Published On: Thu, Sep 8th, 2016

PM Marlin condemns gloom and doom reactions to project

“We found a year-round economic activity”

GREAT BAY – Prime Minister William Marlin has reacted with dismay to the reaction “certain persons covering the event” posted on Facebook last Thursday while the presentation of finance Minister Richard Gibson at the university about the investment in a 326-room hotel and 450 apartments was underway.

“The Chinese are coming ….. bad for the people …. gloom and doom,” is how Marlin characterized  these reactions, calling them “unfortunate” while all this is taking place in election time. “All this is making people think that a bad thing is happening,” he said at yesterday’s Council of Ministers press briefing.

Vromi-Minister Angel Meyers confirmed that the maximum height of construction is 19 meters. Construction will take around two years. Minister Marlin said that the investor has not been offered a tax holiday.

Putting the project into context, Marlin referred to the lecture Finance Minister Richard Gibson presented last Thursday about the global economy and about the lack of economic growth and the fact that capital is not being reinvested in the economy.

“We are faced with budget challenges,” the prime minister pointed out. “Ministers are complaining about the lack of investments in projects. But this is due to the fact that the government is not generating sufficient funds.”

The government found an opportunity with the investment plan in Little Bay; the plan was also discussed with Vromi-Minister Angel Meyers.

“As a construction project it is not much different from the Westin, Pelican or Maho – they are all near a beach,” Marlin said. But the reaction was as if this government has gone wacko in terms of building projects.”

Marlin said that the company behind the investment has $180 billion in equity and that the Little Bay project is one of their first ventures outside China – an investment of “several hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The prime minister shoved aside concerns about sewage being ejected straight into toe pond or the sea, pointing out that all large hotels on the island have their own sewage treatment plants.

“Whether the investor wants to bring in a main contractor from China or elsewhere, that is their choice,” Marlin continued. “But this will translate into construction jobs for locals.”

The prime minister said that the reactions on social media had created “a malicious impression” noting that the investment is more than a construction project. “They plan to establish a China-Caribbean hub in St. Maarten. This is a public private partnership of the Chinese government and private businesses. “They are looking for a spring board; having a center here makes it easier to do business on this side of the world.”

The visitors who will buy apartments in Little Bay are wealthy business people, Marlin said, “not people who are looking for a job in a local supermarket.” Marlin also elaborated on Minister Gibson’s remark that the project would bring one million tourists to St. Maarten. This number has wrongly been understood as one million per year.

“In discussions one day they said the project would enhance our tourism base and that the number of Chinese who travel abroad has been growing to 100 million. I said: we don’t want 100 million Chinese tourists here, one million will do us fine. Then they said that they are able to bring in one million tourists over the next ten years.”

Marlin emphasized that the hub function will add a new dimension to the local economy. “We were looking for year-round economic activities and we found it,” he said. “But because it is election time, some think that if we pull this off it will be too good for the incumbent government.”