Prime Min­is­ter Si­lences Crit­ics and Ap­plies Busi­ness Ap­proach to First Bud­get:

Ex­e­cute! Ex­e­cute! Ex­e­cute! (Part One)

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

Prime Min­is­ter Hon­ourable Allen Chastanet de­liv­ered his maiden Bud­get Ad­dress in the House of Assem­bly on Tues­day and made a prom­ise to the na­tion: “Our gov­ern­ment will not let you down!”

Fol­low­ing are some high­lights from the Prime Min­is­ter’s ad­dress:

“In this pol­icy ad­dress I shall out­line the con­text, the vi­sion, the plan, pro­grammes and poli­cies that we in­tend to im­ple­ment which will be the foun­da­tion for the next four years. The road to our des­ti­na­tion will be bumpy. Im­ple­ment­ing change is some­times messy and never easy. I am, how­ever, con­fi­dent in the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia. They un­der­stand that we will have to choose a dif­fer­ent path as the great­est risk is con­tin­u­ing to do the same thing. My Gov­ern­ment will pro­vide hon­est, ef­fec­tive and in­spi­ra­tional leadership to tackle the eco­nomic and so­cial pol­icy chal­lenges in an eq­ui­table man­ner."

Do­mes­tic Eco­nomic Per­for­mance

"Saint Lu­cia’s 0.9% growth per­for­mance in 2016, though mea­gre, was at­trib­uted to ex­pan­sions in the con­struc­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ing, agri­cul­ture, whole­sale and re­tail and fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tors. Over the past ten years, from 2006 to 2016, the over­all econ­omy has been grow­ing at an av­er­age rate of 1.3%.

"Saint Lu­cia’s econ­omy con­tin­ued to ex­pe­ri­ence de­fla­tion in 2016 with the con­sumer price in­dex fall­ing by 3.1%. This was mainly due to lower en­ergy prices. The coun­try’s ma­jor trad­ing part­ners ex­pe­ri­enced neg­a­tive to low in­fla­tion which also con­trib­uted to the lower con­sumer prices in Saint Lu­cia."

Where are we now?

"I see high un­em­ploy­ment, high debt and chron­i­cally low growth and de­vel­op­ment. These have been the hall­mark of our econ­omy for some time. From 1996 to 2015 the econ­omy grew by an av­er­age rate of only 1.6%. More sig­nif­i­cantly, growth av­er­aged only 1.3% over the last ten years and what is of great con­cern to this Gov­ern­ment is the fact that the econ­omy grew by an av­er­age of 0.3% over the last five years. Low eco­nomic growth is the num­ber one eco­nomic chal­lenge that we face in Saint Lu­cia to­day. It is clear from the num­bers that I have quoted that growth has be­come pro­gres­sively weaker in more re­cent pe­ri­ods. While one may ar­gue that the econ­omy was se­verely im­pacted by the fi­nan­cial cri­sis of 2008-09, sev­eral of our re­gional peers have suc­cess­fully re­cov­ered and are now do­ing bet­ter than us with their economies grow­ing at higher rates. For ex­am­ple, growth in the ECCU from 2012 to 2016 was es­ti­mated at 2% com­pared to 0.3% for Saint Lu­cia over the same pe­riod. This is not ac­cept­able.

"Over the past decade our un­em­ploy­ment rate has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly from 14% in 2007 to above 20% where it has stub­bornly re­mained. Youth un­em­ploy­ment has fol­lowed a sim­i­lar trend and has re­mained ex­tremely high at 43.1%. It is an ex­tremely sad re­al­ity that over one-fifth, or 20%, of our pro­duc­tive labour force is un­em­ployed and, by ex­ten­sion, this im­plies un­em­ployed cap­i­tal in that sce­nario. This, in ef­fect, means that we have sub­stan­tial ca­pac­ity for ex­pan­sion, growth and de­vel­op­ment.

"Another ma­jor con­cern that we have to ad­dress in our econ­omy is the is­sue of pro­duc­tiv­ity. It is es­ti­mated that Saint Lu­cia’s pro­duc­tiv­ity has been fall­ing by an av­er­age of 0.6% from 2007 to 2016. The low lev­els of worker pro­duc­tiv­ity can be di­rectly linked to an acute skills mis­match in Saint Lu­cia. Our work­force is pre­dom­i­nantly low skills, as has been re­vealed by many re­ports. How­ever, the econ­omy re­quires an am­ple sup­ply of skilled and semi­skilled labour, which we are fail­ing to pro­duce. I be­lieve it is wor­ry­ing to know that jobs are avail­able within the econ­omy but our cit­i­zens are not suf­fi­ciently skilled to hold these jobs.

"Our debt po­si­tion has con­tin­ued to worsen, with the debt bur­den creep­ing up from one year to the next.

"If we are to pro­pel this econ­omy on a tra­jec­tory of higher growth and de­vel­op­ment, we must re­struc­ture our econ­omy to en­hance its com­pet­i­tive­ness and pro­duc­tiv­ity. The choices are stark: we ei­ther em­bark on the jour­ney of trans­form­ing our econ­omy or we con­tinue to wal­low in the vi­cious cy­cle of low growth, high debt and high un­em­ploy­ment. My gov­ern­ment, has cho­sen the path which will re­store pros­per­ity to our na­tion."

A NEW VI­SION FOR SAINT LU­CIA

"It can­not be busi­ness as usual and this new vi­sion will re­quire fun­da­men­tal and struc­tural changes in the econ­omy. We want to build a Saint Lu­cia which in­stills pride, a place where busi­nesses can flour­ish, where peo­ple can get jobs, not hand­outs, where peo­ple feel se­cure, care for each other, can ac­cess ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties, re­ceive qual­ity health ser­vices, and en­joy a com­fort­able stan­dard of liv­ing with­out im­pos­ing a bur­den on fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Our ap­proach will en­gage all sec­tors of our so­ci­ety and be based on di­a­logue. There­fore, the fol­low­ing strate­gic ar­eas of fo­cus will be ag­gres­sively pur­sued over the next four years with the un­der­ly­ing aim of achiev­ing sus­tain­able and in­clu­sive growth: cre­at­ing sus­tain­able em­ploy­ment; reengi­neer­ing so­cial ser­vices; re­form­ing gov­ern­ment to make it more re­spon­sive to the busi­ness com­mu­nity and cit­i­zens; im­prov­ing se­cu­rity and jus­tice; build­ing ca­pac­ity in re­new­able en­ergy; adapt­ing to cli­mate change."

CRE­AT­ING SUS­TAIN­ABLE EM­PLOY­MENT

"We have pledged to work to­wards an un­em­ploy­ment rate of no more than 15% by 2021, as stated in our man­i­festo. The in­vest­ments within the com­ing months will cre­ate em­ploy­ment through­out the is­land, par­tic­u­larly in the sec­tors of tourism, agri­cul­ture and con­struc­tion. We are cur­rently work­ing on a com­pre­hen­sive in­cen­tives pack­age which will cre­ate em­ploy­ment within the pri­vate sec­tor and pro­vide much needed sup­port to busi­nesses within Saint Lu­cia."

TOURISM-LED STRAT­EGY

"It is pos­si­ble to ex­pand the tourism room stock by 2,000 rooms over the next four years through­out the is­land. Ma­jor tourism in­vest­ments are ex­pected. We have al­ready wit­nessed the open­ing of The Roy­al­ton where, at min­i­mum, 900 jobs have been cre­ated dur­ing op­er­a­tions."

HAR­BOUR CLUB "

The Har­bour Club is ex­pected to be opened to­wards the end of the third quar­ter of the cal­en­dar year, where 117 rooms are ex­pected to be avail­able and it is en­vis­aged that a min­i­mum of 150 jobs would be avail­able."

CO­CONUT BAY

"Co­conut Bay plans a 200room ex­pan­sion and is ex­pected to em­ploy a min­i­mum of 400 per­sons dur­ing con­struc­tion and an ad­di­tional 320 jobs on com­ple­tion."

SABWISHA

"Work will be­gin on the Fair­mont Saint Lu­cia Re­sort in Sabwisha, Choiseul in Septem­ber of this year. This de­vel­op­ment will em­ploy 150 work­ers dur­ing con­struc­tion and 250 work­ers upon com­ple­tion. This re­sort will be a unique space that in­te­grates lo­cal na­ture, a low-rise build­ing com­plex and a wide range of recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties. The ho­tel will in­clude 120 five-star ho­tel rooms, 37 vil­las, three restau­rants, a spa, com­mer­cial ar­eas for lo­cal pro­duc­ers and traders, and three swim­ming pools. A spe­cial cen­tral place in the de­vel­op­ment is pro­vided for lo­cal tra­di­tion – a num­ber of shops for carv­ings and paint­ings will fea­ture at the prop­erty."

CU­RIO BY HIL­TON

"The Re­duit beach will be re­de­vel­oped and will be­come the home of a lux­ury five-star dual-branded ho­tel called Cu­rio by Hil­ton. This prop­erty will be built where the Rex Re­sorts was pre­vi­ously lo­cated. The Cu­rio by Hil­ton will fea­ture 500 lux­ury rooms: 350 rooms as­signed to the Hil­ton and 150 as­signed to the Cu­rio by Hil­ton. Es­ti­mated cost: US $100 mil­lion; jobs: 650 work­ers dur­ing op­er­a­tions."

HONEY­MOON BAY

"We are ex­pect­ing work to com­mence on the Honey­moon Bay Re­sort in Canelles very soon. This re­sort will consist of two ho­tels; the first is a 250 room 5-star lux­ury, fam­ily all-in­clu­sive ho­tel and the se­cond is an 80 room, 5-star lux­ury ho­tel. This re­sort will fea­ture an 18-hole golf course and club house and a mu­seum. Es­ti­mated cost: US $360 mil­lion; jobs: 600 work­ers dur­ing con­struc­tion and 750 full-time and 300 part-time work­ers dur­ing op­er­a­tion."

BLACK BAY

"The Range De­vel­op­ments signed an agree­ment with the Gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia to ac­quire the Black Bay lands and de­velop Black Bay into an in­te­grated, mas­ter-planned, lux­ury touris­tic com­mu­nity. The Black Bay Mas­ter De­vel­op­ment will consist of a lux­ury branded ho­tel and vil­las, and other ameni­ties set on 180 acres on the south­ern tip of the is­land. The ho­tel is ex­pected to have 180 rooms and will be the cen­tral an­chor of the Black Bay Mas­ter De­vel­op­ment. Es­ti­mated cost: US $130 mil­lion: jobs: 300 di­rect hires and 400 dur­ing

SAN­DALS "

San­dals Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional has con­firmed plans to add a fourth re­sort on Saint Lu­cia. The prop­erty will of­fer 350 rooms and suites in­clu­sive of the ex­otic Sky Pool But­ler Suites, all-but­ler sig­na­ture swim-up Ron­doval Suites and an in­fin­ity-edge sky pool bar. Es­ti­mated cost: US $250 mil­lion; es­ti­mated 600 jobs dur­ing the con­struc­tion phase and an es­ti­mated 875 jobs dur­ing the op­er­a­tion phase. Ground-break­ing for the project is set to be­gin in 2018."

VIL­LAGE TOURISM "

In ad­di­tion to these de­vel­op­ments we will fo­cus our ef­forts on in­creas­ing the num­ber of three-star prop­er­ties on the is­land, as we rec­og­nize this is a pre­ferred prop­erty type for our Euro­pean vis­i­tors and yachters. The Gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy is to re­serve three-star prop­erty de­vel­op­ments for Saint Lu­cians to in­vest in, in keep­ing with the vil­lage tourism. We will cre­ate and cap­i­tal­ize on the con­cept of vil­lage tourism. Eight fish­ing vil­lages will be trans­formed into unique tourism vil­lages based on their at­tributes and strengths."

NA­TIONAL AP­PREN­TICE­SHIP PRO­GRAMME

"

Our Gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to pro­vide sup­port, in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port for per­sons in hos­pi­tal­ity train­ing. Once these per­sons have suc­cess­fully com­pleted their pro­grammes, they will be el­i­gi­ble for em­ploy­ment with many ma­jor cruise lines." EM­PLOY­MENT IN THE SOUTH

"To gen­er­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially within the south of the is­land, for ex­am­ple, our Gov­ern­ment has part­nered with OJO Labs In­ter­na­tional to de­velop an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence train­ing and call cen­tre to mar­ket and sell the prod­ucts, ser­vices, soft­ware and tech­nol­ogy of OJO and its clients, in­clud­ing the fastest grow­ing real es­tate com­pany in the United States. By Septem­ber OJO will oc­cupy leased retro-fit­ted premises within the Saint Lu­cia Free­zone to house this fa­cil­ity. Em­ploy­ees will be re­cruited and trained start­ing this month. It is an­tic­i­pated that 50 jobs in the area of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence train­ing will be im­me­di­ately cre­ated, with the plan to ex­pand ul­ti­mately to over 200.

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