Concessions, Tourism and Foreign Investment- Time for principled  debate, not political posturing
R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
March 8, 2024
Concessions, Tourism and Foreign Investment- Time for principled debate, not political posturing

As the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines continues to bask in the glory of its successful hosting of the 8th CELAC Summit, it also finds itself embroiled in a public row with the Parliamentary Opposition over issues pertaining to its relationship with the Sandals hotel chain, owners of the

flagship Sandals Resorts at Buccament Bay. The issue has broadened to encompass not just the Sandals Resort but to include wider, but related issues.

Before I comment on this growing row, as we congratulate the Government, it is important that not just commendations must be made, but genuine efforts be made for an objective analysis of our hosting of the Summit. This should encompass as well the one-year tenure of the CELAC Presidency, not only from an internal perspective which I respect, but on matters which bear on public policy and citizen inclusion.

For now, though, let’s turn our attention to the Government/ Opposition exchanges on Sandals and related matters. Those matters, as raised by the Opposition, relate to concessions given to Sandals, the alleged “favouritism” of what is referred to “foreigners” in the tourism and related industries, and the place of foreign investment in our economic development thrust.

It is a debate which all right-thinking people should welcome. Unfortunately, there is the temptation to hear both sides and respond by saying, “a plague on both your houses”, (a nice way of saying “To hell with both of you”). Why do I say this? We need to go no further back than the recent 2024 Budget Debate. Could there have been a more appropriate occasion to engage in a rich debate on these important issues? Instead, both sides engaged in mindless political games of hide-and-seek, preferring to forgo the opportunity to fully debate and clarify the issues. Instead, we are now getting snippets today and responses tomorrow.

Additionally, it continues to be a most unfortunate description used by the Opposition to designate investment from sister CARICOM nations as “foreign”, lumping it and treating it

as it would investments from the USA, China, the EU or Indonesia for that matter.

Whether we agree with it or not, we are signatories to a process leading up to the implementation of a Single Market and Economy. We can rightfully argue about these provisions, but as long as we are part of this process we must act accordingly. While it is true that some states do not always stick to the rules, we cannot make it an excuse for proceeding along the same road. Principle is principle.

It must be said that the Opposition has every right to raise issues and ask questions pertaining to what it describes as “favouritism” extended to Sandals and others involved in economic ventures here. We may, or may not agree with the line taken, but not only is that their right, it is also their responsibility, in representing the thousands who voted for the NDP ticket in the last elections. Matters like these must be ventilated and if the Opposition is ill-informed, then the Government has the right not just to rebut but to lay out the truth before us.

My problem, besides the original position of neglecting Parliamentary debate for “words” via the media, is that the Opposition must be careful how it handles such matters. There always seems to be some negative context, and it is easy for the Government to point to erroneous positions taken by the Opposition on major development issues. Argyle International Airport is the major error, but it appears that the NDP is not learning from its mistakes. The same failed approach is emerging in regard to the new port and even the new hospital to be built at Arnos Vale.

One can be very critical of the implementation of a project, even the perspectives, without having to kow- tow to those who feel that “oppositionism” is a virtue in itself and in seeking to win popular support, one must go along with those who seem to have little understanding or respect for our development process.

Our country does not need just an Opposition, after twenty plus years of ULP government, we need to see an alternative view from those who disagree with the present course, an ALTERNATIVE GOVERNMENT. The Opposition must become more conscious of this and demonstrate its capacity to lead rather than be led by blind and reckless opposition.

Having said all this, one can only ask, why has the government not been responding positively to the concerns and charges raised by our fisherfolk for months now? What efforts have been made to encourage and assist the building of cooperatives or joint commercial entities on the part of local producers and entrepreneurs to take advantage of new opportunities? The individual approaches will not work with large-scale business, we should have learnt that from our banana experience. Commerce and trade today are a far cry from two or three decades ago.

All this must be part of an enlightened debate, not a narrow political row. Our development strategy needs the input and involvement of informed citizens, not rabble-rousing opportunists. Our citizens ought to be more concerned about the future of our country than the fate of political parties and politicians.


  • Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.