By Melanius Alphonse
Notwithstanding the final session of the House of Assembly on Tuesday in an usual sitting, the “substance” of the 2017 session and DSH Caribbean Star Limited framework agreement will re-define Saint Lucia for 99 years
Plans for the new session of the parliament of Saint Lucia, commencing April 1, 2017, are afoot for major government agenda and priorities that will profoundly shape life today and the future.
In the light of such, many are relying on the system of constitutional checks and balances to ensure a minimum of civility and cooperation, in the face of seemingly anti-democratic behaviour towards the system of governance.
Nonetheless, the Allen Chastanet-led administration seems bent on the practice of basic disrespect for state institutions, governance and the people.
However, it is clear, to argue why our young democracy is in a fragile state of lawlessness, with abandoned of ethics, conflicts of interest, lying, hypocrisy and deception commonplace in the political economy of the “common good”.
Thinking ahead, the major priority is how parliament will respond to these and the complexity of DSH Caribbean Star Limited framework agreement:
• Will incredibly reckless motives lead to more breathtaking naïveté?
• Will it turn out that remedial intelligence and professional advice lead to good sense or to simply expedite as instructed in (9): Licenses and approvals (9.4) “…the issuing of land titles, licenses and any other approvals required for the Project.” Meanwhile the frustration and tension of the people take a back seat?
• Will the legislative agenda move quickly to satisfy the master developer amid a broken judicial environment and the lack of institutional reform to tackle crime, turf wars, money laundering, immigration and corruption? Especially in the light of local law enforcement’s many challenges and the seemingly intractable matter of the Leahy Law sanctions by the United States on Saint Lucia:
• What is the national security policy, if any, to accompany DSH agreement, exclusive Chinese enclave/state, within Vieux Fort, Saint Lucia? Economists often say that there is no such thing as a free lunch, even if critical concerns are often obscured, thus:
(a) Is there a comprehensive report that explores a cost-benefit analysis, economic analysis, an environment impact assessment (EISA) and made public?
(b) And very significantly, to explain the priorities in policy and decision making that comprise integrity, transparency and accountability?
The citizenship by investment program (CIP) is expected to take centre stage as government is mandated in (6.1) (b) “To amend the CIP legislation with respect to the removal of any limitation on the number of applications that can be received and/or approved. (c) …In any event, the anticipated post approval processing time for the issuance of a certificate of citizenship would be approximately five (5) weeks.”
In relation to the Escrow Account (7.1): “The Master Developer shall open a new bank account in its own name with a duly licensed international banking institution outside of Saint Lucia, and shall designate such bank account as the Escrow Account. The monies received for investment in the Project from CIP participants shall be deposited into this account and used in accordance with clause 7.2.
“7.2 The Master Developer shall use the monies in the Escrow Account to satisfy any Project related fees, costs and/or liabilities, including (without limitation):” too lengthy to list.
It gets more interesting in the promotion of the project whereby (8.2) ”The CIP Unit shall reimburse, on demand, the Master Developer, for marketing and agent costs, in a maximum amount of US$15,000.00 for every investment in the Project concluded by the Master Developer under the CIP. Said amount is to be deducted from the Government fee.”
The rules have been bent to argue that a new wave of entrepreneurship, economic activity and construction will be unleashed in the interior and south of the island, and new measures for the proposed free trade zone, on the second attempt (where legislation differs from the rest of a country, often including increased trade, investment and tax breaks) will bring forth “the new frontier” that Sir John Compton promised many years ago.
Finally, a new era of economic transformation should include an unequivocal vision of the future in a transparent and honesty methodology that requires character and intelligence: not disproportionate policy measures that don’t add-up, coupled with lacklustre leadership.
This is yet another indication of the larger concern: who are the policy advisers, the smart economic policy team and the legal team in the making of a quasi state in Vieux Fort (quadrant plan revitalization) for the benefit of thoroughbreds, their owners and affluent unknowns, armed with a Saint Lucian passport.
But first, and foremost, DSH on face value is more benefiting to the master developer’s interests, with most favourable viability, at the expense of Vieux Fort and Saint Lucians’ national interests for 99 years.
Moving forward, ongoing awareness, hedged against rising worries, are likely to warrant controversy with disruptive potential:
• The encroachment on the way of life in Vieux Fort and reconfiguration of cultural heritage;
• The disregard for the significance of agriculture, food production and self sustainability;
• Limited land accessibility for nationals to inhabit and enjoy at leisure is actually posing a mounting threat to freedom, something “prehistoric”;
• The crazy approach to Vieux Fort’s fragile water supply (part of which is included in the project), the management of the overall ecosystem and climate change adaptation;
• The reckless approach to balancing security interests (US, China and Taiwan) to engulf Saint Lucia, more specifically Vieux Fort – a former strategic military base of the US, and still very much in play.
Second, the frightening dimension (the risk and threats) to geopolitical stability outweighs the opportunities, more favourable to external capital and a work force to enjoy tax free benefits for 25 years. Nationals are expected to accept low wages and pay taxes working on a project that encroaches on their way of life.
Third, the Chastanet-led administration is perhaps bent on destabilizing future generations for 99 years in their own country, as a direct result of leadership more interested in the frills of office, the opportunities it provides for deal making and enrichment, as if the country is private property.
The risk is simple, things are clearer; an entitlement habit of mind is part and parcel of the point of view that the people are indentured servants, both politically and economically.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org