It seems that Prime Minister Allen Chastanet’s visit with US President Donald Trump two months ago is already bearing fruit as Saint Lucia Wednesday welcomed a US delegation from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
The delegation’s visit here came as a result of that meeting during which Trump promised to send a team to Saint Lucia within 90 days to look into investment opportunities on the island.
At that meeting with Chastanet were leaders of Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. They met with Trump to discuss trade, energy investment and security concerns. It was at that meeting in March that Trump reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to working with its partners in the region to foster economic growth, counter predatory investment practices, and strengthen security cooperation.
The delegation, led by OPIC Acting President and Chief Executive Officer David Bohigian, met with Prime Minister Chastanet, the Cabinet of Ministers, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, Invest Saint Lucia and Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority.
The delegation visited specific sites like the cargo facility in Vieux Fort where government is proposing to build a new cruise ship terminal with Carnival Cruise Lines. Prime Minister Chastanet said feasibility and technical studies have already been done on that project.
He said the total cost of the project would be $55 million and that government had agreed to lease the property, about eight acres of land, to Carnival Cruise Lines. The development of the new cruise terminal would involve the construction of a new pier to hold two 6000 passenger ships.
“One of the possibilities we explored with OPIC was the investment of the project,” Chastanet said.
The delegation from OPIC also looked at Cul de Sac as a cargo port of which an extensive study had been done. Prime Minister Chastanet explained that the goal was to see if construction could begin no later than the end of this year “in order to have a new cargo facility in the next two years in that location.”
The third area of possible investment looked at by the OPIC delegation was what has been called the North/South Highway, which government has since broken down into three parts.
The first part of that project begins from the Daren Sammy Stadium connecting to Dennery with a major road artery connecting from Babonneau to the Allan Bousquet Highway.
Phase two of that project, according to Prime Minister Chastanet, would be from Dennery to the Barre de Lisle via a tunnel which would then connect to a new highway, which would lead to the area where the new cargo facility will be located.
Phase three of the project will not be undertaken in the immediate future as it is low priority at the moment, according to the Prime Minister however, it will be from Dennery to Vieux Fort.
“The first phase of the project is critical to us because of the traffic congestion we are experiencing between Castries and Gros Islet. We do not have the physical space to introduce a four-lane highway,” Chastanet said.
St Lucia was the last stop of a five-country tour of the Caribbean that has included stops in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
Bohigian, in a brief interview with reporters Thursday afternoon, expressed his delight in delivering on President Trump’s promise to lead OPIC to see the government’s vision for Saint Lucia and what that vision can become.
“We welcome the opportunity to develop that pipeline with you and meet your development goals,” Bohigian told Prime Minister Chastanet, further underscoring Saint Lucia’s assistance to the United States on the Venezuelan issue.
“There is interest from President Trump to invest more in Saint Lucia. Our next step is to go back to Washington and help policy makers understand the environment down here from a strategic standpoint. More importantly what we can do in the days that follow, is talk to investors throughout the United States to help them understand the opportunities you are building here in infrastructure, tourism and beyond where we can help empower entire societies,” Bohigian said.
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation known as OPIC is the US Government’s development finance institution that helps American businesses invest in emerging markets. That institution partners with businesses of all sizes in sectors from critical infrastructure to electricity, healthcare and financial services.
The institution provides solutions to common challenges such as lack of financing and political and regulatory risk. It tailors its products and services to meet the needs of individual clients and projects. The institution, since 1974 has committed an annual average of more than US$74 million to the Caribbean.