Address by Prime Minister at the Official Opening of the Vieux Fort Fisheries Complex - June 11, 2000
Address by Prime Minister, Honourable Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, at the Official Opening of the Vieux Fort Fisheries Complex
June 11, 2000
Welcome invited guests to Vieux Fort
Today, we are witnessing the culmination of a process that started in June 1998 when, on behalf of the Government of St. Lucia, I signed the agreement with the Japanese Government for the construction of this US$20 Million complex. While I know it has become fashionable for our friends in opposition to lay claim to every project that has been commissioned in St. Lucia, I believe that even they, with their creative abilities in this area, may experience some difficulty in establishing ownership of this one. Those who know the history of this project will quickly realize that this magnificent end result bears no resemblance to the graphic once presented in the House of Assembly by a former Minister of Bananas.
In 1997, in our Contract of Faith, the St. Lucia Labour Party stated, "the fishing industry needs to be transformed into a vibrant part of the economy of St. Lucia". Since assuming office, we have systematically undertaken the re-engineering and revitalization of the fisheries sector. The results speak eloquently of the success that we have had in this area:
Both of our major fishing ports have recorded increases:
Of course, increased landings of fish translate into increased payments to fishermen. The St. Lucia Fish Marketing Corporation (SLFMC), which purchases approximately 33% of all the fish landed in St. Lucia, paid out in 1999, during the period January to May, $1.27 Million to Dennery fishermen and $1.63 Million to Vieux Fort fishermen. During the same period this year, the SLFMC paid out $1.82 Million to Dennery fishermen and $2.1 Million to fishermen from Vieux Fort – increased payments of 43% and 29% respectively.
While on the subject of the St. Lucia Fish Marketing Corporation, it is important that I point out the success that this Government has had, through its insistence on strict accountability and financial discipline, in not only arresting the hemorrhaging of this parastatal body, but in placing it on a firm path of profitability.
When we took office in 1997, our Government inherited a Fish Marketing Corporation that, the year before, had recorded a loss of almost $150,000.00, and which, in 4 of its last 7 years of operations, had recorded substantial end-of-year losses. We appointed a new Board for the SLFMC, under the chairmanship of the present Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, which quickly set about establishing and implementing systems that would ensure accountability and financial discipline.
In the three years of this administration, the St. Lucia Fish Marketing Corporation has recorded end-of-year profits of $373,035.00 (1997), $588,355.00 (1998) and $843,305.00 (1999). During this time, the Corporation has become more responsive to the needs of its clients, and reduced the retail prices on many of its high-end commodities, in the face of increased competition from the private sector. So successful was the SLFMC last year that it was able to make a cash donation of $200,000.00 to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to assist the Government with its fisheries development activities. Some of this money was used to provide financial assistance to those fishermen whose boats and engines were damaged during the passage of Hurricane Lenny.
In recent times, we have extended even further our support to our local fishermen. During the past week, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries paid out $740,353.75 to Fishermen’s Cooperatives in Dennery, Anse La Raye, Choiseul, Vieux Fort, Castries, Soufriere and Laborie. Of this amount, $540,454.92 represented duty refunds and $199,898.83 was allocated for distress fund payments.
The establishment of this Vieux Fort Fisheries Complex represents a significant milestone in the development of the fisheries sector in St. Lucia. It is expected to catalyze the further development of the fisheries sector. Moreover, however, it represents the creation of another lucrative new sphere of economic activity for our country. In addition to encouraging the further development of a buoyant, though primary-product based, fisheries sector, the Complex should also promote the initiation and establishment of related economic pursuits.
Unlike the facility in Castries, the Vieux Fort Complex will engage in the processing of fish, and its compliance with international standards will make it possible, for the first time, for St. Lucian fish products to penetrate markets in the European Community that insist on compliance with Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) procedures. Therefore, the possibility of value added to our local fish catch can now be transformed into a reality with this facility, and our foreign exchange earning potential will be increased.
Much has been said in recent times about agricultural diversification and the need to establish more tangible and working linkages between agriculture and tourism. The fisheries industry is another sector that offers immense possibilities for a viable and productive symbiosis with the tourism sector. As our tourism plant expands, the demand for local foods increases. We are an island country, and visitors to our shores expect to feast on the finest of tropical fish and seafood. Sadly, this has not always been the case, and often we hear complaints of a shortage of fish, especially during the latter months of the year. This excellent facility, coupled with the financial and technical support that this Government continues to provide to the fisheries industry, will create new opportunities for the fisheries industry and should lead to an increase in productivity. We must ensure, therefore, that the fisheries industry takes maximum advantage of the immense market potential of the tourism and hospitality sector.
This facility is the largest of its kind in the sub-region. Over 100 people were employed during the 22 months of construction, and this Complex is expected to result in the creation of between 15 and 20 new jobs in the short to medium term.
The hard working fishermen of the Goodwill Fishermen’s Cooperative will benefit directly from the amenities that the Complex will provide. You would have noted from the statistics that I provided earlier that the fishermen of Vieux Fort are the most productive on the island, and it is only fitting, therefore, that they benefit from modern infrastructure that complements the expertise that they have built up over the many years of finely honing their craft.
Among the amenities that the fishermen will benefit from are a Landing Ramp, Locker Rooms, a Retail Shop, a Work Shop, Wash Rooms, a Canteen, and office facilities for the Goodwill Fishermen’s Cooperative.
To facilitate fish purchasing, processing and storage, the Complex will contain a Blast Freezer and 400 tons of Cold Storage capacity, Ice Making and Storage, a Processing Area, and a Fish Retail Market.
The two Government agencies that provide direct support for the fisheries industry will also be accommodated within the Complex with office space provided for the Department of Fisheries and the St. Lucia Fish Marketing Corporation.
I want to make a special appeal to the fishermen of Vieux Fort and all of the users of this beautiful and impressive facility to take care of this Complex. The Government of Japan and our Government have placed a high degree of confidence in your ability to maintain this Complex and keep it up to the standard befitting the largest fisheries port in the Eastern Caribbean. This Complex opens up many exciting economic possibilities for our country, and it is your responsibility to ensure that St. Lucia derives maximum benefit from this facility for many years to come.
The Vieux Fort Fisheries Complex symbolizes the partnership that exists between the Governments of St. Lucia and Japan. This relationship and partnership is very important to our country, and we wish, through you, Your Excellency, to convey our heartfelt and sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Government and people of Japan for your kind generosity. While many have attempted to question this relationship, we wish to reiterate that St. Lucia will always retain its sovereign right to determine with which countries it chooses to establish and maintain relations and cooperation agreements. Our natural resource management policy is one that is based on established scientific principles of sustainable use, and while we appreciate that emotions may run high on certain subjects, we believe that as a responsible Government our mandate is to critically analyze each issue, and make decisions based on all available empirical data and information. This has been, and will continue to be, our guiding philosophy on the issue of whaling.
This EC$54 Million facility provides further evidence of the commitment of the Government of Japan to the development of our fisheries sector and demonstrates most powerfully the confidence that Japan has placed in the Government and people of St. Lucia. I am aware that the Government of Japan is presently considering our proposal for a new fishing port for Choiseul, similar to the one that was constructed in Dennery, and for enhanced sea front facilities for Soufriere. I look forward to the early completion of the preliminary stages of this process, and I hope, in the near future, Your Excellency, to be able to welcome you back to St. Lucia, this time in a region to the north-west of our present location and almost as beautiful, to preside over the ground breaking ceremony for our enhanced West Coast fishing facilities.
This ultra-modern, multi-million dollar Vieux Fort Fisheries Complex signals the continuation of the process that we have embarked upon to strengthen, modernize and reposition our economy. The challenge now is for us to make optimum use of the opportunities that present themselves.
I thank You.
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