Ritz-Carlton Resort: To Be or Not To Be?
Last August Prime Minister Allen Chastanet waxed sentimental about the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, revealing that his first child was conceived at one of its resorts. He was speaking at a ceremony hosted at Royalton St. Lucia where the government signed an agreement with Range Developments so the latter would become the master developer of a Ritz-Carlton in Black Bay, Vieux Fort.
By April 2018, in his rebuttal during the debate on the 2018/2019 Budget of Expenditure, Chastanet was announcing “administrative difficulties” that “put a pause on the Ritz-Carlton project”.
The Black Bay development was originally approved by the previous Kenny Anthony government in 2016, as a CIP project. However, in January 2017, the Chastanet administration made changes to CIP, some of which did not go down well with Range Developments.
Chastanet acknowledged during the budget debate: “It was no fault of the developer what transpired. It was all our responsibility. I take full responsibility for it. But I believe we are well on our way to turning this thing around and we will be able to recommence the project.”
However, by June circulating reports were implying that the Saint Lucian government would have to compensate Range Developments for the money already invested in the Ritz-Carlton development—or face a lawsuit. The indication was that the government had until mid-July to decide.
But, as of June 28, 2018, this is what the prime minister said: “I would say the chances are that Range may not proceed. Within the next 21 days we will know the final word. But the good news is that we have other developers waiting in line for the Black Bay project.”
On Tuesday he told this reporter: “Nothing has really changed. We have been in negotiations. The developer had indicated to us in writing that he was unhappy with certain elements of what the government was supposed to do. We’ve been attempting to see if we can reconcile our differences. It’s not going well at this point, but we continue to live in hope and we will see what happens. But, as I indicated, the government will always act in the best interest of the people of Saint Lucia.”
At press-time the prime minister was unavailable for further comment and the CIP department declined to divulge any information concerning the arrangement with Range Developments. But this week Castries South MP, Ernest Hilaire, repeated in a news report: “The CIP legislation says money that’s brought in via donation goes to the National Economic Fund and parliament has to approve the use of such money.”
According to Hilaire, this fund is meant primarily for social development and not to lend investors. He added that the government loaned money from the National Economic Fund at 2% interest without parliamentary approval.
“We told the prime minister it was illegal, what he was doing. He had to change the law or he had to come to parliament to get approval to use the CIP monies in that way.”
The Ritz-Carlton resort that was scheduled to begin operations in 2021 at Black Bay was expected to house180 rooms over 180 acres. The developers boasted there would be 500 jobs during construction and a similar number once operational.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Allen Chastanet still had no definitive word on the future of the proposed Range Developments.