Gordon Butch Stewart Has Come To The Party
Editor: The announcement on Wednesday July 22, 2020 signaling the arrival of Butch Stewart and Beaches Resort to mainland St Vincent has raised the temperature of the 2020 general elections. Not quite at fever pitch yet, but the mercury is climbing. Flames are being fanned by the ULP and it is getting somewhat excoriating for the NDP.
Almost four years to the day after Camillo Gonsalves reached out to the young Adam Stewart inviting him to come over from Barbados to have a look at what’s possible here for the world-renowned Sandals group, the beleaguered Buccament Resort is promising to be a transformative project for St Vincent and the Grenadines in a sector that has underperformed in comparison to its island neighbours.
It is going to be transformed into a Beaches Resort with 350 suites with a capital injection of US$100 million; a huge investment that the NDP can’t ignore. It is one of the many potentially burgeoning projects being undertaken by the ULP. The NDP will attack it and in doing so revisit a similar narrative to what they adopted for the AIA. It’s an election gimmick. It will never be completed. The project will not live up to its promise. It will be a white elephant. They will attack Butch Stewart. They will villainize him. They will come up with many negative assertions to attenuate the possible economic impact of the project. The naked truth is, the coming of a Beaches Resort will kerfuffle and bamboozle the NDP.
The ULP has put the South Leeward and North Leeward seats in play and has potentially consolidated the party’s lead in Central Leeward. The battle was on prior to the Beaches Resort announcement. Dr Minerva Glasgow must surely be creating a “nature call” for the NDP. In stature, she stands head and shoulders above the opposing NDP candidate. She is articulate, adroit, and endearing. Dr Randy Brewster will not be required to do much to cause his opponent to wobble off his axis. Exeter has hardly managed to keep a straight line anyway and his public utterances lay him bare for what he seems to be. More external than internal. The relatively fresh legs of Carlos James must be tempting his opponent to surrender to an overpowering lassitude caused by being in opposition, despite winning the seat in 2005, 2010 and 2015. Attrition and the youthful energy of the ably qualified James will probably more than he can handle.
Beaches Resort, followed by the Marriot will change the political and economic landscape of the Leeward side. The ULP has cleverly managed to salvage the Buccament Resort debacle, a feat that the NDP could not achieve with the Ottley Hall Marina. Rather than being a factor that could have cost them the 2020 general elections, they have turned it on its head and made it into a formidable weapon in their election armory. Such is the political skill of Dr Gonsalves.
This is good politics. This is one of those rare occasions when politics serves the people well. The project promises to provide hundreds of jobs in the construction phase and hundreds of sustainable jobs in its operational phase. The possible linkage to the agricultural sector is significant. The demand for 700,000 lbs of fruit per year, hundreds of thousands of eggs, 90,000 lbs of pork, 48,000 lbs of bananas, 90,000 lbs of fish – and the shopping list goes on – is not to be scoffed at or to be trivialized. It is clearly a demand that today, our local farmers cannot meet, but that is a good problem to have. What the ULP and NDP must do on behalf of the people of this country is to hold Gordon and Adam Stewart to their promise of buying local as far as possible and to partner with the government to build the capacity of the farmers and fishers.
The other economic spin offs will also be significant. Millions of dollars in direct revenues to the Treasury, increased NIS contributions, increased commercial activity for the business community and increased disposable income in the hands of the hundreds of persons employed. How will the NDP begin to rubbish a project like this? I have no idea, but be assured, attempts will be made albeit at the risk of their own demise. They will have to be careful not to create an antithetical narrative to their call for jobs, jobs, jobs.
350 suites translate to about 1400 guests. This sort of capacity has need for massive airlift. AIA is a predisposing factor to that. Beaches Resort would not have been signing any agreement with the government to undertake a project of this magnitude were it not for AIA. The construction of AIA was never a chicken and egg scenario in my book. The Beaches Resort announcement is testimony to the logical sequence I always thought it was. “Build it and they will come.” We must pause to remember that AIA was vehemently opposed by the NDP.
Camillo Gonsalves, you have done well. Your letter to Adam Stewart four years ago may turn out to be a veritable successful application for the job of Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Not that you need Adam Stewart to appoint you. The people of St Vincent and the Grenadines will judge you based on the success of this project, among other things.