St Lucia: PM paints dismal economic pictureDr Kenny Anthony says several members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean (OECS) were in financial trouble. (FP)
Mon, September 24, 2012 - 3:30 PM
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Sept 24, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony says St. Lucia is singlehandedly keeping the Eastern Caribbean economy afloat, and therefore has to exercise fiscal responsibility in the interest of monetary stability in the sub-regional currency union.
Addressing the 51st annual general meeting of the St. Lucia Employers Federation (SLEF), Anthony, who is also Finance Minister, said that a that several states of the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean (OECS) were in financial trouble with St. Kitts and Nevis having to undertake major debt restructuring.
Antigua said some local financial institutions had taken a “haircut on investments” while Antigua and Barbuda was forced into an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Anthony said St. Vincent and the Grenadines had to provide financial assistance to Grenada through its facilities at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) to meet the salaries for public workers, while Dominica is also undergoing major restructuring.
Anthony said “the reality is the two countries that are largely responsible for the foreign exchange reserves of the ECCB are St. Lucia and Antigua.
“St. Lucia therefore remains critical to the continued viability of the OECS region. Whatever decisions that we make here we not only make it for ourselves, but the truth is we make it for the entire region.
“It is a burden and responsibility that our government has, as indeed you have because the stability of the system going forward depends heavily on the decisions that we make. I do not have to tell you that in recent weeks the Central Bank as well as OECS governments have had to intervene to save two financial institutions.
“Happily it appears that solutions are on the horizon, but the fragility of the situation cannot therefore be ignored. And so when I plead, when I cajole, when I explain; I hope that you too can understand that always there are larger issues that both of us need to understand,” the Prime Minister said.
Regarding the OECS Economic Citizenship, Anthony reminded the employers that citizens of the sub-region are now able to move freely and become employed as well as establish new businesses.
But he acknowledged the apprehension and anxiety of members of the business community “over the practice of economic citizenship or citizenship by investment programmes” in St. Kitts and Dominica, adding that Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada may follow suit.
He said the OECS leaders at the request of St. Lucia have agreed to undertake a study of “this emerging phenomenon” and that they will be in a better position to make policies regarding the programme once the study has been completed and the report submitted.
“In the interim we cannot repudiate a commitment to the thousands of other citizens of the Eastern Caribbean whose governments already allow St. Lucian citizens the rights of free movement,” he said, as he urged SLEF to concentrate on improving efficiency through the use of modern technology and training.
He said that in other to remain competitive and to take advantage of wider markets through the OECS Economic Union, the workforce needed to be trained and re-skilled especially in the area of basic computer literacy.
The Prime Minister noted that St. Lucia has a workforce of 90,000, and out of a population of over 160,000, and that as much as 65 per cent are without formal qualifications.
“So even with universal secondary education and proposed improvements to our education system it means that the greater challenges are training people on the job, getting people into the groove of lifelong learning and exposing the wider population to knowledge and new skills,” he told the employers.
- Editor's Choice