DSH De­vel­oper Wor­ries Project Could Cre­ate More Jobs Than There Are Work­ers

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By El­iza F Victor

Last Fri­day gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and the is­land’s other movers and shak­ers, along with the more prom­i­nent res­i­dents of Vieux Fort at­tended the sod-turn­ing cer­e­mony of the Royal Turf Club at Beause­jour. The RTF is the horse-rac­ing track as­pect of the much talked about Desert Star Hold­ings (DSH) project, the so-called “Pearl of the Caribbean,” ear­marked for Vieux Fort and es­ti­mated at $2.6 bil­lion. It has emerged that the Kenny An­thony gov­ern­ment had been in unan­nounced dis­cus­sion with DSH for about three years. News of the project be­came pub­lic in July this year, a few weeks after the present ad­min­is­tra­tion, led by Allen Chas­tanet, was elected to of­fice. The prime min­is­ter stated then that what he had signed was “a frame­work agree­ment” to move ahead with the project “in prin­ci­ple.”

The outed project has met with cal­cu­lated crit­i­cism, with the op­po­si­tion call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to make full dis­clo­sure on the de­tails of the agree­ment that is also linked to the Cit­i­zens by In­vest­ment Pro­gram. In Vieux Fort, Mr Teo Ah Khing of DHS talked about his ex­pec­ta­tions for the project. He said Saint Lu­cia had been highly rec­om­mended by his business part­ners, China Horse Club mem­bers, and close friends. After vis­it­ing more than ten times over two years, Khing re­vealed, he had found Saint Lu­cians to be a friendly peo­ple. He had also dis­cov­ered many op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth.

“As chair­man of the China Horse Club,” he said, “I know we have mem­bers who like to travel and we be­lieve Saint Lu­cia is one of those gems yet to be re­ally dis­cov­ered. I have found that there are op­por­tu­ni­ties where we can share our ex­per­tise, particularly in the area of horse rac­ing.” Over the past year, he had met with many horse en­thu­si­asts and shared their desire to make horse-rac­ing more pro­fes­sional. “This is not just for the lo­cals,” Khing re­vealed. “We hope lo­cals can have an in­ter­na­tional stage, while we also at­tract the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity here. That is what we are an­tic­i­pat­ing. But it is im­por­tant to up­grade the ed­u­ca­tion and skills of the peo­ple.”

The CHC chair­man says it’s also part of the DSH plan to bring in train­ers to en­sure that Saint Lu­cians will meet in­ter­na­tional and pro­fes­sional stan­dards in terms of ser­vice, particularly when the ho­tel as­pect of the project comes on stream.

It is ex­pected that the track will be com­pleted by Novem­ber next year. “We will try our best,” he promised. “Of course we will op­er­ate within the laws of the land and we have to work fast. Once the pa­per work is in place we will mo­bilise. There will be no short­cuts. We must do this prop­erly.”

On the mat­ter of the planned ma­rina in the area of the Ma Kote Man­grove, the largest in the Eastern Caribbean, Mr Khing con­firmed that they had “pulled back, sub­ject to all the de­tailed stud­ies.” He added that the man­groves were de­cay­ing and sug­gested that it was linked to the land­fill, lo­cated in the area. He said that re­plant­ing was one way to ad­dress the prob­lem, but it was paramount to get to the root of the is­sue.

He added that he took se­ri­ously the con­cerns about the en­vi­ron­ment and felt that de­vel­op­ment and en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion were not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. “The en­vi­ron­ment needs to be pre­served and en­hanced,” he said. “We know what we are do­ing and we will im­ple­ment en­gi­neer­ing so­lu­tions to ad­dress mat­ters of ero­sion and other is­sues that arise.” Fi­nally Khing said: “This is a five- to seven-year project. It will cre­ate lots of jobs, so many that we are wor­ried there might not be enough peo­ple to do avail­able work.”

In­vestors and fa­cil­i­ta­tors of the DSH Pearl of the Caribbean project get to­gether for a his­tory-in-the-mak­ing pho­to­graph.

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