DSH: Where Are We Now?

The biggest news coming out of Saint Lucia in 2016 was the discovery of the contents of the framework agreement signed by the Government of Saint Lucia and DSH Caribbean Star Limited.

The contents of this 20-page agreement, when it found itself in the public domain, despite clauses contained therein that spoke to confidentiality, blew the lid off confidence in the government and opened the Allen Chastanet administration to criticisms it never fully recovered from, and which definitely played a part (small or big) in the crushing defeat it suffered at the 2021 polls.

Granted, there were some sections of the agreement that patriotic Saint Lucians thought were unacceptable, such as the leasing of lands to the developer for US$1 per acre for 99 years, the agreement in its entirety was not anti-Saint Lucia, nor was it anti- productive to national development.

For instance, the proposed development was for the south of the island and it was to build a marina, a racecourse, resort, shopping mall complex, casino, free trade zone, entertainment and leisure facilities, eco-tourism and architecturally designed villas and apartments.

The project did not see the light of day under the Chastanet administration, which tried as much as it could to push it through by building a horse racing track, a new by-pass road and relocating farmers. The former administration also demolished the abattoir, located in Vieux Fort north, with the promise to relocate it to Micoud South, which to date has not yet been done.

There was clear effort on the part of the former administration to get the US$2.6 billion (DSH) project off and running, despite the resistance it received from certain quarters, particularly the opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP).

The DSH project was first introduced to the SLP administration under the leadership of Dr. Kenny Anthony prior to the 2016 general elections. And while it did not get traction under the SLP administration, that administration did not dismiss it entirely.

Tourism Minister Ernest Hilaire has said that the Labour administration negotiated with the developer for some time, almost a year to reach an acceptable agreement which was never reached because, as Hilaire puts it, “there were too many clauses in which they proposed which we thought were not in the best interest of Saint Lucia.”

There has been talk about DSH wanting to pursue legal action against the Government of Saint Lucia for unfulfilled promises.

So where do we stand today? Has government abandoned the Desert Star Holding (DSH) project?

Prime Minister Pierre, on several occasions has said that his administration is not opposed to development nor foreign investors wanting to invest in Saint Lucia, hence the need for an update on the DSH project, since by all accounts it is still on the table.

Will the project be renegotiated? Is there a willingness on the part of government or the developer to re-examine the project to see if it could be salvaged? And is the talk of arbitration by DSH genuine?

An update on the DSH project, which divided the country and caused upheavals not only in political circles but among the citizens, is necessary for obvious reasons.

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