AP­PROACH TO THE BUD­GET

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The fol­low­ing is the third and fi­nal part of an ar­ti­cle by Fran­cis Reynolds en­ti­tled ‘Prime Min­is­ter Si­lences Crit­ics and Ap­plies Busi­ness Ap­proach to First Bud­get’. This ar­ti­cle pre­vi­ously touched on ar­eas ad­dressed in the 2017 Bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion in­clud­ing gov­ern­men­tal re­form, agri­cul­tural-led strat­egy and di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, do­mes­tic eco­nomic per­for­mance, and other ar­eas.

Im­prov­ing Se­cu­rity and Jus­tice

The Courts will be tem­po­rar­ily re­lo­cated to the grounds of the Na­tional Cul­tural Cen­tre. A tem­po­rary struc­ture will be erected to house the Fam­ily court, First Dis­trict Court, the High Court, Mag­is­trates court and the Of­fices of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions while the Na­tional Cul­tural Cen­tre will be re­lo­cated to an al­ter­na­tive lo­ca­tion.

The Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions has been short of re­sources for some time. This has hin­dered the pace at which cases can be han­dled. We will strengthen the of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions through ad­e­quate staffing and the pro­vi­sion of other en­abling ser­vices such as proper equip­ment. This will fur­ther as­sist with the re­duc­tion of the back­log of cases. We can re­port that with the ap­point­ment of the new DPP, sig­nif­i­cant progress has al­ready been made in re­duc­ing the back­log of cases and I would like to pub­licly con­grat­u­late him and his De­part­ment on their suc­cess thus far.

I am pleased to re­port the Foren­sic Science Lab­o­ra­tory re­opened dur­ing this fi­nan­cial year.

In ad­di­tion, we will in­crease the re­sources of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force by train­ing 46 re­cruits and pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional ve­hi­cles and other much needed equip­ment.

Strength­en­ing Bor­der Con­trol

At pre­sent four agen­cies per­form bor­der man­age­ment func­tions in Saint Lu­cia. These are: Cus­toms and Ex­cise De­part­ment, Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment, Ma­rine Unit and the Quar­an­tine Di­vi­sion of the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture. Col­lec­tively these agen­cies have re­spon­si­bil­ity for over­see­ing the move­ment of peo­ple, an­i­mals and plants, the im­port and ex­port of goods and ser­vices, and the se­cur­ing of Saint Lu­cia’s bor­ders. To this end, we will de­velop a Bor­der Con­trol Ser­vices Agency.

This agency will be re­spon­si­ble for:

Bor­der Man­age­ment and the pro­cess­ing of peo­ple, goods, plants and an­i­mals at all ports of en­try

• Cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion ser­vices En­force­ment of rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion Pro­tec­tion of Saint Lu­cia’s bor­ders

FIS­CAL STRAT­EGY Tax Re­forms:

My gov­ern­ment has made tax re­forms a ma­jor pri­or­ity over the medium term. In this re­gard, work has al­ready com­menced in a num­ber of ar­eas geared to­ward im­prov­ing com­pet­i­tive­ness and stim­u­lat­ing growth.

Value Added Tax:

One of the prom­ises made in our 2016 man­i­festo is to pro­vide tax re­lief to Saint Lu­cians in the ar­eas of per­sonal and cor­po­rate in­come tax and VAT. In keep­ing with this prom­ise, on 1st Fe­bru­ary 2017 we re­duced the VAT rate from 15% to 12.5% as part of the ini­tial VAT re­form. It is the view of this gov­ern­ment that the re­duc­tion in VAT will re­duce prices to the con­sumer and/or boost prof­its for busi­ness, thereby stim­u­lat­ing con­fi­dence in the econ­omy.

VAT De­fer­ral for Man­u­fac­tur­ers:

Our man­u­fac­tur­ers have com­plained about the bur­den from VAT on im­ported raw ma­te­ri­als used in their pro­duc­tion pro­cesses. Given that VAT is a bor­der ad­justed tax, when goods are im­ported into Saint Lu­cia, the man­u­fac­turer is re­quired to pay VAT upon clear­ance of these goods. This in­put VAT in­curred is claimable and is off­set against any VAT col­lected when a VAT re­turn form is sub­mit­ted by the 21st of the fol­low­ing month. If the man­u­fac­tur­ing col­lects less out­put VAT than the amount paid on in­puts, then the dif­fer­ence is re­funded within four to six weeks of pro­cess­ing the claim. This can cre­ate an un­nec­es­sary cash flow strain, thus adding to the fi­nan­cial bur­den on man­u­fac­tur­ers in that they must source fi­nanc­ing ei­ther from loan fi­nanc­ing or over­draft, which can be ex­pen­sive and ren­der their busi­nesses un­com­pet­i­tive.

We have de­signed a VAT de­fer­ral sys­tem to min­i­mize the im­pact of the VAT obli­ga­tions faced by man­u­fac­tur­ers. This sys­tem will elim­i­nate the VAT pay­ment on im­ports of raw ma­te­ri­als and no such pay­ment is re­quired sub­se­quently, to the ex­tent that the man­u­fac­turer is al­lowed to claim the full in­put VAT. A pay­ment will be re­quired to the ex­tent that a por­tion of this in­put VAT is not claimable and the man­u­fac­turer has no VAT re­fund­able. This gives man­u­fac­tures im­me­di­ate use of the im­ports to man­u­fac­ture and sell the goods that they have pro­duced.

The IRD has al­ready pro­duced the draft leg­is­la­tion to al­low for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the de­fer­ral tax sys­tem on cer­tain im­ports; this draft leg­is­la­tion will there­fore be amended to in­cor­po­rate raw ma­te­ri­als im­ported by ap­proved man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Per­sonal In­come Tax:

The re­forms pro­posed are ex­ten­sive. In light of these is­sues the pol­icy di­rec­tion of the gov­ern­ment with re­spec­tive to PAYE is as fol­lows: i. Sim­plify the sys­tem such that fil­ing is no longer re­quired by the tax­pay­ers ii. Al­low for more pro­gres­siv­ity in the sys­tem

It is there­fore pro­posed that both the per­sonal al­lowance and the ap­pli­ca­ble de­duc­tions be re­formed with a view to sim­pli­fy­ing the sys­tem while si­mul­ta­ne­ously mak­ing it more pro­gres­sive. It is also the in­ten­tion of the gov­ern­ment to place a cap on per­sonal in­come tax. We will make an an­nounce­ment of the changes to be made in the per­sonal in­come tax prior to its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

For­eign Res­i­dency Pro­gramme:

It is the in­ten­tion of this gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce a for­eign res­i­dency pro­gramme that will al­low high net worth per­sons to take up res­i­dence in Saint Lu­cia. In or­der to qual­ify, the for­eign res­i­dent will have to in­vest in real es­tate, open a com­pany that hires more than 10 peo­ple or in­vest in our sov­er­eign fund. Those per­sons, once they have ac­quired res­i­dence in Saint Lu­cia, will be treated like Saint Lu­cians ex­cept they will not have the right to vote or to own a Saint Lu­cian pass­port.

Sov­er­eign Wealth Fund:

The gov­ern­ment has com­mis­sioned a study to re­view mech­a­nisms to en­hance the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the ex­ist­ing CIP pro­gramme and to amend the tax leg­is­la­tion to make it at­trac­tive for for­eign per­sons to be­come tax res­i­dents of Saint Lu­cia. As a re­sult of the stud­ies gov­ern­ment will be tak­ing steps to es­tab­lish a Sov­er­eign Wealth Fund that will al­low par­tic­i­pants in the CIP pro­gramme the op­tion of mak­ing an in­vest­ment in the Fund along­side the Gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia.

The Fund will be de­signed to en­sure that it meets ap­pro­pri­ate gov­er­nance stan­dards and will be staffed by pro­fes­sional in­vest­ment man­agers. It is ex­pected that the ma­jor­ity of the Fund’s cap­i­tal will be de­ployed in liq­uid for­eign de­nom­i­nated se­cu­ri­ties with the bal­ance be­ing ear­marked for suit­able in­vest­ments in the Saint Lu­cian econ­omy. Prof­its de­rived from in­vest­ments in the Fund are ex­pected to be used for Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­ture. Cit­i­zen­ship by In­vest­ment Pro­gramme: The gov­ern­ment has taken steps to en­cour­age greater par­tic­i­pa­tion in the CIP. Hon­ourable mem­bers would be aware that the do­na­tion com­po­nent was re­duced from US$300,000 to US$100,000.

REV­ENUE MEA­SURES

Ex­cise Tax on Fuel: Over the years we have not been able to al­lo­cate enough money to main­tain our road net­work which has come un­der tremen­dous pres­sure from the rapidly in­creas­ing num­ber of ve­hi­cles on our roads. In 2016 the num­ber of ve­hi­cles im­ported in Saint Lu­cia in­creased by 40.8% to 3,137.

“One of the chal­lenges that I fore­see in pur­su­ing our pol­icy agenda is im­ple­men­ta­tion. It is no se­cret that we have suf­fered from a se­ri­ous im­ple­men­ta­tion deficit in the past and this has se­ri­ously af­fected our abil­ity to im­ple­ment projects in a timely and cost-ef­fi­cient man­ner.”

There has been in­creased traf­fic con­ges­tion and re­sult­ing de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of our roads. The high level of pub­lic debt and the cur­rent sources of tax rev­enue do not al­low suf­fi­cient re­sources for road re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and ex­pan­sion of the road net­work. There­fore, my gov­ern­ment will ded­i­cate a stream of rev­enue to go to­wards main­tain­ing and up­grad­ing the road net­work and as­so­ci­ated in­fra­struc­ture such as bridges. This stream of rev­enue will come from an in­crease in the ex­cise tax on gaso­line and diesel which will be in­creased from $2.50 a gal­lon to $4.00. This will take ef­fect from June, 2017.

EX­PEN­DI­TURE MEA­SURES Tack­ling the Na­tional Debt:

The time has come to tackle our na­tional debt prob­lem. For too long suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have been pay­ing lip ser­vice to this sit­u­a­tion and the prob­lem gets worse each year. This gov­ern­ment will not let another term go by with no de­ci­sive ac­tion. To do so would be to un­der­mine our fis­cal re­form ef­fort, and to jeop­ar­dise the po­ten­tial that this coun­try has to en­ter into a new era of sus­tained higher eco­nomic growth. We owe this to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and we must tackle it now.

And so we have de­vel­oped a Medium Term Debt Man­age­ment Strat­egy (MTDS) to ad­dress this sit­u­a­tion, the ob­jec­tive of which is to an­a­lyze the costs and risks in­her­ent within the debt port­fo­lio, ref­er­enc­ing the in­ter­est rate risk and re­fi­nanc­ing risk. This strat­egy doc­u­ment comes against a back­ground of ad­verse eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial de­vel­op­ments within the ECCU in­clud­ing Saint Lu­cia. The man­age­ment of the debt pro­gramme in­volves the de­sign and im­ple­men­ta­tion of debt strate­gies which will ef­fec­tively align the debt level with fis­cal sus­tain­abil­ity.

Re­duc­tion in Trans­fers:

This bud­get is geared to­wards rev­enue re­form, re­struc­tur­ing of the tax sys­tem and en­hanc­ing eco­nomic growth. How­ever, we must ex­er­cise fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity and dis­ci­pline. We must look care­fully at trans­fers and de­ter­mine whether the per­for­mance of statu­tory bod­ies and af­fil­i­ated agen­cies jus­ti­fies con­tin­ued sup­port of these agen­cies. There may be in­stances where a merger of agen­cies, or an elim­i­na­tion or re­duc­tion of trans­fers is the most suit­able op­tion. In some cases the en­vi­ron­ment has evolved, and the pur­pose for the cre­ation of these agen­cies no longer ex­ists. In other in­stances agen­cies may be bet­ter placed to op­er­ate as pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions and al­low mar­ket forces to set rates and de­ter­mine the true cost of op­er­a­tions. This is no easy task, but is a nec­es­sary part of the jour­ney to ex­er­cis­ing fis­cal dis­ci­pline and re­duc­ing our debt bur­den.

The first agency of gov­ern­ment for which trans­fers have been re­duced is the Saint Lu­cia Tourist Board. Upon as­sum­ing of­fice my gov­ern­ment took a de­ci­sion to close the Saint Lu­cia Tourist Board and to es­tab­lish the Saint Lu­cia Tourism Author­ity. This has re­sulted in the re­duc­tion of ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­penses from $8.6 mil­lion in 2016/17 to $5.6 mil­lion pro­grammed for the 2017/18 fi­nan­cial year.

We have also iden­ti­fied a num­ber of other agen­cies whose op­er­a­tions and per­for­mances have been re­viewed and a de­ter­mi­na­tion will be made on their con­tin­u­a­tion in their cur­rent form in the com­ing weeks and months; these in­clude: • The Saint Lu­cia Mar­ket­ing Board • The Saint Lu­cia Fish Mar­ket­ing Cor­po­ra­tion • Ra­dio Saint Lu­cia • The Sup­ply Ware­house: • The Saint Lu­cia Na­tional Trust • The Saint Lu­cia Postal Ser­vice

FI­NANC­ING THE 2017-2018 ES­TI­MATES OF EX­PEN­DI­TURE

Dur­ing the fis­cal year 2017/2018 the gov­ern­ment in­tends to spend a to­tal of $1.513 bil­lion rep­re­sent­ing a 6.1% in­crease over the 2016/17 ap­proved es­ti­mates and a 14% in­crease over the pre­lim­i­nary out­turn for the pre­ced­ing year. Of the to­tal amount bud­geted for in the fis­cal year 2017/18, re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture ac­counts for 76.1% and an amount of $1.151 bil­lion is al­lo­cated while the amount al­lo­cated for Cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture is $362 mil­lion rep­re­sent­ing 23.9% of to­tal ex­pen­di­ture. The bud­geted amount for re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture in­cludes $124.5 mil­lion for Debt Prin­ci­pal Re­pay­ments. The bud­get will be fi­nanced as fol­lows: 1. Re­cur­rent Rev­enue of $1.073 bil­lion com­pris­ing: a. Tax Rev­enue of $958 mil­lion (89.3% of rev­enue) b. Non Tax Rev­enue of $115 mil­lion (10.7% of rev­enue) 2. Cap­i­tal Rev­enue from the pro­ceeds of the sale of as­sets amount­ing to $7.4 mil­lion 3. Grants amount­ing to $87.4 mil­lion from friendly gov­ern­ments and mul­ti­lat­eral in­sti­tu­tions in­clud­ing: i. Re­pub­lic of China (Tai­wan) con­tribut­ing $35.7 mil­lion

ii. Caribbean De­vel­op­ment Bank (CDB) con­tribut­ing $9.9 mil­lion

iii. Euro­pean De­vel­op­ment Fund (EDF) con­tribut­ing $13.8 mil­lion

iv. Gov­ern­ment of Mex­ico con­tribut­ing $9.1 mil­lion. v. World Bank (IDA/IBRD) – con­tribut­ing a to­tal of $9.8 mil­lion

vi. United Na­tions En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­gramme (UNEP) - $4.2 mil­lion 4. Gov­ern­ment In­stru­ments in­clud­ing Bonds of $208 mil­lion and Trea­sury Bills of $50 mil­lion. 5. Other Loans to­tal­ing $84.8m com­pris­ing

a. $43.1 mil­lion from the Caribbean De­vel­op­ment Bank

b. $ 24.9 mil­lion from the World Bank

c. $13.6 mil­lion from the Re­pub­lic of China (Tai­wan) d. $1 mil­lion from the Na­tional In­surance Cor­po­ra­tion (NIC)

e. $2.2 mil­lion from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment

AL­LO­CA­TION OF EX­PEN­DI­TURE

The Eco­nomic Sec­tor De­part­ments are poised to re­ceive the largest share of to­tal ex­pen­di­ture in the amount of $899.6 mil­lion or 60%. This rep­re­sents an in­crease of $87.2 mil­lion, or 10%, over the last fi­nan­cial year 2016/2017. Of this amount a sum of $612.8 mil­lion, or 69%, is al­lo­cated to re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture while $286.8 mil­lion or 31% rep­re­sents the share al­lo­cated to cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture.

The Min­istry of Fi­nance will re­ceive the largest share of this amount to­tal­ing $499.2 mil­lion or 56% of the to­tal ex­pen­di­ture for the eco­nomic sec­tor. It is ex­tremely im­por­tant to note that ap­prox­i­mately $376.1 mil­lion, or 76%, is bud­geted for debt ser­vice pay­ments and re­tir­ing ben­e­fits.

I pro­pose to al­lo­cate to the De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, Trans­port and Civil Avi­a­tion the sum of $67.8 mil­lion for Cap­i­tal Ex­pen­di­ture, of which $27.5 mil­lion is to be al­lo­cated to the Dis­as­ter Vul­ner­a­bil­ity Re­duc­tion Project (DVRP). The ob­jec­tive of this project is to re­duce vul­ner­a­bil­ity to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and cli­mate change. I am also propos­ing an al­lo­ca­tion of $19.1 mil­lion for the St. Jude’s Hos­pi­tal Re­con­struc­tion Project and $19.2 mil­lion for the Con­stituency De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme.

I have dis­cussed the poor con­di­tion of our road net­work. In this re­gard, I pro­pose to al­lo­cate to the Min­istry of In­fra­struc­ture, Ports and En­ergy the sum of $60.8 mil­lion for Cap­i­tal Ex­pen­di­ture out of which $14.9 mil­lion is for the Dis­as­ter Re­cov­ery Pro­gramme. This pro­gramme is in­tended to ad­dress the im­pact of Hur­ri­cane To­mas and re­duce the risks as­so­ci­ated with land­slide and flood haz­ards. The bal­ance of the cap­i­tal in­vest­ment in the amount of $42.8 mil­lion will go to­wards road im­prove­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion works through­out the coun­try.

Our gov­ern­ment in­tends to res­ur­rect, re­vi­tal­ize and rein­vig­o­rate the Agri­cul­ture Sec­tor and I wish to pro­pose a ma­jor cap­i­tal in­jec­tion of $ 49.3 mil­lion to help stim­u­late that sec­tor. Of this amount, $13.8 mil­lion is pro­posed to go to­wards the Ba­nana Pro­duc­tiv­ity Im­prove­ment Project, $10.9 mil­lion to the Agri­cul­tural Trans­for­ma­tion Pro­gramme and $3.9 mil­lion to the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of Farms fol­low­ing Trop­i­cal Storm Matthew.

In re­spect to our wa­ter sup­ply sys­tem, I am ex­tremely pleased to an­nounce an al­lo­ca­tion of $10.6 mil­lion and $5.9 mil­lion for the Den­nery and Vieux Fort Wa­ter Sup­ply Re­de­vel­op­ment projects, re­spec­tively.

I wish to pro­pose a cap­i­tal of $33.6 mil­lion to the De­part­ment of Tourism, In­for­ma­tion and Broad­cast­ing. Of this amount, $28.9 mil­lion will go to­wards Tourism Mar­ket­ing Pro­mo­tion to sup­port Tourism Mar­ket­ing and air­lift into the coun­try.

In re­spect to the De­part­ment of Hous­ing, Ur­ban Re­newal and Telecommunications, I pro­pose to al­lo­cate $25.5 mil­lion, the bulk of which will be di­rected to PROUD/Set­tle­ment Up­grade Project, PROUD III, the Na­tional Sites and Ser­vices Pro­gramme and the CDB funded Hous­ing Con­struc­tion Pro­gramme. I now turn to the So­cial Ser­vices sec­tor. An al­lo­ca­tion of $406.7 mil­lion is pro­posed for this sec­tor, of which $359.2 mil­lion is re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture and $47.4 mil­lion is for cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture. This rep­re­sents an in­crease in al­lo­ca­tion of $11 mil­lion over last year’s bud­get.

It is no sur­prise that the bulk of the re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture, a sum of $289.9 mil­lion, is ear­marked for the Min­istries of Ed­u­ca­tion and Health and the re­main­der of $69.3 mil­lion is to be dis­trib­uted to the Min­istries of Eq­uity, Labour, Youth De­vel­op­ment and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment.

As it re­lates to cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture, a sum of $22.6 mil­lion is pro­posed for the Min­istry of Eq­uity, of which a pro­vi­sion of $10.7 mil­lion is for the Ba­sic Needs Trust Fund 7th and 8th pro­grammes. A fur­ther $5.3 mil­lion is for the Home Care Pro­gramme and $3.2 mil­lion for the Youth Em­pow­er­ment for Life Project.

Fur­ther, a cap­i­tal pro­vi­sion of $18.7 mil­lion is al­lo­cated for the Min­istry of Health and Well­ness.

A sum of $6.6 mil­lion and $4.7 mil­lion is ear­marked for com­mis­sion­ing the New Na­tional Hos­pi­tal and New Na­tional Hos­pi­tal works pro­gramme, re­spec­tively.

I now wish to fo­cus on the Jus­tice Sys­tem, which has been badly ne­glected. We will ad­dress the is­sues plagu­ing it. An amount of $139.7 mil­lion is to be al­lo­cated to this sec­tor of which $132.1 mil­lion is for re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture and $7.6 mil­lion for cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture.

In the area of cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture, $3.8 mil­lion is to be al­lo­cated to the Fire Ser­vice De­part­ment par­tic­u­larly for fire­fight­ing equip­ment and to ef­fect re­pairs to Fire Sta­tions. I wish to an­nounce that we will be com­mis­sion­ing the Babon­neau Fire Sta­tion.

The po­lice are in des­per­ate need of ve­hi­cles, many of which are in poor con­di­tion. In this re­gard I am pleased to al­lo­cate an amount of $772,000 for pur­chas­ing ve­hi­cles.

With re­spect to the Gen­eral Ser­vice Agen­cies I pro­pose an al­lo­ca­tion of $58.5 mil­lion. Of this amount $38.1 mil­lion is re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture and $20.4 mil­lion is cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture. The share of this amount is as fol­lows: Min­istry of Pub­lic Ser­vice - $27.5 mil­lion and the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter - $8.7 mil­lion.

I wish to make men­tion of a $10 mil­lion al­lo­ca­tion for the Na­tional Ap­pren­tice­ship Pro­gramme, which in­cludes two com­po­nents namely a Call Cen­tre and Hospi­tal­ity Train­ing.

A pro­vi­sion of $5.9 mil­lion is al­lo­cated for the Caribbean Re­gional Com­mu­ni­ca­tion In­fra­struc­ture (CARCIP) for the roll-out of the Gov­ern­ment-Wide Area Net­work (GWAN).

Fi­nally I wish to pro­pose an al­lo­ca­tion of $8.9 mil­lion to the Agen­cies of Gov­er­nance which in­clude Leg­is­la­ture, the Ser­vice Com­mis­sions and the Elec­toral and Au­dit De­part­ments.

I wish to re­it­er­ate that our gov­ern­ment, through this bud­get, has demon­strated its unwavering com­mit­ment to grow this econ­omy by in­vest­ing more in its cap­i­tal pro­gramme, which re­flects an in­crease of $36.2 mil­lion, or 11.1%, from last year.

CON­CLU­SION

One of the chal­lenges that I fore­see in pur­su­ing our pol­icy agenda is im­ple­men­ta­tion. It is no se­cret that we have suf­fered from a se­ri­ous im­ple­men­ta­tion deficit in the past and this has se­ri­ously af­fected our abil­ity to im­ple­ment projects in a timely and cost-ef­fi­cient man­ner.

My gov­ern­ment’s mantra is “ex­e­cute, ex­e­cute, ex­e­cute”. We in­tend to put in place the in­sti­tu­tional frame­work and strengthen ca­pac­ity to en­able us to ac­cel­er­ate the pace of im­ple­men­ta­tion. I have wit­nessed first

hand the depth of de­spair and hope­less­ness that many fam­i­lies are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in Saint Lu­cia. It is for this rea­son our gov­ern­ment felt that there was need to pro­vide im­me­di­ate re­lief to Saint Lu­cians by way of the re­duc­tion in the Value Added Tax from 15% to 12.5 %.

We wish to pur­sue with ur­gency the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a so­cial safety net sys­tem for the lower in­come group in our so­ci­ety. We are a car­ing and em­pa­thetic gov­ern­ment that will ad­dress the plight of the less for­tu­nate in our so­ci­ety.

This bud­get is part of a four-year plan that will re­form, trans­form and mod­ern­ize our Saint Lu­cia. This bud­get will there­fore pro­vide the foun­da­tion for the fu­ture growth and de­vel­op­ment of our econ­omy.

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