Did DSH Threaten the Peo­ple’s De­pen­dence on Short-sighted Politi­cians?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Peter Josie

Like many others who call Saint Lu­cia home or were merely at­tracted by its beauty and charm, I have pon­dered the op­po­si­tion to the Desert Star Hold­ings ini­tia­tive and its ge­n­e­sis. I won­dered why the for­mer gov­ern­ment kept the DSH pro­pos­als such a tightly guarded se­cret. My ini­tial con­clu­sion was that the gov­ern­ment de­cided upon this ap­proach be­cause it wanted to sur­prise those who said it could not at­tract for­eign di­rect in­vest­ments. But wait, wouldn’t it have served the Saint Lu­cia Labour Party at elec­tion time to be able to prove its de­trac­tors wrong; that it was sit­ting on the mother of all projects that would ben­e­fit pri­mar­ily res­i­dents in the south of the land, in par­tic­u­lar Vieux Fort, the then prime min­is­ter’s con­stituency?

What rea­son was there for the for­mer gov­ern­ment to have kept the DSH/Pearl of the Caribbean project un­der wraps? Ev­i­dence sug­gests that the last project of such mag­ni­tude in the south was the con­struc­tion of the US Air Base in the late 1930s. That project had at­tracted work­ers from all parts of the is­land, as well as from Bar­ba­dos and Trinidad.

On fur­ther re­flec­tion there may be at least four rea­sons for the se­crecy. The first cen­tres on the is­suance of Saint Lu­cian pass­ports as rec­om­mended by the Cit­i­zen­ship In­vest­ment Pro­gramme (CIP—cre­ated by the for­mer regime). My gut feel­ing is that of­fer­ing Saint Lu­cian pass­ports in ex­change for for­eign in­vest­ment was (and is) a poi­soned chal­ice that made Labour Party hon­chos ner­vous - de­spite the con­coc­tion hav­ing been cooked up by their trusted leader.

It says a lot that the be­lea­guered in­cum­bents ac­tu­ally un­der­took a cru­cial no-holds-barred elec­tion cam­paign with­out once men­tion­ing the eco­nomic panacea that DSH rep­re­sented. I’ve won­dered in re­cent times whether the for­mer prime min­is­ter per­chance shared my con­vic­tion that own­ing a Saint Lu­cia pass­port is a great priv­i­lege, not to be triv­i­al­ized - or pros­ti­tuted. But there was also an­other pos­si­bil­ity that I’ve found dif­fi­cult to shake, a ques­tion, ac­tu­ally: What would be the ef­fect on the eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment of the is­land’s south of such a huge in­vest­ment that in­cludes a top­tier horse-rac­ing track?

An­swer: The con­stituen­cies of Vieux Fort South, La­borie and Vieux Fort North would in a short time be to­tally trans­formed. Th­ese three make up a tri­an­gle de­fined as fol­lows: a line from Moule-a-Chique in Vieux Fort South to La­borie; then from La­borie to Sa­vannes Bay; and a third from Sa­vannes Bay back to Moule-a-Chique. An im­par­tial ob­server would say that tri­an­gle has yet to breathe the new air of an in­de­pen­dent Saint Lu­cia or to fully em­brace its No­bel lau­re­ates. As counter-pro­duc­tive as it sounds, per­haps there’s a fear that too much de­vel­op­ment could af­fect the poverty and back­ward­ness that ren­der too many of our peo­ple de­pen­dent on politi­cians.

A third rea­son for the se­crecy comes to mind. Imag­ine a sce­nario in which the DSH pro­pos­als were shared with the top brass of the party. Who’s to say the party hi­er­ar­chy was unan­i­mous in its sup­port for th­ese pro­pos­als? One thing is clear: since the early 1990s the party now in op­po­si­tion would rather die than por­tray in pub­lic any sem­blance of dis­unity. Those who lived through the drama and trauma of the divi­sion that led to its fall from grace will ap­pre­ci­ate why. Who will blame them? Isn’t party unity a le­git­i­mate pur­suit of party pol­i­tics? How­ever, per­haps the more im­por­tant ques­tion is: At what cost unity?

On the other hand, there could have been gen­eral agree­ment on the broad pro­pos­als, suf­fi­cient to give DSH an un­der­tak­ing in prin­ci­ple. Here I am re­minded of Amer­ada Hess Oil as­sur­ing the gov­ern­ment in 1980 that writ­ten agree­ments were merely for future guid­ance. So the day’s gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion agreed to take Hess at its word. In the case of DSH, if there was agree­ment in prin­ci­ple two years ago, why were Saint Lu­cians not in­formed?

There are at least two other pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tions for the se­crecy. The first is that the gov­ern­ment was too ten­ta­tive and luke­warm. The other may be that the gov­ern­ment was try­ing to shunt the en­tire deal into the hands of a ca­bal of busi­ness peo­ple, by first in­vest­ing the lands in their hands and then al­low­ing them to front with DSH. Is such a thing plau­si­ble? As for gov­ern­ment-owned lands in the south, has this been done be­fore?

Th­ese are mat­ters to be pon­dered as we dis­cuss the DSH pro­posal and its pos­si­bil­i­ties. We need to ask the for­mer gov­ern­ment to ex­plain the unan­swered ques­tions pre­sented in this ar­ti­cle, and more. Per­haps jour­nal­ists, too, can strike a blow for Saint Lu­cia (for Vieux Fort, in par­tic­u­lar) by ask­ing the for­mer regime to ex­plain. Who knows what truths could be brought to light in the process?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.