Is St Lucia’s $30 million pension fund investment in a Golf resort a-hole-in-one?

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By Caribbean News Now contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia — A “hole in one” occurs when the golfer gets his golf ball into the cup on the green with just one stroke, [also known as an ace] means hitting the ball directly from the teeing ground into the hole. And yes, that means a hole in one is one of the most exciting things that can happen to a golfer during a round of golf.

So ideally, is the said $30 million pension fund investment, a-hole-in-one: For the benefit of us all, fall “within the parameters of the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) investment policy and guidelines” and has it passed the “rigorous investment process”?

According to the press release from the NIC and signed by Matthew L Mathurin, director, “The NIC’s recent investment in Cabot (St Lucia) Inc. meets the requirement of the Act, the investment policy and guidelines, and its mission and vision statements. The NIC is confident in its decision. The Corporation has always acted and will continue to act “for the benefit of us all.”

“In addition, the investment was rigorously assessed by the NIC’s in-house team, its Investment Committee and the Board; the returns were negotiated at a rate higher than the average returns on the current portfolio and security was obtained which value is three and a half times NIC’s investment.”

Nevertheless, to use another scoring term a “Birdie” meaning a score of one-under par on any individual golf hole. Par is the expected number of strokes it should take an expert golfer to complete a hole.

A ‘Birdie’ in this instance is the non-available of the provision for the rational to invest the said $30 million loan from NIC to help finance the Cabot Development and reportedly, what proffered an international business venture of high-net worth to apply to the NIC instead of a commercial bank or lending institution, locally or internationally?

The NIC has “failed to disclose the nature of this investment” the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) said in a press release, Tuesday, July 9, 2019, adding, “Has NIC indeed loaned Cabot $30 million and according to the NIC “obtained security which is three and a half times NIC’s investment and; what is the nature of that security and where is the transparency that should have accompanied NIC’s announcement, [when dealing with pensioners money”] the SLP said.

Political leader of the SLP, Philip Pierre also reiterated, his previous arguments [on 27 June] relative to the NIC.

“While the NIC appears to be very liquid now, this must be taken in the context of the actuarial reports on the NIC, and it is not a reason to view the NIC as an ATM machine to which the prime minister can resort to at any time. We have had an $11 million sourced from the NIC to facilitate the Desert Star Holdings (DSH) project; the payment of $100 million of government bonds last year, and now a $30 million to the Cabot Group from Canada for their proposed golf course project in Saint Lucia.

“The monies held by NIC are the pension funds of hard-working Saint Lucian’s who are depending on this to survive during their retirement years. They are to be invested wisely, to attract maximum returns and not to finance high-risk private enterprises like Golf courses owned by foreign nationals or used to fund other grandiose private sector projects dreamt of by foreign friends of the prime minister.”

“Why did the investors not secure investment funds in their own markets,” Pierre asked.

Pension fund investment in proposed Golf resort stirs controversy in St Lucia

Cabot Saint Lucia, nestled in the panoramic landscape of Point Hardy, a 375-acre peninsula located near Saint Lucia’s northern coastline, is defined by Invest Saint Lucia as follows.

“Following the successes of the highly-acclaimed Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia, Canada, both of which were recently named among Golf Digest’s “World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses”, the new Saint Lucia property, will include Cabot’s third golf course and second resort in its expanding portfolio of world-class properties.

“The crown jewel of the luxury resort will be the 18-hole Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed golf course; the famed designers’ carefully chosen first Caribbean project.

“In addition, the luxury real estate at Cabot Saint Lucia will offer the best of Caribbean living with a collection comprised of stunning hillside town homes and exceptional single-family homes conceptualized by world-renowned architects, along with customizable beach front and bluff-top grand estate lots. Each home will be surrounded by a panoramic turquoise seascape that provides direct, exclusive access to the resort amenities and golf course. Pre-sales will begin summer 2019, ranging from $760,000 to $10 million.”

Seeking answers to the mind-set of golfer’s and the absurdity of the government of Saint Lucia and NIC using ‘poor people’s’ pension funds for the economic benefit of a minority, The SLP spokesman for investments, Ernest Hilaire asked a few questions on social media Tuesday, July 9, 2019:

  • Why do we need to use our [ Saint Lucian’s] pension funds to finance the purchase of lands for a billionaire?
  • What became of the understanding that foreign investment means foreign businesses bringing in financing for projects to help our balance of payments, enhances liquidity of our banking system, and not crowd out local investors?
  • What is meant by NIC’s terminology ‘higher than average return’ on the said investment?
  • What is the security [assets/equity] against which NIC investment/loan was made?
    Is it true that the investor had been trying to buy this property for more than three years and could not close on the property purchase?
  • Is it true that the prime minister [Allen Chastanet] and NIC officials broke ground with no planning application before Development Control Authority (DCA) and is it incredible that NIC has lent this money without approved plans or even a planning application?
  • Does the investor love our NIC so much that the NIC was searched out to present such a sweetheart deal?

The missing link from the NIC and Invest Saint Lucia statement does little to justifying the invest decision and use of Saint Lucian’s pension funds, lease of which is to accept as true, ill-advised thought process.

A commentor on social media said: “Every deal that is made by this administration [United Worker Party led by Allen Chastanet] is suspect. Every investor brought here uses our monies, why is this? This government has proven that its negotiating arm is lacking in the knowledge of proper negotiating techniques. This is utter madness.”

A letter to Cabot Links principals Ben Cowan-Dewar and George Punoose, reads in part:

There is ample evidence that these types of large, dense developments have serious impacts on the stability of eco-systems and the ability of small-island states to withstand natural disaster and increasingly difficult climatic conditions. Thus, development of appropriate scale, planned and built with effective measures to protect resilience and ecosystems, is of utmost importance. Little to none of the local developments come close to such a description, and by the design drawings and complete lack of community consultation thus far, Cabot Links appears no different,” Finola Jennings-Clarke.

“If NIC wants to calm people’s fears” Pierre said, “they must provide more information about the exact nature and their involvement in the Cabot project”, adding, the SLP is always supportive of development that will improve the quality of life of citizens but such development must be conducted in an environment of transparency, fiscal prudence, fairness and accountability, especially when NIC funds, the only source of income for most pensioners of this country, are involved.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. 1. Around the world, government pension funds are invested in private sector enterprises often in foreign lands. At least these funds are invested right at home in St. Lucia where it will doubtless enhance the tourist industry.

    2. The $30 million represents a small portion of the cost of the entire project.

    3. Unfortunately, around the world governments are not very transparent with their investment of public monies. St. Lucia is no exception.

    4. Foreign direct investment in the tropical world has always favoured foreign investors simply because there are far more attractive places eager for foreign interests to invest than there are deep-pocketed foreign investors willing to gamble in the risky overseas tourist industry: at the end of the day, beggars like St. Lucia can’t be choosers when it comes to foreign direct investment.

    • St. Lucia has yet to reakky tap into its huge underground water resources. Its rainfall capture is still in its infancy as well.

      With a low population density and lots of potable water all about, getting adequate H2O is the least of St. Lucia’s many problems.

      If you want to talk about places with water shortage problems either today or tomorrow, talk about Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Barbados, all of the Grenadine islands, and many other dry places.

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