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Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony has responded to concerns that housing could become more expensive for locals after information that several realtors indicated interest in investing in Saint Lucia at the recently held Saint Lucia Investment Forum (SLIF).
The prime minister said while he does have such information, that is not the case because government has the responsibility to make a decision on whether these investors are granted permission to invest here and under specific conditions.
Reports indicate that participants for the SLIF were mostly realtors, who had a vested interest of becoming potential investors here. Since then, concerns were raised about whether these foreign direct investments (FDI) could be sustainable and whether it could negatively impact the economy.
Mention was also made to neighbouring Barbados, where reports are that locals there cannot afford to buy land, because in some cases available land for sale is too expensive. The Barbadian Government is said to have allowed several realtors to invest there.
However, Dr. Anthony argued, “What will happen if you don’t take steps to deal with the current situation, what will happen if you can’t reduce unemployment, if it continues to rise … what will happen if you can’t deal with your fiscal deficit and you allow it to continue on its current path.”
He reasoned that the island’s tourism product will continue to attract such investments. Although he noted that the availability of land is limited, he said the real estate sector “is a key sector for investment because it also helps to bring in foreign direct investment.”
Further, the prime minister said it has to be understood that Saint Lucians are going to seek opportunities for livelihood. “We really can’t under one hand be encouraging them to go out and make investments in other countries and close the door on the very same people who may want to come and invest here,” he added.
“We possibly can’t develop this island, by simply closing down this island to everybody else who may have interest in investing in this island,” he asserted.
The prime minister explained that investment has always been measured and it is done by invitation. “It’s a difficult and new environment…but we need to manage it very well.”
Dr. Anthony said government would welcome investments similar to the Capella in Marigot and the Landings in the north of the island, because they will help to build the tourism product.
While they is a concern about a possible abuse of the new Tourism Investment Act, he said this will not be tolerated nor does the act provide such a loophole.
The Investment Forum took place between May 4 and 6 at the Sandals Grande. The event brought together close to 100 investment brokers and consultants, business leaders and project owners, chief executives and lenders, to explore investment opportunities and potential joint ventures on Saint Lucia.