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2004 New Year’s Address To The Nation By The Honourable Dr. Kenny D. Anthony

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JANUARY 11, 2004


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 world.


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 2.03%

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 2004/2005 Budget.


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 reconstruction.

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 investments.

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.


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.


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 milestone.


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 improvement.

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 our part.

Unemployment Insurance

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 Government’s consideration.

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 stability.

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.


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 figures.

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 significantly.

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 prepared.

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 assigned Ministry.

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.


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 in 2004.

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.


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