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Construction Industry- A Major Contributor to St. Lucia's Economy

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005 - A boom in the construction industry has been identified as one of the factors has placed the Saint Lucian economy on a solid path to recovery. So says Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Honourable Dr. Kenny Anthony. Speaking on the theme, “An Economy on the Rebound,” during his weekly radio broadcast “Conversation with the Nation” Dr. Anthony says signs of economic rebound have been endorsed by the latest assessment carried out by regional and international financial agencies.

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank estimates that the region’s economies including Saint Lucia will collectively grow by 5.6% this year and a higher growth rate of 7% is forecast for 2006. Much of the growth according to Dr. Anthony is due to massive investments in construction infrastructure. He says several local hotels, companies and individuals are making good use of the incentives being offered by the Government of Saint Lucia to provide accommodation for the visitors expected for Cricket World Cup 2007.

“But it is not only in the tourism sector that the construction sector is buzzing. Just take a walk and look around Castries – or between Castries and Gros Islet – and you will see the number of business places that are expanding, renovating, relocating, or building. Here again, some of these companies are taking advantage of incentives being offered by the Government to business places that wish to modernise, refurbish or relocate their premises. Truly, a construction boom is under way in Saint Lucia,” Dr. Anthony added.

Meanwhile Dr. Anthony also spoke on the possible shortage of skilled labour and building materials in light of the construction activities over the next eighteen months. According to the Prime Minister contractors have noted the shortage of highly skilled workers, such as carpenters, masons, electricians, and tillers. However he explained that the reduction in the pool of skilled workers is a consequence of the departure of some of those persons to Grenada, to help in the reconstruction of that island after Hurricane Ivan, and the migration of others in search of opportunities, following the economic contraction in 2001.

“If, for argument sake, we might experience a shortage of skilled labour, will we have to import labour in the near or distant future? It’s a relevant question, but the answer is an emphatic “no” – not for the time being, at least. There continues to be a serious surplus of unemployed labour. If employment works according to the basic principle of supply and demand, then as the supply of jobs increases in the months ahead, so will the demand be reduced. We cannot begin to think about importing labour from neighbouring countries, until our pool of surplus labour is exhausted,” stated Dr. Anthony

The Prime Minister said it was now necessary to begin thinking in terms of establishing skills banks and increasing skills training. He further suggested dialoguing with the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in designing new programmes to train skilled workers.

According to Dr. Anthony, “by revitalising the construction sector the Government is also building new economic pillars.” However he warned that focus on the other sectors must not be overshadowed. The Prime Minister said the next few years will present great opportunities and confirm the local economy as tourism and services-driven economy.

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