PRESS RELEASE – Members of Parliament today approved an EC$3 million cruise sector training and employment initiative that will provide access to funding for Saint Lucians seeking non-utility job opportunities within the cruise sector.
Prime Minister Dr. Kenny D. Anthony first the initiative in his 2014/2015 budget statement, noting that the problem with acquiring such jobs directly related to the costs associated with meeting the requisite qualifications.
A pilot version of the cruise sector employment program was initially introduced under the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE), which made available $400,000 in financing for unemployed persons.
The current $3 million initiative will introduce stringent repayment conditions to ensure that the loans are repaid within a six-month period, to allow for the continuation of the program.
“I want to thank the members who have supported this resolution, especially the Parliamentary Representative for Castries North [Hon. Stephenson King],” Dr. Anthony said during the House meeting today.
“He approached me with suggestions on how the government could strengthen the program’s weaknesses. We had to go beyond Monroe to find institutions that would cater to the requirements of the cruise ship sector. We also learnt from other mistakes, which is why we ensured that when these loans are made available, we tie the loans to deposits in the banks so that we can maintain the loan as a revolving loan.”
Former Prime Minister Stephenson King voiced his support for the initiative.
“It is important that we put in place safety mechanisms to ensure repayment, and by all indications, the funds required would be about $3000 per person, which is reasonable enough that if they access training, graduate, and are also successful in the recruitment process, that will provide the opportunity to repay. There are opportunities out there. I believe that we need to be creative and seek those avenues for our young people. This is an area that has potential. It is indeed a program worth supporting.”
The Prime Minister received authorization from the House to secure the $3 million loan from the National Insurance Corporation (NIC), which will be administered by the Saint Lucia Development Bank (SLDB) to finance the cruise sector initiative.
Last year, 229 Saint Lucians were offered jobs in the cruise ship sector. This year, over 260 trained and qualified young people gained employment.