PRIORITIES FOR A NEW YEAR
NEW YEAR’S ADDRESS TO THE NATION
DR. THE HONOURABLE KENNY D. ANTHONY
AND MINISTER FOR FINANCE, ECONOMIC AFFAIRS, INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SERVICES AND
January 16, 2005
Fellow St. Lucians,
If the passage of time and the closing of each year cause us to be reflective,
introspective and self-critical, the dawning of each New Year brings with it new
hope and promise, fresh optimism and perspectives, anticipation and expectation,
the emergence of new challenges and the re-emergence of old ones. Ultimately,
the objective measure by which this new hope, promise and opportunity will be
fulfilled during the course of 2005 will invariably depend on our individual and
collective approaches and attitudes as a people and as a nation.
REFLECTIONS ON 2004
Last year at this time, I indicated that there was “A Basis For Optimism.”
Indeed, that was the theme of my 2004 New Year’s Address to the Nation. During
the past year we worked assiduously to achieve the goals and objectives
identified as national priorities. Some we did achieve and others, despite our
best efforts, we could not bring to fruition. Irrespective of our shortcomings
and failures, 2004 was a year during which we as a government and people were
able to build on our past successes, consolidate our recent gains and strengthen
our foundations for the future.
There were also moments of profound anguish and deep sadness. In June, the
nation mourned the passing of Sir George F.L. Charles, who was our first Chief
Minister, a stalwart of the labour movement and the founding father of the Saint
Lucia Labour Party. Then, in September, the nation also said farewell to Mr.
Winston Cenac, QC, who served as Prime Minister during the period 1981-82.
The country also lost Mr. Desmond Skeete, the late Chairman of the Saint Lucia
Tourist Board, who was also a central figure in the St. Lucia Jazz Festival and
a key player in St. Lucia’s successful bid for the Cricket World Cup.
A number of cultural personalities also departed the scene. Folklorist Florita
Marquis said goodbye, so too did Egbert Mathurin, Ruby Yorke, Lucia
Peters-Charlery and Avy Mathurin. And who can forget the tragic and untimely
passing of Jany Williams -- artist, 2004 Calypso Monarch and Caribbean
integrationist. Although they are no longer with us, they have all left
footprints in the sand of time and bequeathed us a legacy of achievements to be
emulated and built upon by succeeding generations of Saint Lucians. We must not
POTENT REMINDER OF OUR VULNERABILITY
In 2004, Nature also unleashed its deadly fury, both regionally and
internationally, with destructive and catastrophic effect. The 2004 hurricane
season was one of the most intense, with at least four major hurricanes leaving
in their wake a path of devastation and destruction. Ivan unleashed a reign of
terror on the region.
Our sister island of Grenada suffered the brunt of the storm. Hurricane Ivan’s
devastation of Grenada last September is estimated to have set the island back
some 25 years. Never has our generation seen such utter devastation, such
destruction of property and displacement of lives.
Saint Lucia willingly extended a helping hand. To date, the Public and Private
Sectors have extended support to the people of Grenada to the value of
E.C.$1,881,141.00. I am pleased to advise you that the accounts which NEMO
opened in our banks have yielded a further sum of EC$113, 957. Your generosity
has answered a great need. I hope to deliver this amount to the Grenadian
Government on February 21, 2005, with the request that it be directed to
assisting the poor in rebuilding their homes.
But if Ivan was terrible, then neither words nor figures can properly describe
the effects of the tidal wave caused by an earthquake below the sea in the
Indian Ocean on Boxing Day last year. Over 160,000 persons have perished, one
third of whom are children; five million are homeless and millions more are
searching for the missing, their lives and livelihoods shattered by this
catastrophic natural phenomenon.
The global response to the disaster has been unprecedented. Governments have
responded to the appeals for aid with budgeted pledges and contributions. People
the world over have responded with a massive outpouring of generosity that
reminds us of the great depth of our humanity and offers reassurance that
international solidarity continues to live in the hearts and minds of people the
world over. The response of humanity to the worst disaster in this century
reminds us that we are each other’s keepers and that no matter the distance, we
the inhabitants of this planet are also each other’s neighbour.
Saint Lucia will join its sister states in the OECS and contribute to the
humanitarian effort underway in the affected countries.
Fortunate, So Far
So far, we have been fortunate. True, we have had to contend with Land Slippages
in Boguis, Black Mallet and Tapion. True, we have had to contend with the damage
caused to our coastal communities by Hurricane Lenny. But, by and large, we have
been spared. Even as we give thanks to the Almighty that our country came away
relatively intact, we must nonetheless ask ourselves this question: Are we fully
prepared for a major disaster?
If by “fully prepared” we mean whether government institutions such as the
National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) and non governmental organisations
such as the Red Cross are prepared, then the answer will be in the affirmative.
But governmental preparedness in economies as small and fragile as ours does not
provide a sufficiency of resources to adequately deal with the aftermath of
EXPAND INSURANCE COVERAGE
It is for this reason that I have to remind you of the need to have adequate
insurance coverage on your properties. The changing weather patterns is enough
cause to worry.
It is estimated that just below thirty five per cent of all households in Saint
Lucia carry insurance coverage. Moreover, the majority of these properties are
insured only because of financial obligations to banks and other finance
companies that insist on such coverage. In effect then, those who most need
insurance coverage do not have it.
I want to urge you to act now in getting the insured household percentage up
from 35%. I want to challenge you to strive at a 60% figure for this year, no
matter how painful the financial cost. An insurance premium can make the
difference between a comfortable life on the one hand and a struggle to start
all over again on the other hand.
CONTINUED ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND EXPANSION
I now wish to report to you, albeit briefly, on the performance of the economy
since the last Budget in April.
Notwithstanding the spiraling international oil prices, and events surrounding
the protracted war on terrorism, developments within 2004 suggests considerable
expansion in economic activity. This expansion builds on the growth momentum
experienced in 2003 when the economy grew by 3.7 per cent. The latest data
indicates that the improvements experienced have been led by the growth in the
tourism sector, supported by growth in the banana industry, and the construction
and manufacturing sectors. There was also an improvement in the fiscal position
of the central government, as measured by it current account savings for the
first half of 2004 compared with a deficit in the comparative period of 2003.
Buoyancy In Tourism
Leading indicators point definitively to a recovery in the tourism sector up
to the end of November, 2004. Total visitor arrivals increased by 17.9 per cent
to 699,014 when compared to visitations for the similar period of 2003. This was
attributable to the global economic recovery underway in major tourist
generating markets and the relative safety of the Caribbean region. Stay over
arrivals increased by 17,199 or 6.6 per cent, while cruise passengers and
arrivals by yachts increased by 26.9 per cent and 13.5 per cent respectively.
Strategic marketing, increased airlift and the continued strength of the Euro
and Pound Sterling against the US dollar have contributed to this positive
performance, which resulted an 8 per cent improvement in bed-nights overall.
Rebound In Banana Production
In the Agricultural Sector, despite the effects of Hurricane Ivan, banana
production rebounded by 30 per cent to over 32,000 tonnes by the end of the
third quarter of 2004. This speaks volumes for the recovery efforts for that
vital industry which provides important employment to our rural communities.
Increased rainfalls and yields from tissue culture plants were the primary
reasons for the upturn in the production and exports of banana. In addition to
the increase in export tonnage, the continued strength of the Pound Sterling
against the US dollar contributed to higher banana revenue of $41.2 million
compared with $32.5 million for the same period in 2003.
Increased Output In Manufacturing
Up to the first half of 2004, the value of output in the manufacturing sector
had already grown by 3.6 per cent to $67.8 million, following a contraction of a
little less than 1 per cent in the corresponding period of 2003. This sector
continues to be resilient in the face of intense competition. Our manufacturers
continue to hold their own.
Expansion In Construction Activity
The construction sector also experienced considerable expansion in both the
public and private sector. Indeed, there was a 16.8 per cent growth in the
importation of construction material supported by a more than doubling of credit
to the private sector. While more indicative of future construction trends, the
number of building applications approved by the Development Control Authority
also increased sharply in 2004, when compared with 2003.
Increase In the Value of Imports
Increased economic activity is also reflected in the movement in imports. Data
up to the end of the third quarter of 2004 indicated a 3.2 per cent increase in
the value of imports, despite a dip in the second quarter. The value of imports
of consumer goods rose by 16.8 per cent.
Return To Surplus On Current Balance
The fiscal performance of the cental government as measured by the level of
government savings improved. By the end of the first half of 2004 the current
balance moved from a deficit of $6.6 million to a surplus (savings) of $10
million, as current revenue surpassed current expenditure. The overall deficit
narrowed by 55.7 per cent to $38.9 million, largely occasioned by the halving of
capital expenditure to $53 million.
Overall, I expect that our economy will register a growth rate of not less than
3.3% in 2004.
OUR NATIONAL PRIORITIES
What then, will be our national priorities this year, 2005? The Government has
identified seven (7) priorities this year:
Priority number one is to reduce unemployment;
Priority number two is to finalize Saint Lucia’s entry and participation in the
Single Market and Economy created by the Caribbean Community;
Priority number three is to intensify the fight against crime and secure a
reduction in crime;
Priority number four is to meet the challenge of hosting the World Cup;
Priority number five is to intensify our efforts to repair, and rehabilitate our
Priority number six is to prepare the Banana Industry for the inevitable
transition to a tariff only trading regime; and
Priority number seven is to improve our water supply and in particular, ease the
plight of the Dennery communities.
How, you may ask, will Government reduce unemployment? The Government will
employ four strategies.
First, it will intensify investment in tourism;
Secondly, it will continue to encourage more investment in the Information
Technology Sector, particularly Business Process Outsourcing (BPO);
Thirdly, it will continue to encourage self-employment through the
establishment of small businesses; and
Fourthly, it will expand opportunities in public sector construction.
Unquestionably, the Tourism Sector is a great absorber of Labour. Investment in
this sector is exceedingly promising.
The Sandals Chain has already announced the construction of the new Beaches
Property on the Pigeon Island Causeway. According to Sandals, some 250 persons
will be employed during construction and on completion some 600 persons are
expected to be employed. On January 27, a consortium of local and foreign
investors will provide details of their plans to construct a luxury condominium
resort/marina at an estimated cost of US$120 million again, near the Pigeon
Island Causeway. According to the developers, “It will provide 500 bedrooms in
220 luxury condominiums in a resort setting. It is estimated that this project
will provide 500 construction jobs and a further 500 tourism related jobs after
the resort is opened.”
Discovery at Marigot Bay is under construction and will bring new life to
Marigot. The Harbour at Rodney Bay is now finally cleared for construction and
will add a new dimension to Rodney Bay. Calabash at Marisule, is also under
construction. Soon, Plantation Beach at Cas-En-Bas beach will open its doors for
the business. It is expected that at least 100 Saint Lucians will be employed on
that property when it is operational.
But that is not all. Existing hotels that plan to expand include Bay Gardens,
which also operates Bay Gardens Inn. Coco Creole, is working night and day to
complete its almost 100 additional rooms. The former Rainbow Hotel, has
re-entered the market as “The Village”. Renovations are to start at the Rex St.
Lucian sometime this year. The former Club Med in Vieux Fort is now expected to
re-open in February under its new name “Coconut Bay”. Some three hundred Saint
Lucians will be employed there.
I am now in a position to give you an update on the status of the Praslin Bay
Resort Project. The developers recently advised Cabinet that:
1. They have completed the purchase of land at Praslin Bay for the construction
of a hotel complex, golf course, condominiums and a marina;
2. They have completed and signed an agreement with the Government for the lease
of the Queen’s Chain needed for the Project;
3. Phase 1 of the project, valued at U.S.$112 million dollars is scheduled to
commence in May 2005 and comprises the following:
(a) Construction of a 225 room Starwood Westin Hotel comprising of 125 core
rooms and 50 two (2) bedroom apartments;
(b) Preparation of 60 building plots; and
(c) Construction of golf-course on lands already owned by Praslin Bay.
Like many of you, I do hope that the investors deliver on their promises of
Investments In Infrastructure
There will too, be major investments in infrastructure in the coming year.
Currently, the Government has embarked on the rehabilitation of fifty-five roads
island wide from Des Barras in the north to Delcer in the south. This is in
addition to the roads under construction in Monier, Dennery North and Deglos.
The long-awaited rehabilitation and re-paving of the East Coast road, that is,
the road from Castries to Vieux Fort, will commence by the end of this month. So
too will construction commence in mid year on the improvements to the Castries
Gros Islet Highway, to ease congestion and to prepare Saint Lucia for World Cup,
2007. Construction will also commence on the new Psychiatric Hospital in the
first half of this year. Major drainage projects are underway in Castries and
Anse La Raye.
These activities will test our patience. They will cause considerable disruption
to the flow of traffic. I plead for your understanding in the months ahead.
THE CSME – NEW ECONOMIC SPACE
In the first quarter of this year, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy will
become a reality. A new economic and political geography will descend upon our
shores, heralding the creation of a true CARICOM Community where people, goods
and services will eventually move without restrictions.
Saint Lucia and the remaining member states of the CARICOM community have been
given a year during which they are expected to put their house order. This
year’s grace should be used to re-orient our thinking to the new reality that is
quickly closing in on us. The debates and discussions are continuing and more
will have to be done to better explain the advantages of the CSME.
But even as the education process continues and the integration process takes
shape Government, Private Sector and Civil Society must prepare mentally for the
eventual coming to being of a CARICOM community without frontiers. Reciprocity
will be at the heart of the CSME. The CARICOM community will eventually become
one job market to be exploited by all the citizens of the member states. So just
as Saint Lucians will be free to explore job opportunities in the other states
of the Community, so too will the citizens of the other states of the Community
be free to explore job opportunities in Saint Lucia. Likewise, Saint Lucian
investors would also be free to seek investment opportunities elsewhere in the
region but must also expect to face competition at home from regional investors.
This is the inescapable reality of this age whose hour has come at last.
ACCELERATING GLOBALIZATION: BANANAS
At the international level, the processes of globalization and trade
liberalization continue apace.
The reality of a new trading regime for our bananas on the European Union market
looms large on the horizon. In 2006, the vestiges of the old banana trading
regime based on preferential access will be swept away and replaced by a tariff
only system. The leveling of the playing field would then be complete. Although
the hour is neither of our choosing nor of our making, the introduction of a new
banana trading regime will impose new rules of operation. Whatever these new
rules, it is clear that the survival of the local industry will ultimately
depend on our farmers’ ability to improve quality, cut cost even further and
Certainly, the further enlargement of the European Union is sure to dilute our
banana interests and increase battle fatigue among European Union countries that
are still committed to protecting for us, market access. For our part, the
Governments of the Windward Islands will endeavour to do all in their power to
ensure the survival and continued viability of the industry. Our survival will
depend on the level of tariffs introduced by the European Union. In order to
retain our place in the market place, it would be necessary for the European
Union to place a high tariff on banana exports to Europe from our competitors in
Latin America and Africa. We will continue to provide both technical and
diplomatic support but we can do only so much, the task of becoming and
remaining internationally competitive is a responsibility our farmers also have
In other words, our farmers too must take responsibility for the development and
survival of the industry. In this regard, I am encouraged by and I applaud the
recent acknowledgement by the Manager of the Tropical Quality Fruit Company
(TQFC) that 2004 was a good year for bananas. As Mr. Serieux correctly noted,
successful recovery can only be achieved if there is a consistency in the
improvement of quality and increases in production. He is right too, that
farmers must see the industry as being bigger than themselves and that they must
see themselves as the ones to drive the changes, rather than depend on the
continued good will of the European Union.
WORLD CUP 2007 – EMBRACING THE CHALLENGE
In the past, I have spoken of the joy and pride felt by all of us when the
announcement was made that Saint Lucia would be the venue for the prestigious
Blue Group in the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup. This means that our Beausejour
Cricket Ground will play host to the largest and most boisterous group of fans
in the World Cup. But even more importantly, it also means that our country will
receive global media exposure of incalculable value in the world’s premiere
All Hands On Deck For World Cup
Our Government established a company, known as World Cup Saint Lucia, to plan
and prepare for this event and this year we will see the unfolding of our World
Cup 2007 programme. We believe that the World Cup provides us with a unique
opportunity to unite our country. All hands must be on deck for Saint Lucia to
deliver on its promise to host The Best Cricket World Cup Ever. The Cricket
World Cup represents the largest single endeavour that our country would have
undertaken, and everyone must be mobilized and committed for us to succeed.
Within the next four weeks, approximately twenty sub-committees will be
established to provide strategic support to our efforts; and soon thereafter,
there will be a volunteer registration programme to enlist further support.
We have already unveiled the first of a series of initiatives to allow Saint
Lucians to benefit economically from the 2007 World Cup. The Cricket World Cup
(Tourism Accommodation), Incentives Act, which was enacted in Parliament last
year, will facilitate the expansion of our hotel stock. Already, there are
encouraging signs that this strategic incentive is having the desired effect.
These investments notwithstanding, we will still fall short of the expected
In order for us to meet our room target, we must increase the numbers of
home-stay type accommodation. Consequently, the second element of our
facilitation programme will involve the provision of incentives to boost the Bed
and Breakfast Sector. This is where we anticipate the majority of Saint Lucians
will derive benefit, and already, many persons have been inquiring about the
possibilities in this area. I hope to announce incentives for this sector in the
New Opportunities For Local Business
There will be opportunities for local businesses. I recently wrote to the Board
of Directors of the ICC Cricket World Cup W.I. 2007 Inc. requesting that they
provide more information on these prospects, and even more importantly, that
they make it possible for local entrepreneurs to compete fairly when the
occasion presents itself. This is an issue that occupies our attention and I
want to give our private sector the assurance that we will seek to protect their
Changing Our Attitudes
The Cricket World Cup is about changing our attitudes as a people --and this
is where the real challenge lies. I have little doubt that the venue development
team will transform Beausejour Cricket Ground into one of the best venues ever
to host a Cricket World Cup match. I am confident that with some creativity and
planning, we will solve our traffic management problems. And I know that a
combination of traditional hotels, bed-and- breakfast accommodation, and if
required, cruise ships, will allow us to cater to the needs of our visitors.
What concerns me, however, is the softer side of our preparation. The media
exposure that we get from this event will make us or break us. If we portray
Saint Lucia as a safe, clean, organized, efficiently run country, with
industrious, skilled, pleasant, courteous, honest people, committed to achieving
and delivering the highest levels of service, then the world is our oyster. We
would have demonstrated our class to the rest of the world and our ability to
compete with the best of what the world has to offer. Conversely, if the images
that go out of our country depict a crime-troubled nation, littered with
plastics and other garbage, and populated with indifferent, lackadaisical,
impolite persons who do only as little as they need to get by, then we would
have set our development back immeasurably and perhaps irretrievably.
Sending The Right Signals
We recognize that as a Government there is much that we need to do and do
differently to send the right signals that we are ready for 2007. The Cricket
World Cup will require a sea change in the way both Government and the public
sector operate. I am committed to making these changes and I will charge my
Cabinet to lead by example. It cannot be business as usual. However, the private
sector and all Saint Lucians must also undergo a radical attitudinal change. Our
private sector must become more proactive and aggressively pursue the
opportunities that will become available. The competition will be regional and
international firms that know no commercial boundaries, and we must demonstrate
that our products and services are as good as, if not better than, anything
available outside. Our people must rise above the mundane, mediocre and moribund
and show the world that this 238 square mile gem that has produced two Nobel
laureates, skillfully presided over the Presidency of the United Nations in a
period of global war and conflict, and has made it on the World Listing of
Heritage Sites, must be something special after all. We have to do as our 25th
Anniversary of Independence theme implored us: “We Must Take Responsibility for
Our Country’s Development.” There will not be a better opportunity or stage for
us to do this. Let us embrace the challenge in the way that I am confident we
CONTINUING THE ASSAULT ON CRIME
One of the main concerns of St. Lucians during 2004 was that of crime.
As I said throughout last year, I do share the concerns of everyone regarding
crime. I have also said, time and again, that we need to tackle crime head-on,
we need to take the fight to the criminals and we need to take back our
neighbourhoods. I have called time and again for the police to take back our
streets, to increase their presence on our streets. I am glad to note that in
recent times there has been a visible improvement in the patrolling our streets
by police officers and that is encouraging.
I have said time and again too, that despite all that we have done, we will not
make one dent in the fight against crime until and unless the Police Force rids
itself of corrupt elements, until and unless a still-disappointed public has
been persuaded to trust the police, until and unless the drug economy is
I know that the vast majority of our police officers are trying very hard. They
want us to trust them and believe in them. They need our confidence and support.
But let me make one thing clear. We cannot ever eliminate crime altogether.
Crime can only be reduced and controlled. That is why, in this New Year we will
continue what has begun, but we will also take new steps.
In this context, I repeat again for public information that we will introduce
legislation in parliament early this year, jointly with other OECS countries, to
empower judges of the Supreme Court to grant authority to the Director of Public
Prosecutions to intercept communications of drug dealers, whether by telephone
I also want to see this year a greater use of the Proceeds of Crime Act. There
are people whose level of wealth is not supported by any legitimate or visible
employment and it is hoped that the Tax Department and the Police will send a
strong message in 2005 that such persons will not be given the opportunity to
use their ill-gotten wealth.
Abuse of court procedures and endless delays are also among the things I hope
will be tackled this year. It is necessary to enact legislation to ensure that
trials take place as speedily as possible, without the legal maneuvering that
now allows for simple matters to remain for years within the court system.
IMPROVING OUR WATER SUPPLY
The final issue that I wish to address concerns the provision and supply of
Unquestionably, there is an overriding need to resolve the issue of supplying
safe and reliable water to many of our communities. Some communities have
Take, for example, the community of Dennery North. This community experiences a
deficiency in supply due to low yields that are exacerbated during the dry
season. During the rainy season there is high turbidity as a result of
inadequate treatment facilities. In order to fully resolve the problems in
Dennery North, it would be necessary to provide a new source of supply to feed
the transmission lines. The Tournesse River has been identified as an
It is estimated that the development of the Tournesse source will cost
approximately EC$12.5 million. Government is actively engaged in resolving the
issue of funding to develop this source. Understandably, the residents cannot
wait until the Tournesse source is developed. In the interim, the Government
understands that it must provide some measure of relief to the residents.
Government will, therefore, seek to maximize the production capacities of the
existing sources and improve the water quality in the distribution system. This
will be done this year at a cost of EC$3 million.
Dennery North apart, we must resolve the issue of supply to the Castries Basin
and Gros Islet. The first phase of the new pipeline should be operational in the
next few weeks. But this will not be enough. The Government is now completing a
major financing proposal with the World Bank which hopefully will address these
problems to allow a sufficient supply of water to our citizens, meet the needs
of the new investments in the north and satisfy the requirements of World Cup
2007. Water, therefore, has to be a major priority this year.
As the year unfolds, one date will assume great significance for us. It is
February 14. And the significance does not lie in association of February 14,
with Valentine’s Day, the feast of lovers. As of this year, the date, February
14, should be etched in the psyche and imagination of all Saint Lucians. On that
date, World Heritage status will be bestowed on our beloved national landmark,
the Pitons. From then on, what has long been a national treasure, will now
become the common heritage of all humankind. For this purpose the Director
General of UNESCO will travel to Saint Lucia to bestow this special honour. I
cannot think of any better way to infuse a sense of pride, joy, achievement,
nationalism and patriotism into all Saint Lucia, a week ahead of the observance
of our Twenty-Six Anniversary of Independence.
Fellow Saint Lucians, from the look of things 2005 will, unquestionably, be an
eventful year. I pray for peace, prosperity and goodwill as we meet the
challenges head on.
I thank you and wish you, as always, God’s blessings.