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St Lucia: PM warns of economic problems

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St Lucia: PM warns of economic problems

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CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jan 4, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony says St. Lucia has the largest fiscal deficit in the Caribbean as he prepares to address the nation on Sunday on the economic challenges facing the island.
“Where as other Caribbean states might have a fiscal deficit of seven to eight per cent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), we are climbing up to 10 per cent. That’s a warning sign so we have really got to ensure that we bring it under some degree of control, and resolve those differences.
“So when you see for example I plead for understanding from our public service unions and others engaged in the negotiations, it precisely for that reason because we need to restore St. Lucia’s financial standing,” Anthony  told a government housing development ceremony.
In his address on Sunday, Anthony, who is also Finance Minister, is expected to outline the economic difficulties facing the island amid calls from public sector trade unions for increased salaries for their members.
Prime Minister Anthony cautioned that some order must be brought to the public finances through consolidation, and acknowledged that the country must be bold and brave in attracting investment.
“This is vital because no country in the world can survive without investment. What has happened in the world has made investment ten times more difficult and the new investors are very discerning, as they are only going to those parts of the world where they can get all the right incentives.
“Our product is a little tired and jaded   and we now have to search for new answers and do things we never thought of doing before, if we are going to survive in this new and different world,” he added.
Anthony had earlier said that the wage negotiation is not solely a matter between the government and the public sector unions, but it involves the entire country.
“For this reason, I will lay out the full facts, review the performance of the economy, and the implications of any wage settlement for the future prospects of our economy,” he said.
The unions are seeking a 16 per cent wage increase for the 2010-2012 triennium, and called for the intervention of the prime minister after government negotiators said they had no mandate to increase their offer of  zero per cent increase and a onetime payment of EC$1,000 (US$) One EC dollar= US$0.37 cents).