If You Asked Me, Letters & Opinion

Beauty and Big Business

Image: Despite the promise of much-needed economic generation for Saint Lucia, Pearl of the Caribbean is facing stiff environmental challenges.
Image: Despite the promise of much-needed economic generation for Saint Lucia, Pearl of the Caribbean is facing stiff environmental challenges.
Despite the promise of much-needed economic generation for Saint Lucia, Pearl of the Caribbean is facing stiff environmental challenges.

THE proposed multi-billion dollar development project earmarked for Beausejour, Vieux Fort serves as just another example of how tight a rope we walk when it comes to eking out a survival in a dog-eat-dog world. In fact, it forces us to take a second, closer look at the beauty that surrounds us – and appreciate it.

In most – if not all – large-scale development, there is often some level of compromise that must be made whenever areas of conflict are concerned. Not surprisingly, quite a few concerns have been raised about Desert Star Holdings Ltd. (DSH)’s US$2.6 billion international standard integrated development, most of which are well-placed.

That the project falls within the southern quadrant of the island where unemployment has been chronically high can well be Lady Luck’s doing. Nevertheless, the catch-22 facing many Vieux Fortians is whether despite all the concerns put forward, the south actually stands to benefit in a great tangible way from the development. Are they giving away more than they can get?

Clearly, the two main concerns being ventilated in the media thus far have to do with the level of due diligence being done before DSH can progress with the project and the environmental impact of the project itself.

On the surface, the project seems like just the kind of investment the island needs to trigger some level of economic growth that we can actually boast about. In fact, Invest St. Lucia’s CEO, Mc Hale Andrew, has indicated that most of the labour component for the project will be provided by Saint Lucians. If true, many Saint Lucians will get the chance to show their high level of skills while earning a salary.

When completed, “Pearl of the Caribbean”, which will comprise about 700 acres of prime land, will employ many Saint Lucians at various levels, many of whom will expectedly come from Vieux Fort and environs. The project will, in a big way, erase the imbalance in the hotel plant which currently has most of its properties in the north.

Aside from the economic pluses, however, there are also the legitimate concerns that relate to the environment, including the sanctity of the Mankote Mangrove, where the mangrove ecosystem is liable to be at risk. Mangroves play a crucial role in protecting vulnerable coastlines from wave action by holding the soil together, thereby preventing coastal erosion. This critical function results in inland areas being shielded during storms, thus minimizing damage.

But mangroves also provide homes for many species of animal and plant life. Their often close proximity to coral reefs and sandy beaches augurs well for tourist attractions, too. In Bonaire, for example, snorkeling expeditions in and around mangroves are offered to tourists who get to see a variety of colourful fish species.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has said that government has made a few tweaks here and there to accommodate DSH’s project becoming a reality. Such tweaks include amending the Citizenship by Investment Act to accomodate key aspects of the project in current categories and expediting the processing time for applications after requisite approvals have been granted.

Therefore, DSH, too, needs to make a few concessions, including tweaking their plans to incorporate in Mankote Mangrove into the project and allow it to remain in its present organic state. As beautiful as the Mankote Mangrove is, there must be some value added to the project by having such a beautiful area in its unspoiled state to be explored by tourists and Saint Lucians alike.

As critical as economic development is, there is no denying that while dollars come and go, we still need to preserve the place where we call home. Future generations would be robbed of the wonderful scenery and other qualities of our island’s landscape if we simply squander every remnant of beauty at the behest of the much-needed dollar.

Eight years ago, Soufriere was the epicentre of some fiery words after the government was accused of “dropping the ball” in granting an Alien’s Land Holding Licence to an Italian couple – the Mignuccis – to acquire property in the controversial Pitons Management Area (PMA). The Development Control Authority (DCA) was also cited for displaying poor judgment.

To vent its frustration, the Civil Society Network (CSN), spearheaded by a then firebrand Flavia Cherry, organized a protest march in Soufriere on the afternoon of Friday, September 5, 2008. With a handful of protesters by her side, Cherry’s battle seemed futile as she tried her best to stay cool while facing down nearly a hundred counter-protesters.

Project workers on the Mignucci home, led by their local contractor, were armed with placards that spoke directly to bread and butter issues: “Flavia is an Opportunist”, “Who will feed our families?”, “Tell Cabinet no to Hyder Report”, “Cherry, what’s your motive?”, and “We want jobs, jobs, jobs”. Some placards were even splashed with obscenities, both in English and kweyol.

“This protest is not just about marching,” Cherry told her supporters via microphone. “It is to send a signal that the people of Saint Lucia are fed up and we are willing to get up and stand up to rescue Fair Helen from certain death.”

First-term Soufriere MP, Harold Dalsan, who stood on the sidelines for fear of the event being portrayed as political, told me in a brief interview that day that there were some concerns about the Mignucci project that needed to be addressed.

“We have never asked for the construction to stop,” Dalsan said. “All we are saying is that there needs to be some oversight as to what is actually going on in terms of silt mitigation, preservation of the environment, deforestation and the possibility of them coming up with artifacts that may have tremendous archaeological value.”

One would hope that the current administration, Invest St. Lucia and the DCA do all within their power to allay the fears of Saint Lucians who still have an environmentally-sound conscience. While the DSH deal appears to be a “done deal”, no amount of effort should be spared to ensure that we not lose the beauty of the natural environment for the sake of massive concrete structures.

Still on the question of the environment, it would be fruitful if Saint Lucians were furnished with a comprehensive study of the environmental impact on the marine and plant life following the construction of the Pigeon Island Causeway after Pigeon Island was artificially joined to the mainland in 1972.

Built from silt excavated to form the Rodney Bay Marina, Pigeon Island Causeway now leads to one of the most picturesque and iconic landmarks on the island, Pigeon Island. Sometimes what appears to be a curse today turns out to be a blessing tomorrow, and vice versa.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department released a statement in which Saint Lucia was ranked sixth among Caribbean islands with the most U.S. direct investments. The ranking is listed in the annual Investment Climate Statements for 2016 and reports that Saint Lucia benefitted from direct investments worth US$230 million last year, a 41.1% increase over 2014. Countries that benefitted from more US direct investment last year were Bermuda, British Caribbean Islands, Barbados, Curacao and the Dominican Republic. If you asked me, Saint Lucia deserves more.

With the massive wealth at DSH’s Chairman, Teo Ah Khing’s disposal, he’s in the enviable position of seeking out other regional territories where he can invest. But while choosing Saint Lucia is definitely a blessing in many regards, any such investment must be made wisely. As small and vulnerable as Saint Lucia is – both from the impacts of bad environmental and economic decisions – we must ensure that attracting big business here today does not leave us grappling with even bigger problems tomorrow.

Stan Bishop began his career in journalism in March 2008 writing freelance for The VOICE newspaper for six weeks before being hired as a part-time journalist there when one of the company’s journalists was overseas on assignment.

Although he was initially told that the job would last only two weeks, he was able to demonstrate such high quality work that the company offered him a permanent job before that fortnight was over. Read full bio...

6 Comments

  1. Where are they gonna put the tons of daily sewage.
    Who is gonna be paying for taking care of the CRAP_ DETERGENTS and other detrimental chemicals discharged by this grand development.
    Ha?…
    ve you researches ALGAE BLOOMS. their deadly impact on coastal fisheries?
    Hey, if Adam and Eve did not giv a RAT’s ASS about a pure and perfect Eden
    Can we expect the prevailing satanic hordes to sympathize /empathize over the loss of our Paradise au naturel

    1. $$$

      DOCTOR DASSAULT MIRAGE:

      Please give your most urgent attention to this EBOLA epidemic that has been detected in the residents of La Ressource Vieux Fort, causing numerous fatalities, and COUNTLESS BILLIONS of dollars in wealth and property to the general population of this 238 mile squared island.

      I have attempted to contact the W.H.O. at the U.N. in your area but so far was met with a deafening Silence, leaving me to think this EBOLA outbreak may be beyond their ability of the W.H.O. to handle.

      Your proximity to the U.N.’s location may prove extremely valuable in arresting this CALAMITY brought upon the people of this Nation by The CHASTANET CRIME FAMILY and CHINESE MAFIA to punish our people for taking sides with Taiwan against China. This may require an emergency meeting of the SECURITY COUNCIL to avert this impending catastrophe visited upon this Island by the CHASTANET CRIME FAMILY and CHINESE MAFIA..

      Please give this matter your prompt and urgent attention, and may Allah continue to bless you and your family.

      your brother,

      Son Of Adam,

      SON-OF-MAN-SORT-PWEE

      https://www.facebook.com/284538805083530/videos/524556617748413/

      .

  2. /

    As the “MASTER DEVELOPER” I CAN determine the pecuniary value required to be a partner of this

    PEARL OF THE CARIBBEAN PONZI SCHEME.

    TEO AH KHING, son-of-man-sort-pwee has TEN MILLION DOLLARS and wish to invest in

    PWELL OF THE CARIBBEAN PONZI SCHEME

    by purchasing a Lucian Passport???? Sorry SOM, the minimum amount required is 300, 000, 000.00 DOLLARS, and we have a total of 150 investors with investments amounts totaling some 5, 000, 000, 000, 000.00, but our goal is 200 investors which we are encountering tremendous difficulties recruiting, and this total will NEVER be met, and is destined for certain failure; Of COURSE this was incorporated in our design, since these Lucians have opposed our China Motherland for the breakaway province of Taiwan. WE WILL TEACH THEM A LESSON THEY WILL NEVER FORGET.

    DO’T WORRY SON-OF-MAN the JACKASS ALLEN CHASTANET will give us HUNDRED TIMES WHATEVER MONIES WE SAY WE SPENT, AND PAY FOR ALL THE LAND WE NEVER BOUGHT, oh there’s so, so, so, much more in this PONZI SCHEME, that this Pinocchio JACKASS WILL PAY ON PLEASURE ISLAND. THE CHASTANET CRIME FAMILY WILL LOOK LIKE TEE-A-B-C FRESHMEN PLAYING IN THE BIG LEAGUES OF CRIMINAL MAFIA, DRUGS, GAMBLING, PROSTITUTION, AND KAKA CHUVAL.

    Take a look at what we had this JACKASS SIGN – YO PWEE EN COOCOON MAMA YO ! WHAT THEY CALL BREECH BIRTH IN THEIR ENGLISH LANGUAGE. PAY VERY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE LANGUAGE WE MADE THIS LITTLE LEAGUER SIGN.

    https://www.facebook.com/284538805083530/videos/524577227746352/

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    1. Man you a jackass because y’all hate the government you rather fight success for your country you fool get a life man this investment is the best thing to happen to stlucia so shut the fuck up you.

  3. Where will the customer support base come from in order to maintain these so call jobs that these facilities claim they will generate to locals? There has yo be a high inflow of customers and cash spending to justify such claims. What happens once these the dust has settled and these facilities have been opened for a few months and the anticipated customer flow and spending subsides? Large layoffs?
    Worse yet who will have to foot the bill once the investors start demanding compensation as part of their failed investment capital?
    It is high Tim that we stop salivating uncontrollably, without deep levels of thinking, once a carrot is dangled before our eyes.

    1. /
      HELP !HELP ! HELP !

      Because of the Greed an selfish character of the many mis-educated Negro Sambos, these reprobates, Rickets John Wayne, Jeff Fedee, Peter Josie, Mary Isaac, Gail Rigobert and such traitors, who sold the people of St. Lucia this ignorant fraudster kooyon Allen Chastanet as a leader, I will call myself “PROPHET SON OF MAN”. I TOLD YOU DISBELIEVERS THAT ALLEN CHASTANET WAS A WORTHLESS IMBECILE, WHO WOULD BE AN INTERNATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT.

      WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU CALL THIS BEHAVIOR IN THE HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT TODAY BY THIS IDIOT ALLEN CHASTANET; PLEASE TELL ME PLEASE. As Student Government President I mastered Robert’s Rules of Order, but mate cannot even read a simple sentence – SORT PWEE !!!

      https://www.facebook.com/284538805083530/videos/526152900922118/

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