The Chamber continues to responding to Governments dynamic agenda to ensure that Members interest and wider national interests are addressed and the private sector and members’ interest are taken account of. Government continues to have an aggressive Legislative and Policy Agenda where priorities are changing and new issues continuously emerge. The Chamber keeps its fingers on the pulse of the Public Service/Private Sector Interface and so we remain flexible and responsive enough to address trending issues.
The absence of Insolvency Legislation and outdated Foreclosure Legislation have been identified as two impediments in the smoother operations of the financial sector. They both impact negatively on the ability of banks to lower their high non-performing loans portfolios.
The Chamber has actively participated in the two working groups set up by Government to review and craft relevant legislation and has endorsed the introduction of appropriate legislation which balances the interest of all, banks creditors and debtors. In fact this was one of the key points in the Chamber’s 2017/2018 Budget Submissions.
The Chamber will continue to serve on the working groups and will share the draft legislations with members as they become available.
Improving Access to Credit remains a major item on the Chamber’s Agenda in trying to lower the cost of doing business in St. Lucia. The absence of a Register of Movable Assets and Collateral affects businesses ability to use these as security easily and discourages credits from using them as there is no way of keeping track of assets used as collateral or security and thus increasing the risk to creditors.
The Chamber has participated in the discussions and deliberations which have been held to develop the draft legislation. The Chamber has been active participant in this process which has been led by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
The Chamber will continue to participate in the process and support and aid in the crafting of the relevant legislation.
The establishment of a Credit Bureau has been identified as important to improving access to credit in St. Lucia. The Chamber has been leading efforts on the local front following its initial foray into creating a Credit Bureau in 2004 with Caribbean Credit Bureau Ltd. of Barbados. The ECCB has stepped in to catalyze the process by proposing a piece of Harmonized Legislation for the ECCU region for the creation of a credit Union. The Chamber fully supports the establishment of a credit bureau yet remains concerned that the piece of legislation being proposed will impose an International Credit Bureau Operator on the islands (the high investment which a player must demonstrate (US$1.5M). There is also lack of clarity, in the costs that will be imposed by the Bureau for information to companies and to individuals, no guarantees of protection against sale of personal information, or payment for protection against the loss of information. Issues of who will have access to what information and the absence of requirement for broad public education.
The Chamber has indicated its support for the establishment of Credit Bureau services in St. Lucia. It has however made known its apprehension with the “Top Down” approach being taken by the ECCB. The Chamber has written to the Department of Commerce and Ministry of Finance asking for consultation and consideration of consumer protection issues in the legislation. The Chamber has raised concerns of the possible cost implications for smaller financial institutions in trying to meet the requirements of the Credit Bureau. Concerns have also been expressed about whether the legislation will permit the sale of persona data by the Bureau. The Chamber has also questioned the need for such onerous legislation and for the ECCB to impose itself as a regulator of Credit Bureaus.
The Ministry of Finance and Department of Commerce have pledged to host a presentation of the Draft Harmonized Credit Reporting Bill with the St. Lucia Private Sector to explain the Bill and its contents as well as hear and understand the concerns of the private sector and consumers. The Chamber will remain engaged in the process and keep members informed.
The Consumer Protection Act was passed in 2016 with a commitment to review and revise as there was inadequate a prior consultation. The Private Sector had raised some concerns.
The Chamber has discussed its concerns with Government and worked with the St Lucia Bar Association in raising a number of concerns.
The Department of Commerce is reviewing the comments and concerns of all stakeholders and will make the necessary amendments before a commencement date is provided.
The inattention to the rules governing the Display of Outdoor Signs and Advertisements was taken up by the Development Control Authority. This lack of adherence to the rules has resulted in a number of situations, including signs and advertisements being placed without proper approval, in places which interfere with drivers line of sight, dilapidated and unsightly signs and advertisements to name a few.
The Chamber with some members met with the Authorities and were provided with the requisite information and approaches to be taken. Members were informed that action to remove signs and advertisements that do not have the requite approvals. Approaches to resolve any outstanding matters were also discussed. New Regulations for Display of Outdoor Signs and Advertisements were shared with members.
Chamber to maintain regular dialogue with DCA and keep members informed of any matters of note.
The Government and Chamber had in 2015 had long discussions on Government proposal to increase the Local Purchase Requirement (LPR) for Chicken from 25% to 40%. After much discussion and consultation with the stakeholders a decision was taken to increase the LPR to 28.65%. A review of the sector was to take place and a report submitted to Cabinet with recommendations.
The Chamber has attempted to remain engaged and has regularly sort updates and progress reports from the Ministry of Agriculture. The Chamber was informed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce in June 2017 that the Government did not intend to increase the LPR any further for the foreseeable future. This position was reiterated by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture in August 2017.
The Chamber will continue to monitor the situation and seek to address an anomaly with one of its members who is affected in an unacceptable way by the existing policy.
The Citizenship by Investment Program was passed into law in 2016 without consultation and with some questionable modalities (monies for sale of passports go to the investor in some cases and not the country). The CIP was amended to (2017) (costs has dropped in some areas and the cap of no more than 500 passports sold annually has been removed). The Program is still being promoted as a Development Finance tool by successive Governments. The Chamber has sort to understand its operations and potential impact on the country.
Chamber has hosted discussions and information sessions in the north and south of the island with the CIP Unit. Members have expressed their concerns and received clarification on the operations of the program.
The Chamber will be seeking regular updates on the CIP Performance.
This large integrated development project was the subject of national discussion. The Chamber has held two events a Luncheon and an “Encounter” (in Vieux Fort) where Invest St. Lucia and the Office of the Prime Minister presented the project and took questions from the floor.
Open discussions with the relevant authorities have been held to understand the development. The Chamber supports the economic development of the country through various Foreign Direct Investment Initiatives and hopes that the critical issues of public access, public participation, environmental protection and where necessary conservation are taken account of in keeping with the national laws and regulations. The Chamber is also very interested in understanding how the local business person can be facilitated and catered for to participate and benefit from the economic activities that are to be introduced.
The Chamber will seek regular updates on the Project.