Thoughts on development in St. Kitts, and some photos

We just love it here in St. Kitts. It's been almost 6 months since we arrived, and our experience has been decidedly optimistic. The island is brimming with development; it's hard to take a photo anywhere around Frigate Bay without capturing a site under construction. Much of this appears to be in anticipation of Christophe Harbour, a major development which is about to start on the south tip of the island. Initially, according to the recent announcement, there will be a mega-yacht harbour; two luxury hotels; and one more golf course. (Marriott already has one in the area where we live.)

This is great news for St. Kitts. On the one hand, development on this scale is a blessing; on the other, it is also urgently required. The government of the past 12 years has amassed a national debt exceeding US$1 billion, and the 2005 GDP of US$453 million is insufficient to allow a debt of this size to be gracefully repaid. In order to repay the spending of the past decade, the country would either have to tighten its belt considerably, which would have serious repercussions economically and politically; or it has to increase its GDP considerably, so as to allow the debt to be repaid without dangerously increasing taxes.

Hopefully, with the development of Christophe Harbour - along with investment in the rest of the island that dovetails it - the latter will occur; and there is the prospect that, with all the infrastructure and all the new people, the island is going to become a pleasant place to stay, indeed.

Then, all we have to worry about are natural disasters - as opposed to economic ones that are man-made. :)

Here are some pictures we took today. As one might conclude from the presence of the cruise ship, the tourist season is beginning. The other two photos are from the same hill, in different directions.

(Links to previously posted photos: May; October)


Cheap said…
Beautiful pics.

I'm fascinated by your decision to live on an island, but don't you feel isolated sometimes? Do you miss any of the conveniences of living next to or in a city?

I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and I feel isolated myself sometimes :)

Great blog BTW!
denis bider said…
Thanks. It's easy to take beautiful pics here. :)

The decision to live on an island wasn't really mine - the EU made me do it. It's either that, or part with 50% of my income. I'd rather live on an island and travel away now and then if I really so miss the cities, thank you. :)

That said, St. Kitts certainly doesn't make it difficult for one to enjoy one's exile. It's a lush, varied tropical island which is just about sufficiently developed to support my lifestyle - a lifestyle which has always consisted of staying at home and being glued to the net for the majority of time, so it's not much different for me here than it was in Europe. The difference is, instead of a cold early winter, we're enjoying the outdoors, the beaches, and the year-round sunny warm weather. That's hard to beat - the advantages of a city scarcely make up for having to go through cold winters.

That said, I recently heard an acquaintance say that whether or not you get bored on an island basically boils down to whether or not you have a partner. We got to know a young single guy who became utterly frustrated after having stayed here a few months; he said there was nothing to do, and I think that by "nothing to do" he meant little occasions to socialize and meet lots of hot single women. ;) But being a couple, we're not bothered by that. The TV, the town and the outdoors are sufficient for casual entertainment; and when we're in need of variety, our approach is to change our environment drastically, e.g. to travel.

Perhaps what we miss most is good sushi. The Marriott serves it, but we're not confident in the quality of the fish served there - the salmon is kinda watery and tasteless, our cats (who love sea food) don't like the smell of it, and we've had strange sensations coming from our digestive tract after eating there. And unfortunately, we must say that their service is none too good either. :(

But hey - that's about our biggest complaint. That, and the fact that our friends from Slovenia can't come over without having to travel to the British Embassy in Croatia to get a visa. Slovenia is a developed country and there's hardly any reason for requiring Slovenians to have visas to come here - hardly any more than there is for Germans, anyway. (Germans do not need visas.)

I could go on with other complaints, such as that the Cartoon Network channel hasn't worked for a while, or that the stores don't always have the cookies we want, so we must settle for the second best cookies, or that power outages are too frequent, or that there are insects or that the electricity damages appliances because it's spiky... but however long I go on, the annoyances are all kind of minor or they have workarounds, and overall we are happy. It is important for us to see that the island is developing and that things are looking up; it looks like the next few years on this island are going to be optimistic and exciting. Beyond that, what else do we need to be happy? :-)
Cheap said…
Here in Philadelphia I pay about 40% total tax in my bracket. So it's not quite as bad the EU, but it's a significant portion of my income.

That being said, I look around and for the most part I feel that my tax dollars have helped contribute to build a decent city and country with plenty of good sushi... well maybe tax has nothing to do with sushi supply... :)

I recently traveled to London, and I was really impressed by their subway (underground) system among other things. I tried to imagine what the city would have been like without British tax dollars, and I don't think it would be the same.

And yes, I guess in reality I would probably enjoy St. Kitts also.. Since I don't do much but work on the computer these days, and spend time with my wife and kids.
denis bider said…
The problem with the tax is not what it builds, it's the coercion. I find coercion inherently immoral. On the one hand this is in the sense that the ends don't justify the means, so the British underground or not, taxation is immoral. On the other hand, there is ample empirical evidence in economics showing that things work just as well or better without coercion - which I believe is because people actually get to do what they want to do instead of coercing other people into doing what they think needs to be done!

Larry Hastings wrote two short stories that illustrate this very clearly:

- Wealth in one lesson

- A thought experiment in morality
matt schneller said…
Hi denis I noticed that you mentioned the Christophe Harbour Project. I am a journeyman carpetner and am looking to relocate to St Kitts since my girlfriend is attending med school there. Having a skilled trade would I be able to find work in St Kitts? Any idea if the wages are comparable to those in Canada or the US. Who can I contact for work? Do you know who the contractor is? Any info you have woud be greatly appreciated. Thansk
denis bider said…

I think anyone with competent skills in any economically useful capacity - be it a carpenter, plumber, doctor, lawyer, or anything - would find their skills very welcome here. St. Kitts has a shortage of decent service providers in nearly every respect. The lawyers are overburdened and paid many times a U.S. or Canadian lawyer's fees for much worse service. Plumbers are awful - in our new place, there were leaks all over the place; some are still not fixed. I would bet that carpenters who do a good job are in poor supply as well.

The question is whether you are able to relocate here. A major cause for the shortage of high quality labor is that the government tries to protect the competitiveness of local labor by imposing limitations on importing foreign people. If you are able to move here through something like the citizenship by investment program, this would grant you the right to work here after your application is processed, and I think you would then find your services to be in high demand. However, if you want to employ workers, you can then expect to have problems importing qualified people from abroad, and you would have to make do with whatever talent you can find on the island. Such talent may be meager.

If something like the economic citizenship program isn't an option for you, then another option is that major developments, such as the Marriott and definitely Christophe Harbor, get a significant quota of workers that they can import with no problems from abroad, especially during construction. Word is that Christophe Harbor is going to be built by thousands of temporarily important Chinese immigrants, who are going to go back after the work is done. If you can find who the developer for Christophe Harbor is (unfortunately I don't have any contacts), perhaps you can pitch your skills to them and see if they are interested in hiring you.

Even so, though, if you can gain the right to work on the island, the number of villas here is growing every day, and you will likely find that the skills of any qualified provider are in high demand.
Anonymous said…
The Chritophe Harbor development is a disaster area. The environmental destruction is unreal. To drain the biggest salt pond left in the Caribbean to build a playground for the rich is disgusting.. Your blind support for this project shows your total ignorance. The reason people loved and came to st. kitts was its natural beauty and now these maggots from South Carolina(KHT) are destroying paradise.
denis bider said…
In my opinion, salt ponds are ugly, they stink, and they suck.
Anonymous said…
Just curious, how are things progressing on St. Kitts with the Christophe Harbor project and associated construction at Cockleshell Bay? I was there last year and it looked like they were building a lot of roads, but not a lot of structures yet. It's hard for me to imagine that those projects will really pick up steam and go to completion, considering the cost involved, the lack of power and water, etc. Come on, think about it: the southeast peninsula just bakes in the sun, it has no protection from cloud cover like you have closer to Basseterre, can you imagine the ac bill for a hotel there??
denis bider said…
It seems to be progressing well. It appears they've sold 2/3 of their existing lots and are planning new ones. The project does seem to be rolling ahead.

The AC argument is specious. By that line of reasoning, Phoenix and Las Vegas shouldn't exist.
Anonymous said…
>I agree I am french and this kind of development of south peninsula is a crime for the bio diversity : the birds should move, the fishes also and this is the cain if life which is broken when the fauna and flora is destroyed.
The social problems involved by this kind of society : billionaires from abroad closed with a barrier because St Kitts has the highest crime increase in the caribbean last year : what do you think it could happen?
The local people will go to wash the luxury houses, see all the items that they can not afford because they are low paid, they will talk, talk, talk and robberies and maybe worse will come by sea in these luxury houses.
Every day in nevis, you have a robbery.
And crimes arrive in Nevis too.
To chose to ignore it is like to participate at the destruction of the nature and of that people.
denis bider said…
anonymous: the birds should move, the fishes also and this is the cain if life which is broken when the fauna and flora is destroyed.

Our civilization, and the existence of cities like, say, Paris, depends on our taking space from other creatures and using it for our own needs.

If you disagree with that general principle, you are entitled to that disagreement, but you must then accept that you are against an industrial civilization in general.

In order to be compatible with your stated beliefs, you need to move to the jungle and live like the tribesmen, in "harmony" with nature. :)

anonymous: The local people will go to wash the luxury houses, see all the items that they can not afford because they are low paid, they will talk, talk, talk and robberies and maybe worse will come by sea in these luxury houses.

Some of this will happen, of course. But it's already had a chance to happen to a great extent with the recent development in Frigate Bay, and yet most property owners do not, yet, feel the need to jail-fence all windows like they do in Puerto Rico.

In my opinion, the beneficial employment and economic benefits of a development like Christophe Harbor will far outweigh the fears you describe, so as to render them largely fictional.
Anonymous said…
Denis, you have well written and articulate responses to a lot of the anti-Christophe Harbor posts. Your one about the salt pond is funny because its so true.
It amazes me how people who live on the island would rather look to the future and wish it to look like Afghanistan, rather than a country where unskilled labor can make $10-$14 an hour. Its clear that St. Kitts will have the look and feel of its prosperous neighbors (st. martins, st Barts etc..)in about 5-10 years. Its inevitable your going to get a couple crazies out there.
The family and I are going to probably be down there full-time in a year or two. Any recommendations on rental locations for that first year? your new place looked nice, were shooting for something similar. Thanks, -Dan
denis bider said…
Hi Dan,

thank you for your comments! And sorry for my late reply. Because of spam, I have Blogger set up to moderate comments on non-recent articles, but it doesn't inform me when a comment to moderate arrives. So they tend to queue up until I remember to check at some later time.

Unfortunately I can't be of much help with finding a place to rent - I've been totally out of the real estate market since we moved into our place. There seems to be lots of stuff being built though - some of the developments around us, such as Ocean's Edge and Silver Reef, have had several buildings completed. It looks good from the outside, and I hear it's nice on the inside as well. I'm sure that a good real estate agent will be able to show you the options. :)

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