SEATTLE — St. Lucia is an island nation in the Caribbean with a population of more than 170,000. It has recently struggled with high levels of unemployment and youth unemployment, despite its middle-income status. Hopefully, these five development projects in St. Lucia, some of which are already underway, will relieve issues related to poverty and reduce living costs and the ecological footprint all in one.
Geothermal Resource Development Project
According to St. Lucia’s Ministry of Sustainable Development, exploratory drilling for geothermal energy resources in the Sulfur Springs area and the Piton Management Area is set to begin in 2018. Funding from the Global Environmental Facility, the SIDS DOCK Support Program for the Geothermal Resource Development Project, the Government of New Zealand and the Clinton Climate Initiative has made this project possible.
By harnessing geothermal energy (heat energy generated and stored in the Earth), these kinds of development projects in St. Lucia will reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. In 2014, the island nation committed to a target of generating 35 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Street Light Retrofitting Project
Good news from the Caribbean Development Bank: $10.6 million has been approved for replacing about 21,500 street lights in St. Lucia with light-emitting diode (LED) lamps. LED technology is more energy efficient than the current sodium and mercury vapor lights, which are high pressure and have a shorter life.
This project is set to reduce St. Lucia’s street-lighting electricity bill by 58 percent, thereby freeing up funds for more development initiatives. The Government of St. Lucia and St. Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC) will contribute an additional $1.15 million to the installation, which will take place by 2018.
Youth Empowerment Project
Infrastructure development projects in St. Lucia may be important, but no more so than its counterpart, social development.
Just one year ago, the Caribbean Development Bank approved $3.7 million to support St. Lucia’s at-risk youth. St. Lucia faces a growing crime rate, partly due to chronic youth unemployment and underemployment and exacerbated by a poor social service infrastructure.
This project funnels money into existing Youth Court Diversion Programs, which aim to prevent young people who have committed minor crimes from reoffending, as well as after-school programs, leadership workshops and sports and arts groups. By offering children public safe spaces to nurture their talents responsibly, the project hopes to build a more cohesive national community.
Pearl of the Caribbean
A planned $2.6 billion development project in St. Lucia will feature a resort, marina, casino, mall, racetrack and much more, spanning about 800 acres on the south side of the island. The location is near the international airport and will be designated a free trade zone.
The project, dubbed Pearl of the Caribbean, will be developed by Desert Star Holdings Caribbean Star. The developer and St. Lucia’s government claim the resort will bring sorely needed jobs to the region, although conservationists worry about its effect on vulnerable species and the character and aesthetic of the island.
National Land Bank Project
St. Lucia’s Ministry of Agriculture launched a National Land Bank initiative to help the nation use its farmland efficiently and conserve its quality and quantity for future generations. Land in such a bank can only be used agriculturally, not for other purposes like real estate development.
In this way, national land banks can act as a vital hedge against overdevelopment. Farmers who want to invest in the land are subsidized by the Ministry of Agriculture, ensuring the security of this vulnerable yet vital market segment.
The St. Lucia Times quoted Kwesi Goddard, an agricultural engineer associated with the project, as saying that farming can make a nation self-sufficient: “Agriculture is one of the fundamental prerequisites for industrial and other development, and at the root of the expansion of agricultural development is land and the access to land.”
St. Lucia has identified lands in Babonneau and Mabouya Valley as ideal locations for piloting the project. The pilot effort will last 18 months with funding by the Food and Agriculture Organization, after which it will continue with local government support.
Development projects in St. Lucia are moving along nicely, with significant investment in tourism, energy, agriculture and social projects. The diversity of development ensures a strong, balanced, more resilient economy that can lift even more citizens out of poverty.
– Chuck Hasenauer