Source: The Daily Herald
POND ISLAND–A 326-room hotel with a showroom and 450 executive apartments will be constructed on the Belair beachfront by a Chinese public-private venture. Plans for the “Pearl of China” project have already approved by Government and the ground-breaking for the project is slated for September 17, and should take some two years to complete.
Like Richards, other audience members voiced their worry about a Chinese takeover of the country and what they saw as Government’s disregard of local projects and entrepreneurs. One young woman asked the minister what was the guarantee that she and other young people will have a place in this project and whether she would be living under Chinese rule.Traffic congestion was also raised by some audience members who pointed out how bad the situation is now and the worry about the impact of one million stay-over Chinese visitors year.Another attendee said the country needs to be prepared for the Chinese tourists, their habits and behaviour. He also warned about the Chinese doing all the business themselves and not involving locals from the construction phase to the management.
Emilio Kalmera, who has a financial background, questioned how this project will correct the inequality that exists in the country.
He added that inequality can only be solved by local people becoming shareholders.
To that the Minister said the Chinese are not going to give away their company and if shares are offered those will come at a price. “I want to tell you there is no Santa Claus.”
St. Maarten needs “to be weaned off of its isolation” from the outside world if it wants to see increased economic growth, said Gibson Sr. at the session entitled “Inequality and Demand.” The country’s economy has been in “a holding pattern for years” that has manifested itself in stagnant growth over the years.
Globalisation has done nothing for St. Maarten or others in the Caribbean, because there are no factories or multi-national companies, he noted. Multi-nationals such as Amazon.com “threaten the job market and economy” when people opt to purchase overseas via the Internet.
St. Maarten is a not party to international trade agreements and even if the country was it had nothing to trade, said the Minister. To counter this, he said focus needs to be placed on bettering the country’s tourism product “to make it second to none.
“New, innovative and effective ways,” need to be found to sustain the economy and to create jobs, he stated.