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 [email protected]