Will SLASPA changes re­store St. Lu­cia’s Ease of Do­ing Busi­ness sta­tus?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Toni Ni­cholas

On Novem­ber 14, 2012 Emma Hip­polyte, Min­is­ter for Com­merce, Busi­ness Devel­op­ment, In­vest­ment and Con­sumer Af­fairs, as the guest speaker at the AGM of the Saint Lu­cia Cham­ber of Com­merce, ex­plained Saint Lu­cia’s de­ci­sion to par­tic­i­pate in the World Bank’s Do­ing Busi­ness Re­port of 2007. “Re­al­iz­ing that Saint Lu­cia needed to be rec­og­nized glob­ally as an in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion,” she said, “the de­ci­sion was taken to par­tic­i­pate in the In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion World Bank Do­ing Busi­ness Re­port.”

She re­vealed that since Saint Lu­cia started par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Re­port, it had re­ceived world­wide recog­ni­tion as one of the best CARICOM coun­tries in which to do busi­ness. In 2007 the is­land ranked 27th out of 127 coun­tries, and first within the CARICOM group­ing. Since then, how­ever, Saint Lu­cia has slipped to 101, out of 189 economies.

The 2014 World Bank Re­port notes: “St. Lu­cia made trad­ing across bor­ders more dif­fi­cult by in­tro­duc­ing a new ex­port doc­u­ment.” Over the years there has been a storm of com­plaints from lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers, mainly cen­tered on process.

The Saint Lu­cia Air and Sea Ports Author­ity (SLASPA) is the en­tity charged with man­ag­ing this coun­try’s air and sea­ports. Plans for the re­de­vel­op­ment of He­wanorra In­ter­na­tional Air­port are in ad­vanced stages with the In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion (IFC) for as­sis­tance with an eval­u­a­tion for this project. SLASPA is also seek­ing to re­struc­ture its sea­ports op­er­a­tions. On Thurs­day the en­tity held a stake­hold­ers’ brief­ing at Coco Palm, to ex­plain the pro­posed changes.

Ac­cord­ing to Kee­gan Cox, SLASPA’s gen­eral manager, the pro­posed changes at the sea­ports are pred­i­cated on “mak­ing fu­ture op­er­a­tions more ef­fi­cient and cost ef­fec­tive.” The ob­jec­tive of Thurs­day’s ex­er­cise, he said, was to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and for en­gage­ment and dis­cus­sion with stake­hold­ers. In at­ten­dance were rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the var­i­ous unions, man­u­fac­tur­ers, ship­ping agents, the Cham­ber and gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

Cox pointed out that there has been a shift from tra­di­tional and in­con­ve­nient com­mer­cial hours; the tra­di­tional 8 am to 4 pm was “un­com­pet­i­tive.” He also high­lighted what he de­scribed as “the pil­lars of re­form,” which in­cluded po­ten­tial ef­fi­ciency, driv­ing more busi­ness and cus­tomer­centric­ity.

In point­ing the way for­ward it is ex­pected that there will be a re­view to­wards strength­en­ing trans­port and port in­fra­struc­ture, im­proved port pro­ce­dure, re­duc­ing the num­ber of doc­u­ments and im­proved elec­tronic sub­mis­sions.

Also on the agenda is a pro­posal to im­ple­ment a pri­vate “labour com­pany” that will be re­spon­si­ble for the steve­dores.

SLASPA has also pro­posed ex­tended op­er­at­ing hours in­clud­ing a rov­ing shift sys­tem, a 7 am-11 pm work sched­ule for op­er­a­tions and 8 am-7 pm for shed di­vi­sions.

“We do not have all the an­swers,” Cox said, “and noth­ing here is cast in stone, which is why we are here with the stake­hold­ers to get feed­back and sug­ges­tions.”

Fol­low­ing Cox’s pre­sen­ta­tion ques­tions were so­licited from the floor with the gen­eral con­sen­sus be­ing that change was in­deed needed at the ports. The ques­tion was also raised about the role of Cus­toms in the pro­posed change. Ac­cord­ing to Cox they would form part of a multi-stake­holder com­mit­tee that would en­gage the unions and ob­tain feed­back from con­sumers and the gen­eral public.

It re­mains to be seen whether the changes pro­posed will put an end to the no­tion of Looshan time!

Gen­eral Manager of SLASPA Kee­gan Cox.

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