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Eastern promises

It's hard not to be sceptical about the announcement yesterday that Government is considering building a pier on the north shore of St George's to accommodate cruise ships.

First, there's the timing. Transport Minister Walter Roban said he would have revealed more if he could, but talks had only just reached the stage where he could. So three days before the election was the absolute soonest he could say anything.

That statement would be more believable if Mr Roban had more detail.

But he did not. He was unable to say which cruise lines Government was in negotiations with. Nor could he say when those discussions would be completed.

He could not say where the pier would be located, apart from on the north shore of St George's, a stretch of coast about two miles long, some of it industrial, some beaches, and some of it parkland.

In fact, this idea has been around for some time. Ship's agent and former St George's Mayor and MP Henry Hayward has been suggesting it for at least two years, but until now, it appeared to have fallen on deaf ears.

Nor did Mr Roban say how much the pier would cost, although it would be done through a private finance initiative (PFI) like the hospital.

Government is quite enamoured with PFIs. It is looking for a partner now to build an office building in Marsh Folly, Pembroke, despite the fact there's enough empty office space in Hamilton to house 4,000 people at rents which are 30 percent lower than they were at their peak.

Still, PFIs have the political advantage of ensuring that someone else pays for the upfront costs, while the taxpayer pays for it for decades, long after the current group of politicians have left the stage.

Mr Roban had more last minute good news for the voters of St George's. Government is also in negotiations with a cruise line to find small cruise ships for Hamilton and St George, but these would not come on line until 2014 at the earliest.

This is good news, but some scepticism is necessary. It was not that long ago that Government officials were insisting that there were no small ships available and it was impossible to find ships for either the town or the City.

It is hard not to wonder why this idea was not pursued two years ago. If successful, it would have meant St George or Hamilton would have ships now.

But the biggest problem for Mr Roban and the Progressive Labour Party is that the people of St George have heard all of this before.

They have been promised ships, only to have them fail to materialise, or to skip calls. Now the town is struggling desperately, and three days before an election, glorious promises are made.

For those who want to believe, they should look up the hill to the site of the former Club Med.

In late 2007, just before the last election, then-Premier Dr Ewart Brown announced that developer Carl Bazarian would be redeveloping the site. Soon after, they said a new hotel would be opening in 2011.

Five years later, no work has begun, and the groundbreaking promised for this month has still not occurred.

A hotel was promised for St George's in 2007 and the old Club Med building was imploded in 2008 But ground has not been broken on the site

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Published December 15, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated December 14, 2012 at 11:25 pm)

Eastern promises

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