I feel privileged but humbled as I once again address the people of Saint Lucia
and particularly the residents of Castries East at this festive time of year.
This year 2003 continued to be challenging but the manufacturing and tourism
sectors registered growth in 2003.
Further growth is expected in Tourism in 2004 but there are concerns
particularly with visitor safety and security. Government’s believes in the
philosophy that the benefits of Tourism should accrue to as many people as
possible however rights are accompanied by duties and it is the responsibility
of all citizens to ensure that our visitors and locals enjoy our beautiful
island in a safe and secure environment. We maintain a zero tolerance towards
all crime and everyone must assist the authorities as they seek to protect our
freedom and the stability of our country’s economy.
The year 2000 was the best year for Tourism arrivals and after the problems of
2001 we worked to attain pre 2000 levels. The St. Lucia Tourist Board, our
marketing agency embarked on an intensive promotional drive. Targeted airlift
capacity from our major source was part of that overall strategy. In this regard
commencing April 2004 Delta Airlines will be flying nonstop to St. Lucia twice
weekly from Atlanta. An agreement was also signed for charters from Manchester
and the resumption of charters from Germany.
I am pleased to report that this year 2003 we have not only attained but
surpassed 2000 levels and 2003 will now be the record year for tourism arrivals
in St. Lucia. We are pleased with these results but there can be no place for
complacency since the industry is global, highly competitive and is vulnerable
to external factors over which we have no control.
In St. Lucia we must continually strive to improve the product to the highest
possible internationally accepted standard. We must continuously improve all
areas of service delivery and keep our costs competitive.
While we not the expansion in our tourism arrivals we must find ways of
increasing the returns from the industry. To this end I implore business people
and other creative entrepreneurs to find ways of causing visitors to purchase
more goods and services manufactured in St. Lucia.
There are calls for additions in the number of hotel rooms to handle the
increase in visitor arrivals.
However, the world investment climate remains challenging in the aftermath of
recent world events. As a country we will have to decide what support we will
give to investment in the country. To this end the tourism industry welcomes the
addition of the Sandals Grande and notes its outstanding performance and
contribution in 2003. I want to express my solidarity with the Hon. Prime
Minister for his courage in rescuing the Hyatt Hotel. The successful Sandals
Grande would not be a reality without the timely intervention of the Prime
In my message last year I promised new marketing initiatives in the small hotel
sector. I am pleased to report that a marketing plan has been prepared by a
local consultant and endorsed by the small hotel sector. Only last week
government received funding through the OPSR for the implementation of the first
stages of the plan. Small hoteliers must make use of these opportunities and
ensure that they participate in these initiatives.
The Manufacturing Sector continued on its path of success and experienced
continued growth in 2003. Our manufacturers must continue to improve the quality
of their products. They have to keep abreast with changes in technology and
continuously re-engineer to meet the challenges and opportunities of firstly the
CSME and eventually the FTAA. Local consumers must give the necessary support by
buying local wherever possible. I am satisfied with the determination, courage
and tenacity of most manufacturers and the role of the St. Lucia Manufacturers
Association under the inspirational leadership of Mr. Laurie Barnard, Ernst and
Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
We continued dialogue on the Consumer Protection Bill this year. I have received
final comments from the private sector. It is my desire that a bill which is
satisfactory to all particularly consumers will be tabled in Parliament in 2004.
I have received excellent cooperation from all agencies under my portfolio. The
St. Lucia Bureau of Standards, St. Lucia Tourist Board, The St. Lucia Nature
Heritage Tourism Project, The Free Zone Management Committee and the Trade
Licencing Committee have all shared in the vision and mission of creating a
profitable and sustainable commercial sector. I want to thank the Chairpersons
and board members and staff of these organizations for their service, fortitude
To the good people of Castries East I have continued to strive for improvement
in the quality of life in the constituency. My promise of resurfacing every
walkway in Bocage is becoming a reality. Both walk-ways viz near Welch’s and
Seventh Day Adventist Church are now complete and lighted for the benefit of
residents. Next year we will repair the other walkways in Bocage.
2003 was a good year for sports in the Constituency. The first ever Castries
East Marathon sponsored by Caribbean Springs was held. The Philip J. Pierre
Tournament, ended with victory for Pavee, incidentally the prize giving ceremony
was sponsored by Cable and Wireless for the first time this year. I wish to
thank Virgin Holidays for its sponsorship of an other Marchand Football League
Tournament now being contested by over 10 teams in the Castries East and look
forward to continuing this association next year.
I am delighted and thankful to the Ministry of Planning and the World Bank
Disaster Mitigation Unit for the re-construction and expansion of the damaged
and abandoned James Belgrave Court. The facility is now complete with lights,
covered seats and changing room facilities. In collaboration with the Ministry
of Sports the facility is scheduled to be functional from February 1, 2004 with
a grand Sports Day and the finals of the Virgin Holidays Tournament. All
sporting enthusiasts in the area are expected to participate in these
activities. I want to thank Ms. Cheryl Mathurin for her work on the James
Belgrave Court Project.
The Ministry of Social Transformation assures me of the expansion of the
Entrepot Human Resource Centre to facilitate a supervised day care centre and
possibly a library will commence early next year.
The search for an appropriate location for a sporting facility in Pavee is
continuing and this project will commence as soon as suitable premises are
As I reflect on the year 2003, I recall the times when words, actions and deeds
have hurt the feelings of innocent people – when negative thoughts overcome
positive actions and I sincerely wish that our society transforms into a more
loving, positive and optimistic society – we must all join to make St. Lucia the
best place in the world. I also remember my friend deceased Commissioner Brian
Barnard and empathize with his dear wife and family.
In this journey, I am not alone, I am fortunate to be working with two
outstanding Permanent Secretaries and a majority of staff who are dedicated and
Best wishes and thanks to my family, the Prime Minister, my Cabinet and
Parliamentary colleagues, Chairman and Members of St. Lucia Labour Party and all
institutions and individuals that impact personally or professionally on my life
as a Parliamentary representative and Government Minister. I thank you for your
encouragement and worthwhile criticism.
Let me wish all citizens of St. Lucia and particularly the residents of Castries
East a Merry Christmas and a prosperous and profitable New Year.
I Thank you.