Prime Min­is­ter’s Fi­nal Word On St Jude Hos­pi­tal

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Alvin Charles

Some have sought to im­pugn the ef­fi­cacy of Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet’s lead­er­ship. His lead­er­ship style has been de­scribed as dic­ta­to­rial; there are those who con­sider his fre­quency of travel ex­ces­sive and ex­pen­sive. It has also been claimed by the least qual­i­fied that he does not have what it takes in­tel­lec­tu­ally to be a prime min­is­ter—never mind that last June 6 the ma­jor­ity thought oth­er­wise. It need be added that the prime min­is­ter’s most vo­cif­er­ous crit­ics, for the most part, are fel­low politi­cians seek­ing to help them­selves!

At his press con­fer­ence on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, sched­uled to end af­ter an hour, the prime min­is­ter fielded me­dia ques­tions for al­most two and a half hours. He was en­gag­ing, per­son­able, and did not refuse or cen­sure a sin­gle ques­tion. On the con­trary, he seemed will­ing and able to in­dulge the pro­ba­tive ex­er­cise in per­pe­tu­ity; he had to be coaxed by his se­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer Ni­cole McDon­ald into bring­ing the meet­ing to a close. Hardly the man who is rou­tinely ma­ligned and car­i­ca­tured at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

On Thurs­day he came across as a leader whose pro­nounce­ments con­noted a pel­lu­cid sense of di­rec­tion; a prime min­is­ter who has a per­fer­vid ded­i­ca­tion to the so­cio-eco­nomic up­lift­ment of his peo­ple and sin­cerely cares about the well-be­ing of our Caribbean neigh­bours; who ac­knowl­edges that the way out of the eco­nomic morass in which we have placed our­selves is paved with dif­fi­cult choices. He was nev­er­the­less un­de­terred and would boldly go where his pre­de­ces­sors feared to tread, all in the best in­ter­ests of the peo­ple—even if it meant plac­ing his nascent po­lit­i­cal ca­reer at risk.

For close to fif­teen min­utes the prime min­is­ter re­ported on the com­bined ef­forts of his min­is­te­rial col­leagues to mit­i­gate the dev­as­ta­tion rained by Irma and Maria on Do­minica and the BVI. He high­lighted what al­ready has been and will be done to as­sist the vic­tim­ized pop­u­la­tions, among them fa­cil­i­tat­ing the evac­u­a­tion from Do­minica of 1,700 Ross Univer­sity stu­dents and their trans­porta­tion back to the home na­tions.

He took on com­plaints that he was off-is­land dur­ing and af­ter Hurricane Maria: the de­ci­sion to at­tend the meet­ing of the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly in­stead, though a dif­fi­cult choice, was made with his peo­ple in mind and in con­sul­ta­tion with the other OECS lead­ers; at least one of the heads of the OECS mem­ber states needed to rep­re­sent at the UN the var­i­ous in­ter­ests of the re­gion—in­clud­ing ad­vo­cat­ing for cli­mate change mit­i­gat­ing ac­cords which could pos­i­tively af­fect the mag­ni­tude and fre­quency of hur­ri­canes.

The prime min­is­ter ex­plained that his of­fer to se­cure some of the pris­on­ers from the BVI and Turks and Caicos was an ob­vi­ous hu­man­i­tar­ian ges­ture. Who knew when we might find our­selves in need of as­sis­tance with our own prison in­mates?

He rec­og­nized the Cana­dian, Amer­i­can, and Mar­tini­quan peo­ple and gov­ern­ments for their roles in the re­lief ef­forts while sin­gling out Venezuela for spe­cial men­tion on ac­count of its un­wa­ver­ing and par­tic­u­larly gen­er­ous aid.

He went on to ex­press his in­ten­tion to per­mit busi­nesses from the BVI and Do­minica to tem­po­rar­ily set up shop in Saint Lu­cia while their coun­tries of ori­gin pre­pare for their re­turn.

The prime min­is­ter also sought to clear up any mis­con­cep­tions about the St. Jude re­con­struc­tion. Spec­u­la­tion has been rife about the fate of the wouldbe struc­tural rein­car­na­tion of the south­ern hos­pi­tal, thanks to care­less talk on the part of one gov­ern­ment min­is­ter, which was like red meat to the gov­ern­ment’s de­trac­tors. The prime min­is­ter said that while a de­ci­sion was yet to be taken about the 50 per cent­com­plete struc­ture, de­mo­li­tion was never on the cards, never mind a rec­om­men­da­tion to do just that. He did not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of re­pur­pos­ing the struc­ture if the cost of rec­ti­fy­ing the var­i­ous struc­tural and func­tional faults un­cov­ered by an au­dit prove pro­hibitive. He said the mat­ter was un­der ur­gent dis­cus­sion.

He capped off the press con­fer­ence by en­cap­su­lat­ing key as­pects of Saint Lu­cia’s eco­nomic re­al­ity and out­look. He reaf­firmed his com­mit­ment to the re­al­iza­tion of the DSH project and again as­serted that the de­vel­oper would be fronting the fi­nanc­ing of phase one - to be re­im­bursed sub­se­quently. He as­sured the press gath­er­ing that OJO labs is slated to open its doors in less than two weeks - on Oc­to­ber 15 - ini­tially em­ploy­ing 35 young Saint Lu­cians, then many more.

The ground-break­ing of tourism projects at Sab­wisha, Choiseul, and at the site ear­marked for the Ritz Carl­ton were con­firmed for later this year as well as the con­struc­tion of an ad­di­tional 400 rooms at San­dals Grande. In ad­di­tion, it was dis­closed that banana pro­duc­tion has in­creased by 30%, over­all tourism ar­rivals are up by 10%, and cruise ship ar­rivals are up by 22%.

On the mat­ter of fi­nanc­ing the op­er­a­tions of the Owen King EU Hos­pi­tal, the PM con­firmed that the gov­ern­ment is ac­tively seek­ing corporate part­ners for the pur­pose of es­tab­lish­ing a pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ship (PPP) to mit­i­gate costs.

The prime min­is­ter lauded the pro­fes­sional acu­ity and the au­ton­omy of the chair­man of the Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment Pro­gramme, Mr. Ryan De­vaux, and the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of In­vest Saint Lu­cia, Mr. Gill­ray Cadet.

Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet at his press con­fer­ence on Thurs­day. While he gave a full ac­count for his ab­sence over the last sev­eral days, he also had a few words for the press on re­search ver­sus cal­cu­lated loose talk.

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