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COMMENTARY: 99 years for the consideration of US$1 per acre’: Everybody needs to chill out – Part 1

Melanius Alphonse

Melanius Alphonse

By Melanius Alphonse

The malevolence broadside against Saint Lucia set on believing the government of Saint Lucia, namely, that a press conference would be held (over two weeks) based on anonymous sources and leaks of the DSH Caribbean Star Limited framework agreement, everybody needs to just chill out – but that hasn’t happened.

Quite the reverse, from the pattern of consistently being awful, perhaps realizing this agreement does not strike the right balance and mutual benefit for national development.

Nonetheless this crazy recklessness finds company in the agreement’s confidentiality provisions: (19.1) “Except as otherwise provided in this Agreement, … each party agrees to keep secret and confidential and not to use, disclose or divulge to any third party (other than a party’s professional advisers) any: (a) confidential information relating to the Project; or (b) information relating to the negotiation, provisions or subject matter of this Agreement (or any document referred to in it); or (c) confidential information concerning any party to this Agreement.”

Such engagement raises keen interest, especially when it is not the approach to social and economic change that many hoped for in a democracy, where credible objectives thrive in openness and inclusiveness.

And so, once again, the norm is to keep the people out of decision making and retreat into the refuge of lying and deception, in which Prime Minister Allen Chastanet found comfort in two funny and incoherent talk show performances to frame his narrative and contradict his instincts and interests.

For multiple reasons (some already revealed and others awaiting reward), journalism has been spineless in relation to the Chastanet-led administration, even alarming, but then again, this is Saint Lucia.

Therefore it was no surprise that the questions posed to Prime Minister Chastanet were tokens, not even remotely germane to the framework agreement’s financial flaws, economic impact/market conditions, prospective investors, public opinion and consultation, migration and the number of Saint Lucian (passports) citizenships to be sold, bilingual human capital, along with new and specific legislation to facilitate the project.

The answers offered an unedifying response to information, highlighting nuances that oversimplify assumptions and expectations of no substantive value, aside from possible reliance on economic interdependence. And indeed, the faulty logic is very apparent – a mirror of political and governance rhetoric of pretence.

But what continues to come out of these flawed performances is the level of intelligence that is not principled and level headed, but somewhat naïve of the prime minister and minister of “everything” in a cabinet of ill defined intentions.

This is possibly dangerous and annoying; but on the other hand, provides worthy material for analytical articles and a very good year for publication.

With Saint Lucia’s continued pursuit of economic development, the paradigm should be to understand better the format of DSH framework agreement, its competing perspectives, and economic diplomacy’s emerging global role, given the country’s vulnerabilities to international markets.

In particular, when unable to roll-out a very specific economic recovery package inclusive of a comprehensive economic strategy, in essence this leaves a growing interest in various avenues to influence the country both economic and political.

From the onset, the quick signing (after some 30 days in government) led the Chastanet administration to expose its limitations on complex trends: unprepared to understand important realities and the ability to react to complexities in global affairs and impactful insights (careful think tank research and analysis) that should serve as a guide to international negotiations and action.

However, if government is serious in the quest for new international partners to invest, with particularly importance in becoming increasingly viable and practical, aggressive and competitive, there should have been an investment conference by now.

This avenue would lend crucial domestic support to increased investor confidence, highlight investment opportunities and cement the country’s multiyear economic planning and development.

Above all, the inability to evaluate objectively is frightening in a divided country; losing influence in a zero-sum prism.

That said, the incapacity to discuss DSH is inexcusable and reckless behaviour, made more apparent by what little Prime Minister Chastanet knows, evidenced by his flawed solo performances.

Even so, the silence of government ministers is perhaps in keeping with the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
But who can blame them, operating with a silo management leadership that is unable to remember what he reads and says from minute to minute on mainstream media. What is not difficult to predict is an impending disaster.

In a chaotic environment, puppeteering and proxy wars provide an overall sense of security, and serve as a measure of how genuinely isolated the silo is. Thus far, from what is known, our goose is cooked in more ways than one.

What happens next is guided by the scope of risk and opportunity, agreements, new legislation, and the distribution of incentives, with the hope of significantly impacting job creation.

More significantly, there is little reason thus far to think of the justification for the cost of land to DSH vs. Saint Lucia’s national interest and ownership/equity in an agreement that states: (4.1)… “Upon completion of all phases, over a 20-25-year period, the Gross Development Value (GDV) of the phased project is expected to amount to approximately US$3 billion.”

Nevertheless, history may be instructive with DSH that is likely to impact a lot of people via government transfer of lands for horse racing to the master development on terms that read: (2.3)… “Payment for Land shall be arrears at the completion of each Parcel Development.” (2.10)… “and if required by the Master Developer, part of the eco-site (to be used for a museum and natural attraction: Mankote), shall be transferred to the Master Developer (or an Affiliate) in accordance with the Phasing Schedule for a period of 99 years for the consideration of US$1.00 per acre.”

Based on the current format of the DSH agreement and intelligence gathered, the conclusion is a representation of weak negotiations on behalf of Saint Lucia that is unwitting falling prey to geo-economics, the country’s flustered leadership, and shaky, social and economic reality.

In Part 2, the DSH challenges facing government’s agenda and priorities that will profoundly shape life today and the future.

Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality. He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and NewsNow Global analysis. He can be reached at melanius@newsnowglobal.com

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This article was posted in its entirety as received by stlucianewsonline.com. This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of stlucianewsonline.com, its sponsors or advertisers.
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3 comments

  1. Yourll need to get rid of this moron of a minister quick

    (3)(0)
  2. Mr.Alphonse, here is a general statement about your writing style: your sentences are too long and convoluted, which makes most of what you're trying to express get lost in wordiness and run-on sentences; try using shorter sentences and less obscure words. Although I look forward to some of your articles, I cannot read most of them because they are too long.

    (6)(0)
  3. First there were the British, then came the Americans who secured 99 year leases, then there was Grindberg; all parties secured areas far greater to the area now in question and for NOTHING. In fact it is costing us now with Grindberg.

    This is not meant to agree that we give up our land to foreigners cheaply, however, we must be cognizant that our land is our land and it cannot be separated from our country. What we should be doing is examining ways we can actually attract some of the services and advantages that can be derived from the investment. Remember that it is only a contract, any party can terminate a contract, the fact that we don't really care about our country and we care more about politics always takes precedent and is evident in our every thought. In every business deal there are sacrifices by both parties and sometimes the party who at first appears to be the winner in the end has less to show for it. It is what you make of the opportunity that matters. What if St. Lucians made this investment so lucrative for the investor (because of their interest and dedication) that we end up holding the controlling stick and dictate what happens? An investment can be sold also, what if we made enough that we can buy back our investment.

    This is just to illuminate some of the possibilities because we have been skeptical over the years, always suspicious but never positive (because of political operatives and motives). The investments that we have tried in the past were mainly what we considered safe; have they contributed to our wealth? We still have Le Paradis looking at us. Can we tax Sandals and the likes to any extent?

    Ofcourse there is always room for negotiations in these deals and we have to try to get the best possible deal. I must add also that the confidentiality clause is standard for these types of investments and the Courts and the parties also acknowledges that there are multiciplicy of ways to circumvent that provision evidenced by what has occurred now. These acts are sometimes done intentionally as Governments are public institutions and by their nature they cannot be absolutely bound by a secretive business deal provisions. All contracts are subject to the law of the land, which makes any provision which contravenes it voidable. I am going to explain, although Grindberg is not the subject but where the Grindberg deal differs is that it does not deal with a term of the contract between the parties but for us, rest on a Constitutional principle; that of authority to contract in the first place. Ignore Gryndberg himself, the real issue is did the PM subvert any provision of the Constitution? What Gryndberg has done personally is to tie us and our future investments up in Courts and cause us to spend money.

    Ofcourse the PM can contract on our behalf without our knowledge and approval, those contracts are all good "but for" when they end up in problems. That is the same risk that the Constitution was trying to avert in the first place, so relying on a defense that "it would have been a good thing if it had worked" could never be sustained. We can secure this investment but we must understand that there are some sacrifices.

    (2)(6)

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