(CMC) – Prime Minister Allen Chastanet is predicting continued economic growth for St. Lucia this year after indicating that the island had recorded growth of 2.5 per cent in 2017.
Chastanet, delivering the EC$1.48 billion (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) budget to Parliament on Tuesday night, said that St. Lucia has seen renewed investor, business and consumer confidence in local economy.
He said that preliminary figures for 2017 indicate that the economy has started to grow again by the notable margin of 2.5 per cent.“Several foreign direct investment projects in the pipeline are at an advanced stage and are expected to come on stream in 2018,” he told legislators.
“However, I wish to repeat, it is imperative, that we remove the impediments to further growth. If we do not accommodate growth through investment it will be temporary, unreliable and therefore unsustainable”.
Chastanet said that growth over the last year was driven largely by a strong recovery in the tourism sector and also reflected increased activity in construction, wholesale and retail and manufacturing sectors with positive spin-offs on other sectors.
He said overall growth was tempered by a decline in output from the agricultural sector, which was affected by the passage of tropical storm Matthew late in 2016.
Prime Minister Chastanet said his administration had identified three areas of the financial sector that require reform.
“This sector underpins every area of economic activity in the country. It affects the degree to which the business sector can invest and fund daily operations while, for consumers the sector facilitates consumption and savings. Without consumption and investment, economic activity comes to a halt.”
Chastanet told legislators that i is important to note that the island’s commercial financial sector witnessed one of the largest expansions in credit in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) prior to the 2008/09 global crisis and conversely, had one of the largest contractions.
“Slow recovery in this sector, partly due to delayed legislative reforms, has impeded financial intermediation, although the credit union sector has taken up some of the slack. Mindful of these hindrances, the government is committed to fast track reforms to improve the environment within which financial institutions operate,” he said.
Chastanet said this would include broadening the scope and making it easier to use multiple sources of collateral, reforming the existing framework surrounding insolvency as well as reforming the existing framework surrounding foreclosure.
“The issue of foreclosure has long been a vexing problem in our country, fraught with many of the issues surrounding insolvency – outdated legislation and a lack of will to press for change. Change must come however, if as a country we are to have access to financing for viable projects that is currently tied up in non-performing loans,” Chastanet said, adding that government is in consultation with all parties and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to determine the best way forward.
Prime Minister Chastanet said that among the project earmarked for 2018 include the construction of hotels in Choiseul, Pointe Seraphine, Micoud and the Gregg Norman Golf Course as well as “continued development of the Pearl of the Caribbean Project” in the south of the island.
But he said in spite of these positive developments “a number of factors are limiting our growth potential” and that his administration is addressing them through what he termed “the foundation for growth”.
He said these initiatives include these include “investing in our people; upgrading our physical infrastructure, improving public sector efficiency and managing the cost of debt”
“These four planks …will be critical in positioning St. Lucia and St. Lucians to maximize our growth potential and the benefits to be derived therefrom.
“Underpinning our growth strategy will be the need to build resilience in all that we do. Resilience is an important component in making our growth sustainable, which in turn will enable us to finance our social assistance programmes for the vulnerable among us; provide opportunities for all St. Lucians to improve their quality of life and allow us to face the challenges of climate change with greater confidence,” Chastanet said.