Chamber to Chew On Saint Lucias Economic Performance and Prospects for 2019/2020

Address:Finance Administrative Centre, 5th Floor, Point Seraphine

Duration Date:Mar 15 , 2019

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Economists in the Ministry of Finance advised the Business Community that preliminary data reveal that while the Economy grew in 2018, the pace of growth has slowed down, with construction showing the greatest decline. Hotels and Restaurants, Manufacturing and Agriculture also grew in 2018.  These were just a few of the areas discussed at the Chamber Luncheon “Chew on It” hosted by the Saint Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture on Friday March 15th, 2019, where the Ministry of Finance addressed the Performance of the Saint Lucia Economy in 2018 and Prospects for 2019/2020.  

Among other things to “Chew On” was information on inflation and governments’ fiscal performance. Inflation levels rose from 0.1% in 2017 to 1.9% in 2018 due primarily to increases in the price of fuel, according Ministry Officials. Another variable of great interest shared with the Business Community relates to Government’s fiscal performance, where the Ministry reported an improvement in the fiscal performance where the Current Balance as a percentage of GDP declined 1.6% to .9%, while the deficit as a percentage of GDP moved from -2.2 to debt -3.4%. Meanwhile the Ministry advised that the Debt to GDP ratio moved from 64.9% of GDP in 2017 to 63.8% still above the ECCB target rate of 60%. 

The Ministry highlighted what was described as “Game Changers” of its Medium Term Development Strategy. These seek to address the slow rate of project implementation in the public sector and has resulted in the establishment of a Delivery Unit located in the Prime Minister’s Office which has a strong monitoring and evaluation role as well as a catalytic role to support and build project execution capacity in the relevant line Ministries. 

Chamber Members asked questions related to the lack of results in successive Government’s thrust in “Making it Easier to Do Business” and the frustrations faced by the Business Community to start a Business, get a trade license and other required permits only to be frustrated in “opening a banking account.” Also raised was the stymieing of development efforts, when Governments change and project plans no matter how far advanced are stopped, delaying not just the project but the delivery of the benefits, or resolving of problems be they social or economic. Attendees enquired as what the Technocrats could and are doing to minimize this issue which negatively affects the pace of development and many times the waste or resources. 

The Chamber Luncheon was welcomed by the Membership of the Chamber as it provided critical information that firms utilize for their own planning and as such, the low implementation rate of development initiatives is a serious problem for the private sector. The Chamber thus plans on keeping a close monitoring eye on the many initiatives that have been proposed and highlighted with the intention of working with Government to ensure successful and timely implementation.

The Chamber was also anxious to hear more about other issues raised by the Ministry of Finance including the Tax Reform, Government’s approach to addressing the OECD and EU Blacklisting matter as well as the timely and considered implementation of the various social programs discussed. 

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