October 2, 2023

Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation

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St. Jude’s Hospital under construction in St. Lucia. (CMC file photo)

Taiwan: Loan to St. Lucia transparent

September 19, 2023

CMC – Taiwan says the process by which a multi-million dollar loan was given to the St. Lucia government was done in a transparent way and executed in accordance with a contract signed between the two countries.

The statement by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) follows an announcement by the  St. Lucia government that it is seeking to retrieve all relevant documentation and information associated with the loan. Meanwhile, the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) said that the announcement is nothing short of a red herring to distract the public from the government’s borrowing of one billion dollars (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) in a two year period.

A statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister last Friday said that Prime Minister Phillip J. Pierre is seeking to retrieve “all relevant documentation and information associated with the channelling of approximately EC$54 million from a loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to a privately controlled bank”.

The statement said that in accordance with the Finance (Administration) Act of St. Lucia “all revenues and other monies raised or received for the Government shall be paid into and form part of the Consolidated Fund”.

The statement said that in 2020, the St. Lucia government secured the funds in loan financing from Taiwan to fund the St. Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project, south of here.

“There is no evidence to indicate these monies were deposited into the Consolidated Fund as is legally mandated by the Finance (Administration) Act of St. Lucia. Diverting monies raised for the government to privately held accounts significantly limits the government’s ability to adequately account for its usage,” the statement added.

But the UWP, which formed the government when the loan was negotiated said that the statement by the prime minister is nothing more than seeking to “distract the public from their borrowing of one billion dollars in two years and their disastrous decision to borrow EC$200 million to rehabilitate the old St Jude Hospital” south of here.

It said the government “is currently pushing a narrative that US$20 Million meant for St Jude Hospital was suspiciously transferred to an account in Panama”.

But the UWP in providing what it said “are the facts,” noted that the main contractor for the hospital project is Overseas Engineering and Construction Company (OECC),  a Taiwanese construction company that was incorporated in Panama in 1998.

“OECC’s operation is mainly focused on the construction of government aid and humanitarian aid infrastructures designed to improve the living environment, also create jobs and contribute to increased economic growth. OECC’s bank accounts are based in Panama.”

The MOFA spokesman Jeff Liu told the state-owned Central News Agency (CAN) that in order to renovate St. Jude’s Hospital, which was destroyed by fire in 2012, the previous government of St. Lucia had secured a loan of US$20 million from the Eximbank and entrusted OECC to carry out the project.

The CAN said that the OECC is a construction company formed by various Taiwanese syndicates to handle infrastructure projects funded by the Taiwanese government) in the country’s diplomatic allies.

Liu said based on the contract terms, the money can to remitted to OECC’s account in Taipei after approval by the St. Lucia government to fund the hospital’s renovation and that the construction company is willing to provide all remittance details for review by the St.  Lucia government.

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