Who Sold Saint Lu­cia First?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Chris­tian Wayne

Ad­dress­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the pri­vate sec­tor dur­ing the Saint Lu­cia Cham­ber of Com­merce ex­ec­u­tive lun­cheon on Wed­nes­day, Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet sought to dis­pel cer­tain al­le­ga­tions sur­round­ing the Pearl of the Caribbean de­vel­op­ment pro­ject. Speak­ing di­rectly to crit­i­cisms that his ad­min­is­tra­tion is “sell­ing the coun­try to for­eign­ers” in re­turn for an in­te­grated tourism en­ter­prise pro­ject—the largest in the his­tory of the coun­try— the Prime Min­is­ter seemed to ren­der the op­po­si­tion's re­marks moot after re­veal­ing that it was in fact the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, cap­tained to elec­toral de­feat by Dr. Kenny An­thony on June 6, that had en­cour­aged the de­vel­op­ers to ex­pand their orig­i­nal plans from a mod­est eques­trian fa­cil­ity into one of Baha Mar pro­por­tions, ex­tend­ing over en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive ar­eas such as the Mankote Man­groves and Il Pi­rata.

Pro­vid­ing more back story on the ge­n­e­sis of the $2.6 bil­lion Desert Star Hold­ing deal, Chas­tanet stated that after pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions with an overly bu­reau­cratic SLP ad­min­is­tra­tion, DSH de­vel­op­ers grew frus­trated and turned their in­ter­ests to­ward al­ter­na­tive for­eign mar­kets less averse to for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment. At the eleventh hour, fol­low­ing the over­whelm­ing UWP vic­tory at the polls, the newly minted PM re­as­sured the multi­na­tional mas­ter plan­ning firm of his gov­ern­ment's ea­ger­ness to at­tract Far East dol­lars.

Reaf­firm­ing his re­cent trip to In­ner Mon­go­lia to “ver­ify the le­git­i­macy” of the de­vel­op­ers, Chas­tanet faced a “very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion”: since 2007 Saint Lu­cia has main­tained of­fi­cial diplo­matic re­la­tions with the Repub­lic of China (Tai­wan), much to the cha­grin of Bei­jing. Though he did not elab­o­rate on the cur­rent state of af­fairs be­tween the two al­lied na­tions, if China's for­eign pol­icy ma­neu­vers in the rest of the Caribbean are in­dica­tive of any­thing, Bei­jing will al­most cer­tainly seek to lever­age its po­ten­tial in­vest­ments as a means to for­ward its broader for­eign pol­icy goals for the re­gion.

Though the dis­cus­sion fo­cused pri­mar­ily on Phase 1 of the pro­ject—the con­struc­tion of a horse racing fa­cil­ity—the PM also touched on re­cent de­vel­op­ments re­gard­ing Phase 2, the hos­pi­tal­ity el­e­ment in­volv­ing the fi­nanc­ing and con­struc­tion of world-class re­sorts poised to po­si­tion Saint Lu­cia as the premier des­ti­na­tion for ul­tra-lux­ury tourism in the Caribbean. While stat­ing that the se­cond phase would re­sult in a 40% in­crease to the is­land's ag­gre­gate num­ber of ho­tel rooms, the Min­is­ter for Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment was less forth­com­ing in re­veal­ing the source of the pro­ject's pre­req­ui­site fi­nanc­ing.

Over the past two decades, Saint Lu­cia has sought to po­si­tion it­self as a po­lit­i­cally-sta­ble off­shore fi­nan­cial cen­ter (OFC) vy­ing to com­pete for cross­bor­der cap­i­tal flows against es­tab­lished in­dus­try lead­ers like Ber­muda and the Cay­man Is­lands. Per the Prime Min­is­ter, Saint Lu­cia's In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness Cor­po­ra­tion (IBC) in­cen­tive regime is un­ri­valed in the re­gion, and is de­signed to at­tract in­vestors like DSH and many more. Fi­nally, Chas­tanet vowed to ex­pand IBC reg­u­la­tions to fa­cil­i­tate fur­ther strate­gic in­vest­ment in the na­tion. Stop­ping short of con­firm­ing whether this would be ac­com­plished through nur­tur­ing an en­vi­ron­ment of tax and reg­u­la­tion ar­bi­trage, the PM re­mained tight-lipped, declar­ing only that a com­pre­hen­sive ac­tion plan to re-en­gi­neer Saint Lu­cia's cur­rent tax­a­tion struc­ture would be re­vealed in due course.

Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet ad­dress­ing the Saint Lu­cia Cham­ber of Com­merce this week.

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