STATEMENT – Recently, the Soufriere Regional Development Foundation was the subject of a political press release under the caption, “UWP Says Soufriere Foundation a Reckless Spender”. While the Soufriere Foundation has no interest in becoming mired in any exchange of news releases, it feels duty bound to respond.
As a community development organisation it is not immune to and actually welcomes criticisms of its activities, however, these must be measured, fair and predicated on fact. Unfortunately, the style of writing, language and content of this release seem couched to mislead the public, and in so doing inflict damage on the reputation of and make the general public lose faith in the Soufriere Foundation and its work.
Contrary to the press release, the Soufriere Foundation assures the general public that the organisation is a financially strong and viable company whose asset base continues to grow from year to year as a result of sound fiscal management. The organization has never been in such a healthy financial position in its history.
This is reflected in the organisation’s expenditure to date of over EC$600,000 on projects, not including Jazz 2014, and budgeted and approved spending over the next three months of an additional EC$600,000 on major repairs of the Soufriere jetties, complete refurbishment of toilets at Sulphur Springs Park, donations and scholarships and bursary programme. Notwithstanding, this does not include payments of over EC$180,000 in monthly salaries paid to the 130 employees of the organisation.
In fact, such is the prudent financial management of the organisation that for the first time in its lifespan it is in a financial position to own its own building, a direction which it is pursuing unrelentingly (with the highest degree of diligence).
As per the issue with one of the five landowners on the Tet Paul Nature Trail in Chateau Belair, the Soufriere Foundation to the best of its knowledge has conducted business honourably with the family and thus vehemently disagrees with their claim of outstanding rents. Furthermore, there is absolutely no correlation between the matter under dispute and expenditure on Soufriere jazz, as the former is solely an unsubstantiated claim of rent and not one of the Soufriere Foundation’s inability to pay. Again, contrary to the contents of the news release, the staff of Tet Paul remains employed with the Soufriere Foundation. Presently, the Tet Paul matter is in the hands of our legal consul and thus it would be inappropriate for the organisation to comment further.
On the matter of Soufriere Creole Jazz, the release seems to contradict itself, for example, paragraph three reports that the group traditionally supports the event because of all its attendant benefits to the people of Soufriere, yet, the group is unsupportive of this year’s event which it claims the organisation spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on. Invariably, if the local expenditure is much greater and generally spent to cover the same cost one would reasonably expect that the socio-economic benefits would be greater, though not necessarily proportionately so.
Indeed as a result of Soufriere Creole Jazz 2014, the Soufriere Foundation directly injected over EC$350,000 in the national and local economy to pay artistes, government taxes, accommodation, transportation, food and beverage, security, production and operations set up, stage decor, electrical and plumbing works, mini-stadium upgrades, etcetera. Note that this expenditure is not inclusive of the expenditure of visiting jazz patrons from Martinique and Guadeloupe who resided at the local hotels and guests houses; most of which reported full occupancy around the three days surrounding the event, ate and drunk and took taxis during their stay.
Also, it does not include the expenditure made on food and beverage before, during and after the event by over 4,000 patrons, and the fuel expenses of those who drove to Soufriere. Notwithstanding, the event was also able to market Soufriere as destination to both St. Lucians and visitors from the nearby lucrative French source markets of Martinique and Guadeloupe and as a future location for other big jazz events. Thus overall, the hotels and restaurants, taxi drivers, gas stations, business houses, labour market, arts and crafts personnel, sites and attractions, vendors, etcetera, benefitted directly and the community indirectly, through its marketing to a potential source market, from the hosting of the event.
The Soufriere Foundation is so confident of the short-term economic impact on the town that we invite the group responsible for the release to conduct a survey to measure the efficacy of the activity in Soufriere and St. Lucia.
Indeed the Soufriere Foundation would like an independent auditor to examine some of the major events and projects it has embarked upon in the recent past. These would include Creole Jazz 2014, Health and Wellness programme, The Hummingbird beach project and the Soufriere Hospital rehabilitation project in 2011, Smith Street Soufriere road rehabilitation; among others.