Felix to busi­ness com­mu­nity: It’s Not For Gov­ern­ment To Cre­ate Jobs!

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

An­gel­ica O’DonoghueHolder

Gov­ern­ments should not be ex­pected to cre­ate jobs; I think that’s one of our more pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tions. Peo­ple have been made to be­lieve it’s the gov­ern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to cre­ate jobs. What gov­ern­ment must do is cre­ate the en­vi­ron­ment that will at­tract in­vest­ment and boost em­ploy­ment.” That was Min­is­ter Felix talk­ing with the STAR on Thurs­day, shortly af­ter he had ad­dressed at­ten­dants at the of­fi­cial launch­ing of the TEPAOECS Spe­cialty Trade show.

Re­spond­ing to my ques­tion in re­la­tion to com­plaints by restau­rant and bar op­er­a­tors in the Rod­ney Bay area, the min­is­ter said: “Peo­ple’s pri­or­i­ties have changed. Prices of goods are in­creas­ing and most con­sumers are look­ing at ways to save. Where some may in ear­lier times have gone out to din­ner five times a week, to­day they eat out just once weekly.”

Ad­di­tion­ally: “Peo­ple have changed their shop­ping habits. More and more are shop­ping via the In­ter­net and that has re­sulted in re­duced spend­ing at home. It’s not a case of lim­ited spend­ing power.”

Fol­low­ing my short in­ter­view with the com­merce min­is­ter I chal­lenged a Rod­ney Bay restau­ra­teur and bar op­er­a­tor. He strongly dis­agreed with what Felix had told me. He in­sisted that it is the gov­ern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to ad­dress the spend­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and con­fi­dence of work­ing cit­i­zens and sim­ply to cite a change of at­ti­tude on the part of shop­pers was a cop-out.

He said: “Busi­ness peo­ple al­ready know things are hard. I ac­knowl­edge that the gov­ern­ment can­not be the coun­try’s main em­ployer but it has a duty nev­er­the­less to do ev­ery­thing in its power to at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment, more vis­i­tors with money to spend and so on. Lo­cal en­trepreneurs are fur­ther bur­dened with high taxes, the ever-in­creas­ing cost of im­ported raw ma­te­ri­als, and un­con­trolled vi­o­lent crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. Gov­ern­ments in de­nial have con­trib­uted greatly to the prob­lems that con­front the pri­vate sec­tor. It costs the own­ers of restau­rants, bars and other es­tab­lish­ments to stay open. We must pay our staff even when we have had no cus­tomers. We have no other choice but to mod­ify our open­ing hours—or face per­ma­nent clo­sure.”

An­other restau­rant op­er­a­tor I spoke with re­vealed one branch of the Jade Ter­race Restau­rant in Gros Islet had gone out of busi­ness. Days ahead of the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fi­cial Value Added Tax an­nounce­ment, Felix’s ad­vice to the busi­ness com­mu­nity was to “take stock of their busi­nesses, iden­tify what is not work­ing and do what is nec­es­sary to meet the needs of the con­sumer.” He ad­mit­ted dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion “it’s a very chal­leng­ing busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment. The fittest will al­ways sur­vive. But you have to main­tain a com­pet­i­tive edge.”

As for the VAT ques­tion, Felix told me: “I would not want to pre­empt the prime min­is­ter’s an­nounce­ment on where we stand with VAT, he will make his an­nounce­ment at the end of the month.” On Thurs­day the PM’s of­fice an­nounced that his much-an­tic­i­pated ad­dress to the na­tion, dur­ing which he is ex­pected to speak to his VATre­duc­tion pre-elec­tion prom­ise, has been resched­uled to 7 Novem­ber.

With the busi­ness com­mu­nity hold­ing its breath in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a VAT re­duc­tion, Com­merce Min­is­ter Bradely Felix’s ad­vice to hurt­ing en­trepreneurs is “main­tain a com­pet­i­tive edge.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.