Are Sandals incentives reasonable or simply a concession to enablers?

Are Sandals incentives reasonable or simply a concession to enablers?

L-R) Prime Minister Allen Chastanet; owner of Sandals, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, and Tourism Minister, Dominic Fedee

It isn’t a mere coincidence that regional governments, with a few exceptions, are rapidly being overwhelmed by unscrupulous politicians, embedded in government with the help of enablers, and reinforced by modern day pirates of the Caribbean.

Inevitably, the balance required in government to administer regulations and controls – the checks and balances between civil society and corporate domination – is converted into totalitarianism.

In exchange, such a compromise plays-down climate resilience and the environment, exploits workers, feeds citizens whatever products they can buy cheaply, takes-over national assets, discards entrenched values and culture and trashes local traditions.

At that juncture, such policies help to cripple generations, which are left with a grim future, burden with massive debt, mediocre education, weak national security and no healthcare.

This is paying the price for a failure to look, listen and learn, and the real power and privilege that operate in weak democracies. In particular, Saint Lucia, where people are trying to make ends meet.

Statutory Instrument, 2018, No, 36 [23 April 2018] Tourism Incentives (Sandals Resorts International Group) Order: “(2) The declared benefits under subsection (1)(A)(ii)… except in respect of construction material, which is applicable for a period of five years, commencing from the 15th day of April 2013 and terminating on the 14th day of April 2018,” is of particular interest.

Indeed, there are plenty of scenarios, questions, and inferences to explain concessions that may or may not have already expired before the statutory instrument was issued.

Is it an attempt to backdate concessions that may have been applied but were not authorized or to refund to Sandals duty that had already been paid? Either way, it’s suspicious!

This, however, dates back to the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration since it extends back to 2013. So does this offend the rule against retroactive legislation?

Still, with the details to “except in respect of construction material,” means that “they [Sandals] must return to cabinet for clarification. Sandals have always received concessions from inception.”

This is in addition to $24 million in tax write-off, therefore:

  • Was there an additional motivation to wait-out five years from 2013 -2018 and the return of a more favourable administration and “tourism minister” Domenic Fedee, a former employee of Sandals, to complete the process for concessions?
  • And, to be clear, what were the items under concessionary consideration?
  • Is this simply plausible deniability to recognize ideas and hindrances of those who may have different goals and values that define what is reasonable or simply audacity?

The economic war by conglomerates in Saint Lucia intertwines the political, all-exclusive and vertical integration model of business. A model that must acknowledge the grievance and frustrations of many small hotels, locally owned properties and other indigenous business that are not awarded 25 years of tax-free benefits plus incentives.

In addition, shouldn’t Sandals all-exclusive business model, with 25 years of tax-free benefits be a success story in a country that has placed its “economic eggs into the proverbial one basket of tourism”? Yet, such exclusivity has not abated the island’s food import bill.

It is interesting that, purveyors of alternative reality are likewise enablers, more familiar with wobbling the truth, and now known for their infamous “Sweet and Sour Tet Chien,” attempts to argue that “Sandals and Massy have trained more Saint Lucians than any other local business” and does not view the expansion of tourism as a threat to the island’s way of life, including the possibility of Sandals to acquire more properties in St Lucia.

“For example, how much beach land an entrepreneur should be allowed in establishing a hotel property in Saint Lucia is heard as a political question rather than one about wise land-use and economics.”

That’s an all-inclusive evolution from earlier beliefs and convictions of “forward ever, backward never!”

There is also the charge of “sticky fingers” and that “There is no end to the hypocrisy. Their criticisms do not end with the Sandals brand,” only to submit that:

“Instead of the knee-jerk political reaction to Sandals and Massy Stores, Saint Lucians ought to be concerned about what might happen to the economy if there is a sudden change of fortunes of these two giants.”

Perhaps, I am missing something!

Whose responsibility was it as an agronomist, former minister for agriculture and even as a foreign diplomat, however brief, who served during the nightmare of the 1979 era?

Many persons with historical knowledge should perhaps reflect on the era when Saint Lucia received assistance under the Windward Islands Banana Growers Association, (WINBAN) and STABEX (from French Système de Stabilisation des Recettes d’Exportation) – a European Commission compensatory finance scheme to stabilise export earnings of the ACP countries.

It’s unconscionable, what happened to the funds allotted to Saint Lucian farmers and the banana industry.

Certainly, this does not alleviate current misgivings of enablers and converts on what should have been reasons enough to correct Saint Lucia’s agricultural outlook and in hindsight to reference “We have agriculture; it’s time for agribusinesses” dated May 26, 2011, and Save our farmlands and help curb food inflation October 24, 2013.

“Recognising the unprogressive environment from which the Saint Lucia government operates, it is not difficult to understand why the old challenges remain. There is need to correct these concerns with a concerted effort to protect farmlands, water resources and animal habitat via a national land trust, and to keep farmlands in the hands of farmers for generations to come.

“Once that is established, it is essential that landowners and farms develop a business plan to run a viable farm business – with assistance of agricultural and management institutions to help build capacity, strengthen resources for efficiency and productivity.”

Are Sandals incentives reasonable or simply a concession to enablers?

Government ministers and Sandals officials at the sod turning ceremony for Sandals LaSource Resort

To conceal the truth hurts credibility and undermines reality. In particular, when not grounded in facts. And from enablers who discredit themselves by not being thoughtful and accurate, laced with indecision and mix messaging as far back as 1979.

There are many examples of the audacity of tourism incentives and how the plantation type all-exclusive tourism is destroying lives and communities. The deals they conjure, the expansion of their empires, and how they segregate society, politically, economically and socially.

Yet, converted enablers and desperate apologists continue to formulate and peddle more disagreement, instead of better understanding the suffering and setbacks of plantation type, all-exclusive business model, and tourism incentives in the context of whether they are reasonable or simply an audacity of schemes coupled with vertical integration.

But, perhaps, this inability has something to do with coming of age and that which is certainly mindless intellectual scurvy!

At this point, discovery of the right solutions to outrageous tourism incentives and tax concessions that add-on to national distress and pain, calls for free and honest debate that consume a broader diet of ideas and perspectives – not “Sweet and Sour Tet Chien!

Practical solutions to common ground are paramount. But that depends on keeping philosophies fresh and interesting to counter physiological and physical manipulation and emotional overtures.

Otherwise, Saint Lucia, similar to being a colonial outpost of the British Empire, is fast becoming just another “all-exclusive” tourism outpost.

Is that the image and true allegiance we aspire to?

By Melanius Alphonse


The undeniable facts remain; St. Lucia is in a state of mass hysteria

Melanius Alphonse

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 melanius@newsnowglobal.com

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