A BASIS FOR OPTIMISM
NEW YEAR’S ADDRESS TO THE NATION
THE HONOURABLE DR. KENNY D. ANTHONY
AND MINISTER FOR FINANCE, ECONOMIC AFFAIRS, INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SERVICES AND
JANUARY 11, 2004
A MIXED YEAR
Fellow Saint Lucians, as we reflect upon the year just concluded, we will find
that there were tales of commendable achievements, and disappointments, echoes
of praise and criticism, and demonstrations of pain and mourning. The challenges
of the past year, though formidable, provided the government with the
opportunity to fortify its will, character, resolve, courage and commitment in
working towards the betterment of all Saint Lucians. We continued to work
assiduously over the past year to lay the foundation for our country’s economic
recovery and to address the social needs of our island. In the process we have
made great strides in the areas of health and housing, education and sports,
diplomacy, tourism and fisheries, parliamentary democracy, prison reform,
telecommunications reform and law reform.
As we endeavour to create a better society, individual Saint Lucians are also
playing their part in bringing recognition and pride to their homeland. They
continue to excel on both the regional and international stage. The election of
Senator Julian Hunte to the Presidency of the United Nations General Assembly
was Saint Lucia’s biggest achievement on the world stage. This was a signal
honour bestowed on us, making ours the smallest country ever to hold that
important international diplomatic position. This should make the Saint Lucian
nation and indeed the wider CARICOM region proud.
The election of Mrs. Berthia Parle as Caribbean Hotelier of the Year and later
as President of the Caribbean Hotel Association, and the conferring of the
awards of Local Manufacturer of the Year and Caribbean Entrepreneur of the Year
on Mr. Laurie Barnard are commendable achievements by two of our citizens. Their
successes and achievements should, once again, illustrate to every Saint Lucian
that we are as good as anyone, anywhere in this region and indeed, the wider
SIGNS OF ECONOMIC RECOVERY
The economy has, over the last two years, been a cause of much concern,
anxiety and debate, especially following the global recession and the events of
September 11, 2001. However, after a period of negative and then marginal
growth, the economy is once again showing signs of recovery. The International
Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated that the economy is likely to grow by 2.3
percent in 2003. We believe, however, that the growth rate will be closer to
Growth within the economy was propelled largely by renewed robustness within the
tourism sector. For the period ending November 2003, Saint Lucia registered an
increase in stay-over tourist arrivals of 8.7 percent, while the overall
projected increase in stay-over arrivals for the year is estimated at 10
percent. Although cruise ship arrivals registered a 2.4 percent decline in the
earlier part of the year, increases of forty percent and eighty three percent
were registered in the past two months. These increases signal a positive
turn-around in the cruise ship sector.
The other critical sectors within the economy also showed signs of recovery and
contributed in a meaningful manner to overall improvement in economic
performance in 2003. It was estimated that Private Sector construction activity
grew in every quarter during the year 2003. The manufacturing sector also showed
signs of improvement and registered a growth rate of 1 percent. Of greater
significance perhaps are the strides made in increasing the volume of
manufactured goods exported to regional and international markets. In 2003,
Saint Lucia’s export of manufactured goods to foreign markets was valued at an
estimated $35.6 million dollars. This figure represents a 4.9 percent increase
over the previous year.
The liberalization of the telecommunications sector is also beginning to bear
dividends, with consumers being the major beneficiaries. Overall reduction in
fixed line and cellular rates and general improvements in the quality of service
have given rise to a significant expansion of that sector.
The agricultural sector however, remains a source of concern. Growth within that
sector remained sluggish for most of the year. Overall agricultural production,
which is by and large contingent on banana output, suffered setbacks due to
declining prices and reduction in output, particularly during the first half of
the year. However, indications are that there is a resurgence in banana
production. New fields are coming into production, with high yielding tissue
culture plants. In the past two weeks, exports have crossed the 1,000 ton mark
for the first time in the past twelve months, and we expect shortly to reap the
benefits of our substantial investments in drainage and irrigation.
A good indication of confidence in our economic recovery is the increase in
commercial lending by domestic banks. Liquidity remains buoyant and banks have
become more competitive as they seek new clients. There is evidence of increases
in loans for housing - a key indicator of social progress - tourism,
manufacturing, entertainment and the distributive trades.
In general, given the encouraging performance of the lead economic sectors in
2003, the prospects for growth and development in the New Year look promising.
However, the economy continues to face many challenges and its sustainability
and viability will, in large measure, depend on how these challenges are met. In
order to safeguard the economic gains made in 2003, it is imperative that we
check any further deterioration of the fiscal balances, continue efforts to
invigorate Private Sector growth, preserve the macroeconomic stability that we
have achieved and contain public debt. These will be issues for us in the
There is another reason why we ought to be optimistic. This year we should
see new and significant investments in the Public and Private Sectors.
On the Public Sector side, the Government’s emphasis will be on road
rehabilitation and development. Work continues on the construction of the
highway linking Vieux Fort and Soufriere. New roads are under construction from
La Ressource to Derniere Riviere, Deglos to Trois Piton and Grand Riviere to
Trois Piton. In March 2004, the Tertiary Roads Rehabilitation Project commences.
Twenty-seven roads from Gros-Islet to Anse La Raye, thirteen roads from Canaries
to Choiseul and sixteen roads from Dennery to Vieux Fort are targeted for
In the Tourism Sector, all of the hotels which were closed following September
11, 2001, should be fully operational by the end of the year. Renovations are in
progress at the Orange Grove and the former Club Med in Vieux Fort. Construction
within the next few weeks should commence on the Discovery Bay hotel complex, in
Marigot. Plans for the construction of the new hotel at Praslin are on course.
The promoters of the Beaches Hotel in Vieux Fort are finalizing the design of
that hotel. Like all of you, I await the sod turning ceremonies to confirm these
On the manufacturing and industrial front, two new investments are expected in
the next six months. On January 08, the National Development Corporation signed
a lease agreement with Display Creations Limited for the establishment of a
major manufacturing operation at Union concentrating on the manufacture of
display units for retail outlets. The company is expected to commence operations
later this month. This investment will initially employ approximately 120
persons, increasing to 280 within three years.
The Government, through the National Development Corporation, has also
facilitated investment in the Information Technology Sector. From an investment
perspective, our focus involves taking advantage of the opportunities which
presently exist in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). The Government will soon
be in a position to announce the entry of a major contact centre, which is
expected to create as many as 400 jobs within two years.
DEVELOPMENTS IN GOVERNANCE
Our past experiences should confirm by now that advances in economic
development must be matched by advances in the social and political spheres. In
this regard, the Government will continue to create an enabling environment for
the operation of Civil Society organizations. Our Constitution is now
twenty-five years old, and while it has generally served us well, it has become
clear that the time has come to make it more relevant to our developmental needs
as a society. The Constitution is the foundation upon which our society is based
and it is, therefore, essential that at all times it truly reflects and
represents the aspirations of the people it is supposed to serve.
Accordingly, late last year, the government and the opposition announced their
joint intention to undertake a review of the Constitution. A Constitutional
Review Commission will be appointed jointly by the Government and the Opposition
to undertake this sensitive assignment. The Commission will be mandated with the
task of engaging in the widest form of consultation throughout the island and
with Saint Lucians living abroad, so that every one who wishes to contribute can
be heard. I urge every citizen to participate in this exercise. Let all ideas
contend; let the Commission hear your views; make a contribution to the future
good governance of our society as we all seek to make Saint Lucia a better place
for ourselves and for future generations.
This government is committed to upholding the political and civil liberties of
its citizens. The commitment is manifested in our proud record on free
expression. While we do not lay claim to the introduction of free speech, this
government has certainly created the atmosphere where every citizen now feels
sufficiently empowered to speak freely on any matter, whether or not it involves
the government. The proliferation of talk shows is but one manifestation of our
government’s commitment to such free speech.
We have been in the vanguard of encouraging citizens to speak out freely without
fear of sanction, so long as such speech remains within the confines of the law.
But freedom of expression is a double-edged sword. While it affords citizens an
avenue to freely comment on matters of concern, it also allows the unscrupulous
among us to make the most vile and baseless accusations against the innocent.
Many would have heard allegations emanating from the opposition about corruption
in government. Not surprisingly these allegations are made in the broadest and
vaguest terms possible and once accusers are confronted to specifically identify
areas of corruption, none can be produced. There are those who believe that if
you say something often enough and loudly enough, however untrue, people will
believe it. I know because I am a victim.
When we first entered into office, we found an Integrity Act without teeth. We
repealed and replaced it with stronger, more encompassing legislation. The Act
clearly defines corruption. Allegations of corruption can be reported to the
Integrity Commission for investigation. Mechanisms are also available to all
citizens to report misdeeds and acts of corruption. If there is evidence of
corruption, take it to the Police or take it to the Integrity Commission. It is
your duty and responsibility.
SILVER JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS
Twenty-five years ago, our country took the decision to sever its umbilical
cord with England and ventured into the international community on its own.
This year, we celebrate the Silver Jubilee of our independence under the theme
“Taking Responsibility for Our Country’s Development”. We have achieved much
during our relatively short life as an independent nation. Therefore, this year
should be about a celebration of these achievements and a recommitment to
working for the continued growth and development of our nation.
The activities that have been planned by the Cabinet-appointed Standing National
Independence Anniversary Committee reflect a balance between celebration and
introspection; between reflection on the achievements of the past and
anticipation of a future laden with possibilities and potential; and between a
commitment to utilize the tools and technology of the present to go boldly into
the future and a reaffirmation of our intention to uphold the values of respect,
civility, justice and equality that have always characterized our interactions
with each other.
During this Silver Jubilee year, I want to urge all Saint Lucians to do as our
theme implores – take responsibility for our country’s development. This
translates into each of us playing our part in not just our economic
development, but also our social and spiritual growth. I will have more to say
on the observance of this important achievement, in a few weeks, but in the
meantime I wish to encourage everyone to join in the celebration of this
MAJOR DECISIONS IN THE NEW YEAR
As I stated earlier, our nation turns twenty-five years old this year, and we
believe that at this stage it is fitting that we squarely confront some of our
more pressing economic and social needs. As a society and government we have
four major decisions to make in the course of this year.
Universal Health Care
First on the priority list is Health Care. We are a small country with
limited resources, and one of the disadvantages of our resource constraints is
that necessities such as health care may find themselves priced out of the reach
of many of our citizens. Too often, we hear of persons who are not able to
receive health care because they cannot afford it.
In the first quarter of 2002, the Cabinet of Ministers appointed a Task Force to
consider the feasibility of introducing a System of Universal Health Care. There
has been extensive background research, and the Task Force has held several
consultations, which have now culminated in a report on the implementation of a
Universal Health Care System in Saint Lucia. Cabinet has deliberated on the
recommendations of the Report and has agreed on an approach for the
operationalization of a system of Universal Health Care. Later this year, the
Task Force will take the first steps towards explaining the proposed system of
Health Care to the public at large. In these discussions, the fundamental issue
we have to resolve is this: how do we finance health care to ensure that all
citizens get access?
While significant changes and strides have been made in the health sector over
the past years, we will all admit that there are areas in need of attention and
If Universal Health Care is to succeed we have to move purposefully and
deliberately towards the implementation of Health Sector Reform so as to allow
this critical sector to operate more efficiently and to make better use of the
human, physical and financial resources allocated to it. As you are aware, we
have finalized the financing arrangements for the new General Hospital and the
new Psychiatric Hospital. But, these facilities will not operate optimally if
the environment within which they are managed remains unchanged.
Government has therefore decided to appoint a Commission to undertake a
comprehensive review of the structure of the medical services and the terms and
conditions of employment of medical personnel. The Commission will be chaired by
Sir. Richie Haynes, a former government minister and a distinguished medical
practitioner from Barbados.
I must sound a warning here, however, about the need for all of us and that
includes me, to adopt healthier lifestyles. Some of the health conditions that
cause the most serious problems for our nation and place the greatest burdens on
our system and resources are the result of poor lifestyle choices. Ailments such
as Diabetes, Hypertension and HIV/AIDS can all be prevented or minimized by more
sensible and responsible behaviour and habits. While I intend to increase the
pressure on the Minister of Health to step up the Health Awareness and Education
Program of his Ministry, I want to implore everyone to pay closer attention to
their diets, to embark on a sustainable exercise and fitness program, and to
reduce or eliminate the intake of products that can damage your health. A
healthy nation is a productive nation, and in this area we can and must all play
The next issue we must address is whether our country can afford Unemployment
Insurance. Although almost all industrialized countries have in place some level
of Unemployment Insurance, the only Caribbean country with Unemployment
Insurance benefit is Barbados. Recognising the need to provide a partial income
replacement to eligible covered workers for short periods following involuntary
unemployment, our Government commissioned a Task Force to investigate the
feasibility of implementing an Unemployment Insurance Programme in Saint Lucia.
With assistance from the International Labour Organisation, and following
consultations, research and data analysis, a draft report has been submitted for
During the coming year, Government intends to finalize discussions on the
introduction of unemployment insurance benefits to provide much needed support
to our work force, while at the same time promote economic efficiency and
Review of the Indirect Tax System
The third challenge we have to face is the reform of the indirect tax system.
The Tax Reform and Administration Commission appointed by the Monetary Council
of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank has recommended to all OECS countries that
they replace all indirect taxes, except import duties, with a Value Added Tax or
as it commonly known, a VAT. It is recommended that OECS countries take a
collective decision on this matter.
The Commissioners argued that the OECS had no choice but to adopt a VAT since
the WTO and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) will force
Governments to abolish the existing regime of indirect taxes. They claim that
VAT “will replace a number of nuisance and other taxes such as consumption and
travel taxes.” (See Report, page 6).
I have invited the Social Partners and the Opposition to review and comment on
the report. The Government of Saint Lucia is itself reviewing the Report and
hopes to formulate a position in the course of the year. The Report is available
at the Government Printery for those who wish to peruse it. It will also be
available on the Government Website,
Enactment of the Labour Code
The fourth issue we must resolve is the enactment of the Labour Code. Finality
must be brought to this exercise.
The Government maintains its position that the Labour Code must spring from and
reflect the shared consensus of all parties. We must agree on a Code that is
adapted to our needs and circumstances, that protects the rights of workers and
employers, and does not frighten investors, whether local or foreign. I believe
we can achieve this provided that we approach the final phase of the exercise
with trust, goodwill and a shared understanding of our collective future.
CONTINUED ASSAULT ON CRIME
The vexing question of crime continues to have the government’s attention and
we remain committed to empowering the police in their fight against lawlessness.
Our efforts have, thankfully, began to pay some dividends as statistically,
criminal activity in 2003 showed a marginal reduction over the previous year’s
According to police records, crimes against lawful authority reduced from 835 in
2002 to 768 in 2003; sexual offences were reduced from 191 to 165 and firearm
offences from 182 to 156, murders too were down twelve percent.
While the foregoing figures represent some good news, neither my Government nor
I take comfort in these. As far as we are concerned the current level of
criminal activity in Saint Lucia is unacceptably high and must be lowered
We cannot ignore the fact that violent crime, drug trafficking and terrorism are
creating havoc throughout the world, even in countries and communities that once
existed in peace and tranquillity. In Saint Lucia the upsurge in violent crime is
testimony to the fact that we too are not removed from the whirlwind of negative
change sweeping the world. Fortunately in Saint Lucia, we have not been exposed
directly to any act of terrorism, but we cannot remain passive; we must be
The primary guardian of our freedom, our peace and safety as individuals and as
a community is the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. We are therefore obliged to
take all necessary steps to ensure that it can effectively protect us in our
homes and in our communities as we go about our daily activities. The Government
has over the past six years invested significantly in the transformation of the
Police Force in all areas including accommodation, training, recruitment and new
vehicles. New legislation to further modernize the force is now in its final
stages. The Force must now begin to deliver to the people of this country the
kind of quality service citizens demand and expect.
For the past six years the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force has formed part of a
larger Ministry, as a department within such a Ministry. For some years it was a
department within the Ministry of Legal Affairs, then later, within the Ministry
of Justice. This has meant that the Police department has had to compete with
other departments for ministerial attention and time. Too often ministerial
oversight could not be dedicated to the Police Force as the relevant minister
sought to confront other important challenges within another section of an
In order to effectively combat the incidents of violent crimes and lawless
behaviour on our streets, to curb and cripple the cancerous drugs business and
to place ourselves in a stronger position to counter terrorism, I have concluded
that along with all the other steps that Government has taken, and is taking in
relation to the Police, we need to provide more focus and dedicated ministerial
oversight. This will permit more rapid decision-making on matters of importance
to the operations of the Force and assure the Police of the committed,
consistent and strong governmental support for the tough actions necessary to
ensure law and order.
I have therefore decided to reconfigure the Ministry which will now be called
the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security. This Ministry, will now
comprise the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force and the departments of Immigration,
Fire and Corrections. I shall indicate later in this address the Minister who
will be assigned to this Ministry.
Measures to combat crime must obviously go beyond ministerial adjustments. In
the course of this year, the Government will recruit for training a further
sixty (60) Police Officers, twenty-eight (28) of whom will replace officers who
have retired or resigned. Of the thirty two (32) other officers, twenty-one will
be specially trained for service in the Special Services Unit and assigned
permanently to Vieux Fort some time later this year to lend support to the
regular Police in the southern section of our island.
RESPECTING YOUNG PEOPLE
As a society we must continue to display in very tangible ways, our
tremendous admiration for the young people of Saint Lucia who continue to engage
all of us in their efforts to find new ways of addressing recurring challenges.
The extensive network of youth and student organisations must be encouraged to
use very creative methods to address the issues of governance, economic and
community development, HIV/AIDS and sports development.
Government recognises the role of sports in the growth of children, students and
young people, and will continue to provide facilities and playing fields that
are safe and accessible, with the additional administrative support for
organised competitions. We have to reinvigorate our club structure to not only
facilitate high quality competitive engagement, but also provide our youth with
an avenue to develop administrative and organizational skills.
A strong platform for job creation among young people has been the National
Skills Development Centre which, in the past year, trained 550 persons in the
areas of hospitality studies, information technology and building trades and
small appliance repairs. Six hundred persons are projected to receive new skills
As we participate in activities to observe the Year of the Child, young people
must, together with the adults in our society, present themselves as positive
role models for our children. In many situations, young people spend extensive
periods with children and are charged with providing safety and guidance while
they work and play.
We will continue to provide support for youth and students, whether organised or
unattached. We encourage the youth to continue to engage government and the
private sector in sober reflection on our vision for a truly democratic society,
in critical appraisal of policies and practical approaches to implementation of
programmes and projects.
Young people have an important role to play in pulling adults out of the rolling
dusk of callousness and cynicism, to an emerging spirit of vibrant family and
community living, and care for each other at school, work and play.
I now turn finally, to the issue which has generated intense interest and
discussion, the much talked about Cabinet Reshuffle. Some, for their own
purposes have exaggerated intent and expectations.
Earlier in my statement, I indicated that I would establish a Ministry of Home
Affairs and Internal Security. In this configuration, Home Affairs will be
reunited with the Police. In effect, Internal Security which essentially deals
with Police matters will be added to the existing Ministry of Home Affairs. The
Department of Gender Relations will be reassigned to its former home the
Ministry of Health, Human Services and Family Affairs. This Ministry will once
again be styled, the Ministry of Health, Human Services, Family Affairs and
Gender Relations. Senator Calixte George, will be reassigned from the Ministry
of Agriculture to head the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security.
Senator Petrus Compton will be required to focus exclusively on the work of the
Office of the Attorney General and the usual matters pertaining to the courts.
He will continue to hold the Office of Attorney General and Minister for
Justice, but as indicated, will no longer be responsible for the Police.
The vacancy in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will be
filled by Honourable Ignatius Jean who will be reassigned from the Ministry of
Physical Development, Environment and Housing.
Consequent on the reassignment of Honourable Ignatius Jean, I propose to appoint
Honourable Fergerson John, the member for Choiseul and Saltibus to his first
Cabinet post as Minister of Physical Development, Environment and Housing.
I have carefully reviewed the position of Senator Julian Hunte, President of the
General Assembly and Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and
Civil Aviation. Saint Lucia, like the rest of CARICOM, is engaged in delicate
negotiations over the treaty to establish the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA),
the ongoing negotiations in the World Trade Organization, and the efforts to
implement the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. These negotiations require
focus and continuous dialogue, particularly with our Private Sector. A
Parliamentary Secretary will be appointed to that Ministry to oversee the work
of the Ministry in the absence of Senator Hunte.
In the ministerial configuration just indicated, it will be observed that
Honourable Sarah Flood Beaubrun has not been assigned to a Ministry. I have
decided to relieve her of Ministerial Office and its accompanying
responsibilities. The principles of Collective Responsibility are enshrined in
our Constitution. In the operation of these principles it is understood that
there will be differences but there is no room for insult, disrespect, invective
and calumny no matter how powerful the passion and conviction one holds. If
there is no respect for and among colleagues, then Collective Responsibility
will not survive.
The other Ministers will, for the time being continue in their respective
portfolios. The adjustments just announced will take effect as of Monday,
January 12, 2004.
Fellow Saint Lucians, like each and every one of you, I pray for a better
year, economically and otherwise, for our people and our nation. I thank
you and wish you God’s blessings.