Dear Honorable Council of Ministers,
The St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA), the largest private sector representative, has been closely following the media reports about the upcoming development of the Pearl of China/Caribbean.
While the SHTA realizes that there could be a need for foreign Direct Investments and job creation, but lacking proper statistics there is no way to be sure. At this point we feel that we do not have enough information about the project in order to form a proper opinion. It would be a shame if one of the largest projects to reach our shores for many years doesn’t happen because of a lack of information.
A project of this magnitude, which will impact the entire island should, besides broad community support, also enjoy broad political support. The only way to achieve that is through an open and transparent process. As an example, the SHTA would like to mention the Indigo project where many rounds of consultations were held with the stakeholders before plans were finalized.
The SHTA considers it of the utmost importance that the community at large is properly informed when it comes to large developments.
In order to be able to assess the impact of this development we, as representatives of the private sector, have a few questions. Not asking these questions would make us poor representatives.
- What are the credentials of these investors? i.e. How will the community be guaranteed that these investors have the capital and the ability to bring this project to fruition in an equitable and sustainable way?
Was an environmental impact study performed and if so can it be made public now? This should, besides the effects on nature in the area, also include impacts on infrastructure, utilities and the surrounding residential communities. Has an economic impact study been done? If so, can the results be made public?
- Does this resort plan to offer all-inclusive packages?
- Will this resort receive a casino license if they request one?
- Did Government make any financial, fiscal or other commitments, like, but not limited to;
tax holidays, permits for foreign employees, skilled and unskilled, special utility rates, permits where it concerns concessions, like i.e. watersports or beach chairs?
- Has this project been looked at from the perspective as outlined in the carrying capacity study as well as the draft development plan for the little bay area?
- Is there a plan to expand the airport in order to deal with the increased arrivals of long haul wide body jets?
- Is there any additional information on the “water source” mentioned? If so can we please have it?
- What is the intended location and scope of the “eco-city?”
- What measures will be taken to prevent harming current businesses that already handle Chinese products on both a wholesale and retail level, like clothing, electronics and other consumer goods?
- To what extent does becoming a “hub” impact government revenues when increased direct imports erode the TOT base?
- Will the, to be established, “competition authority” and “consumer protection” also apply to the Chinese showcase?
- Will this showcase be open to anyone or only to businesses active in particular market segments?
- Has advice from the SER been sought about the implications of this type of resort? If so can we review the request?
- Is there an actual business plan that indicates how many jobs will be created post construction? And how many of these jobs will require Chinese speaking employees?
- What type of business licensing will be required of the companies using the showroom?
These are just some of the questions that arise from the limited information available at this time.
In the interest of transparency, Government should provide more information. The good, the bad and the ugly, so that the people and taxpayers of St. Maarten can decide for themselves whether this is an economic development that fits our community.
The SHTA has read and shares many of the concerns as expressed by the Nature Foundation and other vocal personalities in the community. The SHTA also appreciates the Prime Minister’s concern that the opposition to the project, may scare off the investor.
This is, in the opinion of the SHTA all the more reason for some additional clarity. If this project is to be successful, buy-in from the entire community is required, and that can only be achieved once all the information is provided and the community at large is able to discuss the pros and cons in an open and democratic way, with due consideration for everyone’s needs and concerns.
We look forward to receiving the requested information and constructive dialogue.
The St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association – SHTA
c.c. The Council of Ministers
c.c. Parliament of St. Maarten
c.c. The Ombudsman
c.c. The SER
c.c. Sint Maarten Media