PRESS RELEASE – WITHIN the year, Saint Lucians can expect to see increased activity in the south of the island as Government steps up efforts to create employment opportunities.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet last week pledged that Government was working towards an unemployment rate of no more than 15 percent by 2021.
Despite a reduction in the unemployment rate from 24.1 percent in 2015 to 21.6 in 2016, the youth unemployment rate still stands at 43.1 percent. Part of Government’s strategy to reduce this rate is creating employment throughout Saint Lucia, including the much-neglected south of the island.
Chastanet announced in his Tuesday May 9 Budget Presentation that Government has partnered with OJO Labs International to develop an artificial intelligence training and call centre to market and sell the products, services, software and technology of OJO and its clients, including the fastest-growing real estate company in the United States.
“By September, OJO will occupy, lease and retrofit premises within the Saint Lucia Free Zone to house this facility,” Chastanet said. “Employees will be recruited and trained starting this month. It is anticipated that 50 jobs in the area of artificial intelligence training will be immediately created with the plan to expand ultimately to over 200. This is a first for the Caribbean and we will provide our people with advanced technological skills that are not currently available in the region. This will provide an opportunity for our young people to be exposed to cutting-edge technology from a first-world company.”
The Prime Minister also spoke of the opportunities presented for the south with the Desert Star Holdings Project, ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’.
“We know that this is a bold and sweeping project and that the scale of the project is unprecedented – but at the time, so was the Pigeon Island Causeway, the Millennium Highway, the John Compton Dam, the Hess Oil Refinery, the Rodney Bay Marina. And we cannot be afraid to embrace development because without it there is no hope for our people. The jobs they need so desperately will not fall from the sky – we must create them. And this Government will do so (and) we will do it in a manner which marries respect for our environment with the need to develop, for the two must go hand in hand.”
Chastanet explained that Phase One of the project — the racetrack — will be implemented later this year.
Said the Prime Minister: “During the construction phase, there will be an estimated 500 to 800 persons on site, with a management team of 10 to 20 persons. Once the racecourse is operational, persons will receive training and employment in the areas of horse husbandry, maintenance of facilities, and management of the race course and training of the racehorses. On average in the horse racing industry, 3 to 4 jobs are created for every thoroughbred, such jobs being jockeys, trainers, barn managers, grounds keepers, groomers, veterinarians, vet’s assistants and blacksmiths. It is estimated that we will have over 400 horses.”
The Prime Minister explained that the project will transform Vieux Fort into a modern, progressive city full of opportunities for its citizens.
“No longer will high rates of joblessness plague Vieux Fort and no longer will the people of the south feel like abandoned children,” Chastanet pledged. “This project will also make use of under-utilised lands in the south, particularly in Beausejour, and create several ancillary industries and linkages with existing businesses. The opportunities this project presents are endless and our Government is grateful to the developer for expressing this level of confidence in our country and in our Government to make such a large-scale investment here. We welcome this development and look forward to the job opportunities it will provide to our young people, particularly those from the south.”