“It is the same Prime Minister who has argued forcefully that all state enterprises must make money to remain open. In pursuit of that policy, his Administration has either closed or earmarked for divestment, Radio St. Lucia, St. Lucia Fish Marketing Corporation, St. Lucia Marketing Board, the National Printery and the Ministry of Commerce Supplies Warehouse… The Prime Minister is now proposing to finance a State Enterprise which he knows in advance will not make money.”
IT appears that Teo Ah Khing and Allen Chastanet have abandoned their ill-conceived Miami Beach-type development, within a highly-restricted aviation space, to build numerous skyscrapers on Sandy Beach and a causeway to Maria Island in Vieux Fort. They have instead replaced it with another hare-brained scheme for the Coco Dan flood zone which is located west of Vieux Fort town, in an area known to many as the old Il Pirata restaurant site.
To any discerning observer, it becomes clear that it is just more of the same bluff from Teo Ah Khing. He clearly has found a “puppet” in Prime Minister Allen Chastanet which he plans to exploit to the fullest. Chastanet’s own pie-in-the-sky bloated ambitions, accompanied by an obvious lack of analytical capacity, make him a gullible participant in Ah Khing’s grand design.
Let’s be brutally frank about this: Teo Ah Khing does not genuinely intend to undertake the proposed US$2.6 billion D.S.H. investment. In fact, his track record indicates that he does not have the investment capability to undertake such a project. On the contrary, he plans to use the horse racetrack (described as a loss-leader or “cheese” by no other than PM Chastanet himself) as his vehicle to cream off millions of dollars using the sale of our passports. In addition, he has had the Prime Minister to sign on to a one-sided agreement which provides him with all the leverage he requires to force Saint Lucian taxpayers to compensate him in the very likely event that the project fails.
The contents of the main and supplementary D.S.H. agreements, which the PM insists is different to what is in the public domain, which is yet to be made public by the Government, and his application to C.I.P. for approval to raise 90% of the investment funds through passport sales, says it all. After eight attempts, Teo Ah Khing has not been able to convince Invest St. Lucia and C.I.P. technocrats to approve his grand scheme based on objective assessment of his proposals using verifiable indicators as articulated in Saint Lucia’s investment guidelines.
He has responded by seeking favour with the Prime Minister who has responsibility for the programme. The many unanswered questions surrounding dismissals of CEOs at both Invest St. Lucia and the C.I.P. and the removal of the head of Special Branch who had a vital role in the due diligence process, raise serious suspicion around the Prime Minister’s maneuverings in an effort to circumvent the law to assist Teo Ah Khing.
To the sober mind, the scheme is clear:
1. Dangle the artistic renderings of a pie-in-the-sky US$2.6 billion investment in the face of this government;
2. Get the government to sign a highly one-sided agreement in his favour;
3. Get C.I.P. approval to put his hands on roughly 25-30,000 passports ostensibly to raise 90% of the investment funds;
4. Ensure that all passport sale revenues are deposited in an escrow account outside of Saint Lucia under his full control;
5. Build a horse racetrack on government land…using those lands as security to borrow US$5-10 million to finance the construction;
6. Sell the non-profitable horse racetrack (my emphasis) to the government and get paid to manage the unprofitable facility which he will use to make money from other activities in which government will have no shares;
7. If it suits him, disappear into thin air with our passport money being held in a foreign bank account, and the profits from the horse racetrack with zero investment risk and no legal consequences.
The disturbing truth is that Teo Ah Khing has been able to get the Prime Minister to agree to a development project that at best is fictional and at worst is devastating to the future of the country.
It is the same Prime Minister who has argued forcefully that all state enterprises must make money to remain open. In pursuit of that policy, his Administration has either closed or earmarked for divestment Radio St Lucia, St. Lucia Fish Marketing Corporation, St. Lucia Marketing Board, the National Printery and the Ministry of Commerce Supplies Warehouse. Ironically, the Prime Minister announced that his Administration has leased the Beausejour agricultural lands in Vieux Fort to Ah King, to be used as collateral to secure a loan to construct the horse racetrack which they have stated publicly will not make money.
The Prime Minister is now proposing to finance a State Enterprise which he knows in advance will not make money. The investor will repay himself with proceeds from our CIP passport sales and the government will take ownership of the unprofitable money-losing race track. They will then give Teo Ah Khing a management contract to operate the same facility. This is a complete turnabout to what was announced over a year ago.
When the horse racetrack was approved by Cabinet as phase 1 of the D.S.H project, the Prime Minister and Pinkley Francis, Chairman of Invest St. Lucia, made it absolutely clear that the investor would use his own funds to construct the horse race track. There would be no CIP funds involved, as the stand-alone racetrack could not qualify for CIP funding. The investor was showing confidence in the project by spending his money upfront. No word at the time that on his own the investor was incapable of coming up with the money; and that Government would need to hand over our land, in advance, to Mr. Ah Khing so he can use it as collateral to raise the money which, according to the Prime Minister: “he would put upfront.”
This would be laughable, if it did not present such great risk to our country.
So, we now know that the investor has no money. He needs to mortgage our lands to finance a mere US$10 million venture while he dangles the US$2.6 billion investment in our faces. By approving this repayment method, the Prime Minister has in essence conferred CIP status on the horse racetrack outside of the legally-established mechanism for obtaining such status. This, no doubt, is the Prime Minister’s roundabout way of forcing the authorizing body into granting CIP approval for the D.S.H. project. The CIP Act or CIP Regulations does not give the Prime Minister the authority to preempt the application process to grant CIP status.
By his actions, the Prime Minister is willing to risk our lands, our passport money, and even act illegally, to finance a self-created, government-owned money-losing facility, to accommodate Ah Khing’s grand scheme. But remember, his Administration’s stated policy is to shut down all government-owned money-losing enterprises. So, what is his justification for such inexplicable actions?
The sad reality is that the Prime Minister is too cozy up with Teo Ah Khing and simply not smart enough to see through that simple scheme — and as such, has not represented Saint Lucia’s best interest. Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has been well duped. Teo Ah Khing is now well positioned to exploit our national resources and passport money, exclusively for his personal gains. The Prime Minister seems hell-bent on giving him access to our passports by any means necessary.
Will patriotic Saint Lucians stand by and allow this to happen? It is not too late. We can stop Teo Ah Khing from executing his self-serving scheme at our expense. We are smarter than the Prime Minister. After reading the D.S.H. agreement over a year ago, I have held the view that any smart leader who is working in the best interest of the people would never sign a bad deal like this agreement. I also know that many other Saint Lucians hold that same position on it. The Prime Minister’s pronouncements on D.S.H. a few weeks ago have further strengthened my position. I now firmly believe that he is not fit to hold this high office.