Despite St. Lucia being ranked number one among CARICOM countries for ease of doing business, business people here are still facing numerous hurdles and red tapes – a scenario Prime Minister Dr. Kenny D. Anthony admits and is determined to eliminate as he announced ongoing plans to create a commercial court and reduce the registration time of companies.
Dr. Anthony, who is also the finance minister, has mixed reactions to a World Bank and International Finance Corporation “Doing Business 2013” report which is based on a comparison of business regulations for domestic firms in 185 economies.
“While we may be ranked first in the Caribbean our neighbours are improving in the rankings, demonstrating that they too have the ability to be as attractive and competitive as we are. They are catching up with us because our pace of reform has slowed. Other countries are also moving ahead,” Dr. Anthony said in a press statement.
At 53 St. Lucia is ranked worldwide ahead of its CARICOM counterparts and countries such as Bahamas and Brazil — although this represented a drop from its ranking of 52nd in the 2012 report.
Puerto Rico, a US territory, was the highest-ranked place overall in the Caribbean for the ease of doing business, coming in at 41st.
The report, according to an Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) press release, also revealed that St. Lucia has the “easiest and fewest procedures in the world” when dealing with construction permits, and is among the easiest to access electricity when measured by the number of days it takes to apply and receive a connection.
But Prime Minister Anthony has called for a cautious appreciation of the findings, the OPM has quoted him.
“There are still too many hurdles that individuals and businesses have to contend with when transacting business in St. Lucia. This certainly calls for a review of our systems and procedures. We must continue our efforts to create an environment that encourages investment and reduces the cost of doing business,” he noted.
In March 2012, the OPM noted that the Government of St. Lucia and the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture appointed a task force, headed by Justice Michael Gordon, to review the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report. The task force was also mandated to examine the procedures used to set up and transact business. A report has been presented to the government for review.
According to the OPM press release, the prime minister said he remains hopeful that with the implementation of best practices and a turnaround in the world economy, St. Lucia will begin to move up the ranks and become a more attractive place to do business.
“This is the perfect opportunity to make changes in the way we do things so we can better position our country when the inevitable rebound in the world economy occurs. Our Ministry of Commerce and Development is working hard to reduce red tape and to eliminate many of the irritants that confront business people. These measures will, in time, help us to maintain our reputation as one of the best places in the world to do business. It is a reputation that we must not surrender,” he said.