Prime Min­is­ter’s New Year Mes­sage: Em­brace the change!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Star Reporter

On Thurs­day this week Saint Lu­cia's Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet con­vened his first press con­fer­ence of the new year. In his open­ing re­marks he cited some an­tic­i­pated im­prove­ments in the jus­tice sys­tem, the po­lice in par­tic­u­lar. “We have to do more work in the schools, more work in the com­mu­nity. Our po­lice­men should not be look­ing only to ar­rest peo­ple, but they should be part of the process of pre­vent­ing crimes in the first place.”

The prime min­is­ter re­peated some an­nounce­ments first made in 2016, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of a fourth San­dals: a six-star re­sort to be named San­dals LaSource.

“We will also be an­nounc­ing fur­ther de­vel­op­ments in the south end of the is­land,” he promised. “We've al­ready spo­ken about the DHS project and the com­mence­ment of the race­track. As in­di­cated, we're work­ing with Mr. Teo Khing to put to­gether a mas­ter plan for the other parts of Vieux Fort. Mean­wile we're also work­ing on de­vel­op­ments in Black Bay, Sab­wisha, as well as Canelles. I'm hop­ing to make other an­nounce­ments very soon as to what is go­ing to be hap­pen­ing with those projects.”

Where agri­cul­ture was con­cerned, he said that de­spite the chal­lenges in the af­ter­math of Trop­i­cal Storm Matthew, his govern­ment had been able to pump money back into the sec­tor in an ef­fort to in­crease pro­duc­tion. "Govern­ment is cur­rently in talks with re­gional and in­ter­na­tional ba­nana pro­duc­ers and mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies," he said. Ad­di­tion­ally: “Our meet­ings with ba­nana pro­duc­ers in Mart­inque, as well as mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies in France, are go­ing well. As you know, we've com­menced ex­port­ing bananas to Lon­don, through Paris, and in the next few months we're go­ing to be test­ing bananas in that mar­ket.”

In the area of in­fra­struc­ture the prime min­is­ter said se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion was be­ing given to the ex­pan­sion of the is­land road net­work. “We're hav­ing sev­eral meet­ings with donor agen­cies to be able to get ad­di­tional re­sources. We've de­cided to cur­tail the amount of money we were go­ing to spend on the Gros Islet to Cas­tries high­way, and we're go­ing to be spend­ing more on the back roads. We are look­ing at res­ur­rect­ing the high­way from Gros Islet all the way to Vieux Fort. We be­lieve that this is the long-term so­lu­tion to some of the traf­fic prob­lems now be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced.”

The PM's open­ing re­marks were fol­lowed by ques­tions from at­ten­dant me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tives, most of whom were there to ask about the re­cently mod­i­fied Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment pro­gramme. Doubt­less the prime min­is­ter an­tic­i­pated this, con­sid­er­ing the wide in­ter­est in what is now be­ing called, since last Sun­day's 60 Min­utes pro­gramme on CBS, the “pass­ports-for-cash pro­gramme”.

“This is a very com­pli­cated busi­ness,” said the prime min­is­ter in re­sponse to a reporter's ques­tion. “It's a very com­pet­i­tive busi­ness. It didn't start in the Caribbean, al­though Saint Kitts has had it for some time, but the United States of Amer­ica has been in the Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment busi­ness for a very long time; so have Canada, the United King­dom; I can go down the list. When you tell me this is a grab for money - I think that's what the 60 Min­utes show said - what's the dif­fer­ence be­tween them go­ing after the best ath­letes, the rich­est peo­ple, and the bright­est peo­ple? Is that not to make a fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion to their coun­try?”

The prime min­is­ter went on: “The crit­i­cal thing here is the scru­tiny of the ap­pli­cants. We're not al­low­ing despots to come into the coun­try and, so far, that's not hap­pened. Where the pro­grammes have got­ten into prob­lems in the past . . . well, it con­cerned diplo­matic pass­ports. You do not have to have a CIP pro­gram in order to give a diplo­matic pass­port. The con­tro­versy be­hind CIP has al­ways cen­tred on diplo­matic pass­ports. I can say to you that the United Work­ers Party and this govern­ment is not in the busi­ness of sell­ing diplo­macy. That's a value is­sue. It has noth­ing to do with CIP.”

On a lighter note, the prime min­is­ter said he was look­ing for­ward to 2017, and the many changes. “It's go­ing to be dif­fi­cult,” he noted. “It al­ways is dif­fi­cult leav­ing what you are ac­cus­tomed to do­ing, to try some­thing new. But we have no choice. Hon­estly, the coun­try is in a fi­nan­cial quag­mire. There is a tremen­dous amount of po­ten­tial, but we now have to con­vert that po­ten­tial into re­al­ity. It's go­ing to re­quire fun­da­men­tal change, and the one thing I want to ask Saint Lu­cians is to bring back that Saint Lu­cian pride. Let's wave our flag. Let's cel­e­brate who we are. Let us not make ex­cuses.”

Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet met with the me­dia on Thurs­day at his first press con­fer­ence for 2017.

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