony, “A waterfront promenade can provide an opportunity to link Pointe Seraphine with the city centre, making it an integral experience for locals and visitors alike. The promenade should provide an arena-like experience to users with ample vistas of the harbour and special pavilions along its way to enhance the experience. Government has accepted this recommendation and decided to construct a tree-lined, shaded promenade/boardwalk extending northward from within the existing craft market along the waterfront to the small vehicular bridge adjacent to the St. Lucia Electricity Services building at Sans Souci. I expect this will be done in time for Cricket World Cup in 2007. Honourable Members may wish to note that a sum of $6.25 million has been allocated in the Estimates to finance the construction of the promenade.”