St.maarten – The Hanwang Caribbean Forum, the groundbreaking at Little Bay Beach preceded by a protest that involved the Hope and the Christian Party, followed by a press conference where Shuqiang Cui, president of New Life Town Investment and Development Limited China promised “400 stable and well-paying jobs’ took away a lot of the mystery that surrounded the Pearl of China project last Saturday.
The text on the invitation for the events – The Pearl of Caribbean and China Global Trade Center – made already clear that the project is not tourism- but business-driven. Prime Minister William Marlin said that the developer – Universal Light Real Estate NV – bought the property in Little Bay, and that it also bought the building permit the previous owner held for the never realized Barbaron project. Under review is at the moment a variance, the developer has requested; once that has been processed nothing stands in the way of construction.
Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2017; completion of the work will take two years.
Finance Minister Richard Gibson repeated at the press conference that fiscal facilities – like a tax holiday – had not been requested and had not been offered either.
The investment in the trade center is approximately $120 million, Cui said through a translator, adding that obtaining financing would not be a problem.
The protests ahead of the groundbreaking ceremony brought out startup politicians such as Wycliffe Smith (Christian party) and Mercedes van der Waals-Wyatt and Jacinto Mock (Hope), as well as St. Maarten Pride president Jadira Veen and Sjaoul Richardson of the youth empowerment movement Shoot Hoops Not Guns.
The protesters came with placards showing texts such as, ‘I am not afraid of the Chinese, I am afraid of my own politicians’ and ‘For Sale: ‘Friendly Island’ Reduced price!’ but their actions remained peaceful.
Prime Minister William Marlin described the protests later in the afternoon at the press conference as small. “We are not concerned about these protests,” he said.
“The response and the comments can be a driving force for us to make this project more successful,” a relaxed and smiling Shuqiang Cui said later at the press conference.
The Hanwang Caribbean Forum took place at the Great Bay Beach Hotel on Saturday morning. The Hanwang Forum stems from an international forum on sustainable development that was held at the Diaoyutai Guesthouse in Beijing in 2005. Seven years later, in 2012, the inaugural Hangwang Forum – an international conference on disaster prevention and relief and sustainable development was held in Beijing and Deyang. On Saturday, the forum spread its wings for the first time into the Caribbean.
Representatives of the Chinese delegation at the forum explained the philosophy behind the forum – and with it the philosophy behind the Pearl of China project.
The devastating May 12, 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake near the southwestern Chinese city of Dujianyang killed 90,000 people and wounded 375,000. It set the stage for the Hanwang Forum that focuses on climate change, disaster relief and sustainable development.
“We care about ecological values more than anyone else,” Shuqiang Cui said. “Everyone on our team holds the spirit of sustainable development; and we hope to bring this to St. Maarten.”
The Consul-General for China in Willemstad, Weixin Zhang, spoke about the new Silk Road – labeled One Belt One Road – and the way the Chinese do business. The original Silk Road was established thousands of years ago and was traveled by traders from China towards Europe – over land and over sea. “The country did not only trade silk, also ceramic and Chinese inventions,” the consul-general said. ”We also traded products from the countries along the route and had cultural exchanges. That way the cultures of east and west came together.”
The Silk Road, the consul-general continued, promoted the development of human civilization and it is a key heritage, not only for China, but for the world. It is promoting the philosophy of cooperation.”
China wants to cooperate and integrate with other countries, the consul-general emphasized. He spoke of ‘creating friendship and trust” and said that China works together with more than one hundred countries and non-governmental organizations and that on the industrial level there is cooperation with more than twenty countries.
Source: Today SXM Pearl of China: $120 million investment; 400 jobs “All jobs are for locals”