Yesterday was indeed an historic day for Saint Lucia. The country on that day launched its thoroughbred racing industry with a horse racing track said to be on par with the best in the world. With a schedule as outlined by the Royal Saint Lucia Turf Club for upcoming races in the New Year, it can be said that Saint Lucia has entered an industry that could augur well for it on several levels like business, sporting, leisure, job creation, just to name a few.
There is a hype about the facility in Vieux Fort that seems to indicate it will bring about a transformation of that part of the island in terms of much needed businesses, which in turn would create jobs, which in turn would improve the standard of living of the people in the south.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet continually refers to the horse racing facility as a catalyst, a magnet that will attract foreign investors to the island, although by itself it will not be a profit-making entity. Such a description of the facility would certainly have buoyed the unemployed population in the south of the island desperate for long term, short term or just a day’s work to make an honest dollar.
The private sector in the south should also feel energised by the completion of the horse racing facility given what the Prime Minister has been saying about it and the fact that it is just the first phase of the US$2.6 billion investment earmarked for that part of the island, phase two of which the Prime Minister has said will soon be on its way.
No doubt the horse racing facility is fueling confidence not only in Vieux Fort but throughout the country and spurring that feeling of change among residents of the south, in particular, that tells them that maybe, just maybe and at long last, their fortunes will change for the better.
It is in this spirit, the spirit of positive change that seems poised to descend not only on Vieux Fort and its environs but on the whole of Saint Lucia, from an economic development standpoint, that we ask of the Prime Minister to make a definitive statement about the horse racing facility and government’s short term and long term involvement in it.
Much has been said about the facility with some of the Prime Minister’s statements debated on national radio and television, in newspapers and on social media. To be blunt, he has been criticised, taken to task for some of the statements he has made.
Therefore, with the horse racing facility poised to be what the Prime Minister said it could be, and with the country all set to enter into an industry described as ‘the sport of kings’, it is only fitting that the Prime Minister clarify to the people of Saint Lucia what exactly is the involvement of Saint Lucia in the ownership structure of the track. Is there an agreement to purchase the track? What are the proposals for the long-term management of the facility?
It was early last year when the Prime Minister, at a press briefing, said: “The developers are putting up front the money to build the facility. We will have a quantity surveyor to determine how much money is actually spent on the horse racing track, which to us are also the stables [sic]. Those monies will then be reimbursed through the CIP (Citizenship by Investment Programme). Once the track is paid for, we will then take back ownership of the land and so no longer will there be a lease and once we take back the land, we will enter into a management contract with the China Horse Club to manage and operate the track facility.”
However, both the Prime Minister and the CIP Board have stated publicly that the track and the investment project of which the track is a part of are not CIP approved projects. There is an obvious dichotomy between the two positions which, in the interests of transparency should be resolved into one position. A formal release from the Office of the Prime Minister will do the trick!