St Vincent PM defends Sandals Resort from ‘mindless’ criticism

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

Loop Caribbean: Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has expressed disappointment with those persons who he says are mindlessly criticising the soon-to-open Sandals Resort in Buccament Bay with incorrect information and falsehoods.

Sandals St Vincent will officially open on March 27 but before that, is the venue for the staging of the VIII Summit for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on March 1, 2024.

There has been uproar from certain quarters in St Vincent that local fishermen, farmers and taxi operators are not benefiting as they should in supplying their produce and service.

The most recent anger came with the news that Island Routes will be expanding to St Vincent and the Grenadines, with many persons viewing this as direct competition with local taxi and tour operators.

Responding to concerns about this issue, the prime minister said Sandals had five or six consultations with taxi and minibus operators relevant to transportation, and overwhelmingly, the people who are being moved from the airport to the hotel and back are local taximen, and people who are doing the tours in the tour buses, taxi and minibus operators etc overwhelmingly are local providers of these services.

Gonsalves explained that five-star hotels always have specific facilities for VVIPs for which they will make their own transportation arrangements. He noted that Sandals will require a big fleet of motor vehicles to transport people from the airport to Sandals and back, and common sense shows this would require local input.

Turning to the issue of local fishermen, the prime minister said Sandals also had consultations with fishermen and farmers as he explained that hotels of that kind, as a matter of policy, do not buy from a multiplicity of individual suppliers. He said the suppliers have to put themselves together or somebody put them together.

“The idea that you can pull up your boat on the shores of Sandals and sell 15 pounds of tuna and 20 pounds of snapper and a few pounds of jacks and robin…No.” 

The prime minister pointed out that selling to Sandals would require items being properly packaged, as it must be brought in a condition where they are assured of quality.

“Rainforest Seafoods which buys fish, lobster and conch not from people on Mars… or people in Brazil or Timbuktu… they buy them from fishermen and women in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”  

Gonsalves said the aggregator, Rainforest Seafoods, is buying from local fisherfolk.

“I feel absolutely sure that if 15 fishermen, 10 fishermen, 5 fishermen in a cooperative decide to do an operation and they have the necessary resources and they want to sell directly to them, I’m sure that they would purchase. But you have to maintain the standards.” 

The prime minister said the same thing goes for the local taxi operators; they will have to maintain their standards. He said the St Vincent Tourism Authority gives the approval, training and certification to taxi operators for what the marketplace requires in dealing with tourists.

Circling back to food production, the prime minister said on more than one occasion he urged businesspeople to get involved in this question of aggregating the agricultural products for sale, but it would appear no one was paying attention.

Gonsalves said, “A man named Rayneau, who is a St Lucian, he comes here… his first agreement is for the quarry down in Richmond. Of course, COVID came, volcanic eruptions, political melee… different things deterred him.

I am told they are going to start to sell stones… aggregate from April into May. In the meanwhile, Rayneau, (he has a good nose for business), he sees an opportunity to aggregate agricultural products.”

Rayneau Gadjadhar, a St Lucian entrepreneur, has also faced criticism for this venture from some Vincentians.

Prime Minister Gonsalves was speaking during his Face to Face programme on NBC Radio St Vincent and the Grenadines on Wednesday.

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