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OUR CARIBBEAN: Grenada’s Taiwanese blunder

Rickey Singh

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IN THESE times of prolonged economic crisis, rising social discontent and criminality, governments and all stakeholders of our Caribbean Community need to be on alert against international swindlers posing as investors with “credentials”.A classic example of what to avoid has now been exposed to the gross embarassment of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas’ government in St George’s, Grenada, involving Taiwanese “investors” who have turned out to be frauds, three of whom are currently in prison.That Thomas’ ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) should have been so duped in negotiations with the Taiwnese “investors” of dummy companies, including in the United States, is all the more difficult to rationalise in view of its diplomatic and trade relations with the People’s Republic of China.Changing of relations from Taiwan to China and vice versa by some CARICOM governments, particulary within the sub-region of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, have long been a practice euphemistically referred to as “dollar diplomacy”.  Ask, for instance, political parties in St Vncent and the Grenadnes, St Kitts and Nevis, and more particularly St Lucia where “dollar diplomacy” has paid big dividends for the governing United Workers Party (UWP) of Prime Minister Stephenson King.More on this later. The focus now is on that Grenada political embarassment that has shaken the NDC administration and left Grenadians questioning the circumstances surrounding a group of Taiwanese entrepreneurs of a company by name of “Sewang One World” (SOW). It would seem that neither Prime Minister Thomas’ senior NDC colleagues, nor relevant government officials thought it necessary to engage in a due diligence exercise on this SOW venture before opening negotiations last May for huge development investments envisaged at over US$2 billion. Such an exercise would have refreshed memories about what really went wrong under the previous administration of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell when in 2004, while Grenada had diplomatic relations with Taiwan, SOW had proposed invesments in development projects amounting to some US$300 million.Having retained China-Grenada diplomatic relations started under Mitchell’s government, after breaking ties with Taiwan, Thomas’ administration should have been all the more vigilant.This failure was to result in the shock suffered last month by a delegation from the Grenada government while in Taiwan with the breaking news in the China Times that three officials of SOW had been arrested on charges of bank fraud and establishment of dummy companies in Taiwan, South  Korea and the United States.Prime Minister Thomas’ administration is expected to be more forthcoming on how it became a victim of the Taiwanese “entrepreneurs” of SOW. But it is across in St Lucia that Prime Minister King’s ruling UWP is faced with a serious challenge, ahead of next year’s general election, on its “dollar diplomacy” with Taiwan that started shortly after the 2006 poll at which it defeated the then two-term St Lucia Labour Party.• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.