Contact: Darnley Lebourne
Friday 15 April 2011 – Prime Minister Hon. Stephenson King yesterday delivered an impressive Budget for the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year that inspired renewed hope and confidence for the immediate future and beyond. The budget which was awaited with much anticipation was delivered against a backdrop of international and domestic challenges including a lingering global economic and financial crisis, a severe drought during the early part of 2010, growing incidents of crime, rising fuel prices and the passage of Hurricane Tomas.
The budget was guided by the theme: “Creating a Safe and Secure Environment and Rebuilding Communities while Transforming the Economy to Attain Sustainable Development”. During his three (3) hour presentation Prime Minister King outlined what he described as a climate of “seemingly insurmountable challenges” within which his Government had to function. Notwithstanding these challenges he proudly pointed to the fact that Saint Lucia’s economy grew in 2010 by 4.4 percent and projected a conservative estimate of 4.5 percent growth for 2011 against a 5.4 forecast by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.
During his address the Prime Minister provided an account of the performance of the key economic sectors of tourism, construction, agriculture and manufacturing. The tourism and construction sectors proved to be the main drivers of the positive performance recorded for the local economy in 2010.
In pointing the way forward towards the goal of transforming the economy to attain sustainable development, Prime Minister King outlined a number of strategic priorities and initiatives as well as responses to current challenges. The issue of crime was identified as the first priority of Government and the Prime Minister outlined his Governrnent’s broad strategy of augmenting the capacity of the police whilst reviewing existing legislation so as to strengthen legal and judicial processes. The Saint Lucian leader also announced initiatives involving regional and international parties as part of the overall response to crime. Some of Government’s investment in the fight against crime would include: employment of new recruits, re-establishment of Special Police Reserve Unit, installation of a CCTV system and purchase of Mobile Police Units.
The reconstruction and re-engineering of Saint Lucia post Hurricane Tomas was identified as another major priority of Government. The immediate/current areas of action would include: reconstruction of key and affected aspects of the road network, restoration of river courses and bridges, review of land use planning/practices and policies relating to deforestation and reforestation, a housing programme among others.
Among the list of exciting initiatives announced by the Prime Minister during his presentation of the 2011-2012 budget included:
- Strengthen initiatives in the area of ICT.
- Full establishment of National Productivity and Competitiveness Council.
- Establishment of safety and security standards for all operators in the
- tourism/hospitality sector.
- Formulate and implement safety and security measures for the prevention of threats to the tourism industry.
- Notification that Government has filed an application for the Judicial Management of Clico International Life (Saint Lucia Branch) in the high Court of Saint Lucia.
- The commissioning of a study to explore possibilities for reduction of the transit time between Castries and Vieux Fort.
- Strengthening of the Constituency Development Programme with an increased allocation of EC $10. Million.
- Use of monies from the World Bank Emergency Recovery Loan facility to construct a new Dennery Hospital and upgrading of a number of health facilities to polyclinics.
- Application of World Bank and Caribbean Development Bank funds to retrofit enhance school infrastructure targeting approximately 33 schools and construction of a new Infant School for Dennery.
- Establishment of a National Youth Corps Programme with an initial enrollment of 1000.
- Full Operation of the Water Resource Management Agency and the Water and Sewerage Commission according to their legal mandates.
- Establishment of an Economic Diversification Project with an initial focus of encouraging activity in the areas of Creative Industries, Offshore Medical Schools/Health Tourism and the ICT sector.
In presenting Government’s response to the phenomenon of rising fuel prices and the related debate, Prime Minister Stephenson King explained the implications for Government revenue if there were adjustments in the excise tax regime or increased subsidies and that Government may be forced to cut on public expenditure or undergo increased borrowing. He noted that a cap on fuel prices in the context of escalating prices would result in the dismantling of the pass-through mechanism and expose Government to indeterminate losses of revenue. Prime Minister King explained reduction in Government revenue would be untimely at this stage as this would affect Government’s ability to respond to the challenges of crime fighting and the post Tomas rebuilding effort among others.
The Prime Minister revealed that none of the Eastern Caribbean Countries have taken the policy decision to offset the impact of rising fuel prices on consumers. Prime Minister King then declared his decision to increase the subsidy on the 20 pound cooking gas cylinder by an additional $5.00 to a total subsidy of $15.00 per cylinder. The Prime Minister also stated Government’s intention to engage mini-bus Operators soon to discuss how best their concerns can be addressed.
The listing of new initiatives announced by Prime Minister King along with the immediate and promised action in relation to the post Tomas rebuilding effort, the fight against crime, response to rising prices of fuel and petroleum products and positive projections in the key economic sectors of tourism, construction, agriculture and manufacturing presented a positive spirit of renewed hope and confidence that Saint Lucians can be motivated by.
The 2011-2012 Appropriation Bill amounted to a grand total of EC $1, 337, 807.00.
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