ST. VINCENT: – The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) says it has negotiated 10 projects that will pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy and create 20,000 jobs over the next two years.
“I have in my hand here the concrete, funded plans for hundreds of millions of dollars of international investment that will flood into this country if an NDP administration is voted into power on December the 13th,” NDP leader Arnhim Eustace said at a press conference on Saturday, Dec. 4.
The projects relate to construction, hospitality, banking, aircraft registration, seaport improvement, technology, and agriculture.
They include “a major international construction group” partnering with an NDP government “to finally get the Argyle airport into a state of readiness”.
The international airport under construction at Argyle is a central plank of the Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) bid for a third consecutive term in office.
The party, which is led by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, will launch its manifesto at the construction site on Sunday, Dec. 4.
The project is being financed by Gonsalves’ “coalition of the willing”, including Taiwan, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago.
But the NDP has criticised Gonsalves’ approach to the construction of the facility, saying that some friendly nations have not signed inter-state agreements committing to the project.
Earlier this year, Eustace said “that would be the end of the project” if nations such as Cuba and Venezuela withdrew their support.
He, however, said in July that an NDP government will hire international consultants to evaluate the feasibility of the project and alternative sources of financing before a making a final decision.
“The construction company will work closely with the independent consultants already announced to assess and rectify the seeming planning mistakes made by this ULP administration. Once a clear plan of action is in place, the airport will be completed in a timely fashion so as to minimize any further financial wastage,” Eustace said on Saturday.
Among the other investments Eustace announced were a 1000-unit large integrated residential and hotel resort complex and an international banking group establishing a new chain of retail banks in the Caribbean, using St Vincent as its base.
He further said a major international construction group, specializing in infrastructure projects, will establish a regional head office in St Vincent.
A global player in the trust and corporate services sector will overhaul the country’s financial services, to make the country highly competitive in international markets, Eustace said.
“We will be launching a new, unique product together with the support of one of the world’s largest and best known banking and financial groups,” the former prime minister added.
The other projects include an aircraft registry, seaport improvement initiative, investments into the technology sector, and setting up of tax treaties “to generate further onward investment into our country”.
Eustace said the agricultural sector will be restructured in light of the demand at high prices for cocoa and the utilization of the joint venture infrastructure in the UK.
“I have personally handled these negotiations and am in no doubt whatsoever that these various international investors and companies will not deal with a ULP / Ralph Gonsalves administration,” Eustace said.
He said Gonsalves “has been backing the wrong horse over the last few years”.
The ULP administration’s close ties with “questionable regimes such as Venezuela, Libya and Iran”, Eustace said, have annoyed “traditional partners and international business supporters”.
“Quite simply, many international businesses are now unwilling to invest in St Vincent and the Grenadines because they don’t like our politics.”
He said the projects the NDP negotiated will be funded by investors in the Unites States and Europe.
But the ruling Unity Labour Party, issued a press release shortly after Eustace’s press briefing saying that the economist was making “vague, empty promises about phantom international investment projects”.
“So let’s get this straight: Eustace is promising ‘vast international investment’ but providing no specifics about who these phantom companies are. Perhaps it’s contracts that was set up by the NDP’s pals SCL (Strategic Communications Laboratories). Is this another SCL scam? Either way, it’s a panicked, last ditched effort to give the illusion that Eustace and the NDP could deliver in the way that Comrade Gonsalves and the ULP have delivered,” the ULP said.
Eustace told reporters that he expects that some people will say the announcement is just an election gimmick.
“The proof of the pudding for that is only in the eating, you know,” he said in response to a reporter’s question.
“We have been having discussion. I, in particular, have been having discussions for some time. I did not speak about it because I wanted to be sure that we are in a position to get these things. Well I feel confident enough now that we will get them,” he added.
“It’s time for a new dawn. It’s time for proper grown-up government that is for the people, for jobs, for prosperity and for our children. It’s time to make this country great again, to do business with the world around us and to reap the benefits ourselves. An NDP administration will transform this country for the better. These projects alone would do that. These projects alone will deliver over 20,000 jobs,” Eustace said.