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Mt Wynne/Peter’s Hope – the bigger picture

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The two major political parties, and we daresay the minor ones too, agree that jobs for our people and growth of the economy are among the most urgent needs of our country.

What then are the options open to us in terms of job creation and economic growth?

We have to use what resources we have at our disposal.{{more}}

We have our people, who are increasingly well educated and skilled and can be put to work to build the capacity of the country; we have good, but limited agricultural land, some on difficult terrain; there are our fisheries and geothermal resources, then of course, tourism.

Our climate, our breathtaking beaches, our nature trails and seascape, largely untouched, lend themselves to a vibrant tourism economy.

Sir James Mitchell, while he was prime minister, recognized and articulated that on mainland St Vincent, arguably the best area for five-star resort type development was the Mt Wynne / Peter’s Hope area. He bought the land, shifted the road and created a reserve for that type of development. None of the political parties objected then, and none did until recently, precisely one week ago.

The Government of the day is about to open an international airport which should provide the airlift capacity to support the type of hotel industry that could create quality jobs in larger numbers than currently exists and create backward linkages including into the agricultural sector.

The question is, what does it really take to bring the sort of capital to invest in the infrastructure needed and to develop the expertise required to support a world class tourism product as exists in Antigua, St Kitts and Anguilla, for example.

It is no secret that the type of capital involved for a quality tourism project is in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars. This is why all these Caribbean countries go after foreign direct investment as the money simply does not exist in the domestic market.

Post independence, all political parties have acknowledged and accepted the significant value of foreign direct investment, particularly as it relates to the development of the tourism sector.

We acknowledge the importance of all sectors and all levels of investment, but we need to be practical. It is all well and good to have a romantic notion that local investors will come together to develop the Mt Wynne/Peter’s Hope area, but where is the precedence for this or what empirical evidence is there that Vincentians would be willing to do this or indeed have the capacity and/or appetite?

Prime Minister Gonsalves had for years been beseeching the private sector to come to the table in relation to hotel development, including at Mt Wynne / Peters Hope. It is no surprise that such calls went unheeded.

We need to look at the bigger picture. Apart from the financial justification presented by the Prime Minister for the land sale, the project as outlined, if successfully implemented, would bring jobs, create wealth and be a big boost to the tourism industry. After all, the current Leader of the Opposition in 2000 saw the potential and was prepared to give the lands as an equity stake to a foreign direct investor to build a 100-room hotel. What is the difference in 2016?

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