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Firstly, I wish to thank the Executive of Bank of Saint Lucia’s Fund Management Company for inviting me to deliver some remarks this evening.

Secondly, I wish to place on record my congratulations on the launch of BOSL’s Global Investment Fund. This is a true milestone that highlights the Bank’s commitment to financial innovation; and demonstrates BOSL’s responsiveness to the urgent need for diversified and profitable investment options for our citizenry.

Strong Economic Base

This new Investment Fund is a manifestation of the long-term policy vision of a previous Government. Indeed, in 2001 we would have engineered the formation of Bank of Saint Lucia through the merger of the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and the Saint Lucia Development Bank (SLDB). Though the merger was controversial at the time, it was expected that Bank of Saint Lucia would grow to become a catalyst and innovator within the domestic and regional financial services sector. Today, we celebrate the realization of this vision and the Bank of Saint Lucia is one of the largest financial institutions in the region

The timing of the launch of this mutual fund is ideal and adds value to our local financial economy. To my mind, the fundamental elements of the Saint Lucian economy are robust. Over the last 3 years, Saint Lucia’s economy according to data from the World Bank and other independent sources, experienced double-digit growth rates over the last two years. For 2023, it is expected that growth will be between 3-5%.

Our fiscal situation continues to improve last year 2022 we moved from persistent deficits to a primary surplus which demonstrates the robustness of our economy.

Our debt-to-GDP ratio increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic but with prudent borrowing, we have halted the rapid plunge that would have led us to unsurmountable or unsustainable debt levels.

Our financial paper continues to do well on the Regional Securities Market albeit at competitive rates.

Revenue collection is performing steadily. The Health & Security Levy implemented fully in October 2023 has raised approximately $10.5 million at Customs & Excise and the Inland Revenue Department.

The government has made large investments in security. The police are receiving unprecedented levels of resources at all levels from vehicles, and drones, to improvements in physical plants, modern crime-fighting technologies, and increases in manpower.

Yet we are gravely concerned at the number of murders said by the police to be in most cases targeted killings by rival gang members.

Government continues to urge the police to take proactive and firm legal measures to stem that dangerous trend.

Meanwhile, there have been a number of crime prevention and intervention programmes funded by the State. We believe that there is a need for a whole societal approach to violence of all forms. We urge civil society to work with state and non-state actors with a view to reducing violence and improving citizen security.

There are no benefits to be derived from sensationalizing violence and the government will continue to provide the necessary resources available within our fiscal limits for law enforcement to combat violence of all types.

Improving the social and educational framework and in particular the training and upskilling of the workforce will continue. It is our hope that better social conditions will limit the propensity to lawlessness, particularly among some of our young people.

Tourism Industry

In 2023 strong growth was achieved in the key economic sectors of tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing. We expect tourism to continue to perform well in 2024.  However, about seven hundred rooms will be unavailable for 2024 due to renovation or construction as the industry seeks to modernize and reposition itself.

At an advanced stage of construction are 200 more rooms expected to be functional by late 2024, early 2025.

New hotel construction is planned for 2024 and it is expected that over 1000 new rooms will be available by early 2026.

In tune with BOSL’s indigenous mutual fund launch is the increase in the availability of Air BnB rooms owned by locals and residents.

I am told by tourism officials that over five thousand such accommodation is now available in Saint Lucia.

Government continues to advocate balanced tourism growth and development. We believe that our country will in the near future continue to be a tourism-dependent country and as such the benefits must accrue to as many people and sectors as possible.

The BOSL Fund

It is with a feeling of optimism that we welcome the launch of this BOSL Global Investment Fund.

The metrics of economic performance clearly show that the Government’s macro-economic policies of stabilization, growth stimulation, and citizen empowerment have put St. Lucia on a path of growth, with significant opportunities for enhanced private sector investment.

This fiscal year we can expect the continuation of economic policies geared towards growth and development. The 2024 budget can be expected to have strategic priority placed on capital expenditure in roads and public infrastructure, housing, and the development of our nation’s air and seaports. Undoubtedly, this ambitious and expansive public infrastructure agenda will have a significant multiplier effect and result in increased liquidity within our domestic economy.

Indeed, as the Government continues to work to improve the quality of life for all citizens, we require strong private-sector collaboration, underpinned by a robust financial system.

However, it is important to note that the IMF World Economic Outlook – Navigating Global Divergencies states “In the wake of the shocks of covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine inflation around the world reached multidecade highs in 20022 well above central banks targets, particularly in advanced economies.”

In Saint Lucia, we have not been spared from inflation as evidenced by the increase in food prices a situation worsened by supply chain disruptions.

Economic observers differ on the timing of the reduction of inflation rates – however, all agree that inflation and the increase in global interest rates are important downside risks that need to be closely monitored.

In the local financial environment, it is acknowledged that our financial institutions continue to be very liquid. Over the last year, total deposits were recorded to have grown by 4.5%, while credit to the private sector remained timid. This data clearly demonstrates that significant opportunities remain for deepened levels of financial intermediation and investment management. It is the hope that the Bank of Saint Lucia’s mutual fund will play a meaningful role in filling this gap.

Accessibility and Regulation

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In Saint Lucia the opportunities for investment are limited. Within the context of a relatively low savings interest rate environment in the commercial banking sector, we have seen increased demand for other investment vehicles. It is evident that mutual funds can fill that void and provide options for many astute investors.

However, we must ensure that the opportunities that mutual funds offer are not seen to be within the reach of only the very wealthy in our society. We must market and promote the fund as being widely available and accessible to the general populace. Our aim should be to build capacity and grow wealth across a broad socio-demographic area. The benefits of BOSL’s Global Investment Fund should accrue to as many people as possible. I applaud the diversity in the availability of options to all sectors of society.

Our government’s support for BOSL’s Global Investment Fund is also based on the robust regulatory framework that underpins the operation of the fund. The Eastern Caribbean Security Regulatory Commission continues to provide strong oversight. However, we hold steadfast to the view, that while best practice must prevail, the regulatory environment must reflect our unique circumstances and be tailored to the realities of our Caribbean Civilization and our financial landscape. Regulation must not be a disincentive but a tool for sustainable growth.

Conclusion

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Government of Saint Lucia is exceedingly pleased with the entry of Bank of Saint Lucia into the mutual fund space. As a government, we seek to create the enabling environment for a financial sector that is globally competitive, well-regulated, diversified, market-driven, and responsive to our local realities.

I have no doubt that the Bank of Saint Lucia’s Fund Management Company aligns very well with this vision. The launch of your mutual fund is expected to drive efficiency, spur innovation, lower transaction costs, and provide increased investment options. Your institution is known for excellence, and we are certain that those standards will be maintained.

I wish you success and assure you of the Government’s continued support.

I thank you.

 

Fellow Saint Lucians, here and in the diaspora, Happy New Year to you! I wish everyone divine blessings of good health, peace, love, happiness, and prosperity in 2024.

As we end the Festive Season, the start of a new year gives us cause for a moment of thoughtful reflection, resolution, and renewal.

We must muster the courage to put aside petty differences, recognise what binds us together, show consideration for each other, and compassion for the less fortunate amongst us.

Saint Lucians are often described by others as a very friendly people. Our characteristic friendliness should not extend only to visitors, but to ourselves as well. Let us resolve in 2024 to reach out to each other with a greater sense of charity, love, understanding, and friendship.

We must recognise that working together as one nation, one people, with a common purpose is the only viable pathway for our country to attain inclusive, meaningful, and sustainable development. We must resist the destructive forces of division, and embrace the uplifting spirit of unity, as we work together to build a more equitable and inclusive society.

 

Truth and Integrity in Public Life

As Saint Lucians, our nurturers, and mentors raised us to appreciate the value of speaking the truth. We were taught that truth is important because it forms the foundation for rational discourse, knowledge, and understanding. It is a cornerstone of good governance, credibility, and trust.

 

We will counter with the facts, the unfortunate and self-serving campaign of blatant lies and misinformation in our country that we have recently been witnesses. These disingenuous activities can have serious implications for our country.

Our government will continue to be the steward of accountability and integrity in public life. The people of Saint Lucia deserve nothing less from their government and from all those who present themselves for leadership positions of any kind in our beloved country.

 

The Economy and Our Progress

Our economic and social policies have positioned the economy on a solid path to sustained economic growth. Notwithstanding the impact and pressures of global inflation on our economy, 2023 has been a good year for our country.

The economy has been stabilised post-pandemic and, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is projected to record economic growth in 2023. 

The results of 2021- 2023 have shown that our fiscal policies are working well for the economy of Saint Lucia. My government pursued an economic policy of economic stabilisation, growth stimulation, and citizen empowerment which reversed the downward trends of 2018-2020, and registered positive growth in 2021-2023.

We recognised that financial responsibility is a prerequisite for sustained growth, job creation, and capital investments in tourism, education, health care, social services, and physical infrastructure.

In the Fiscal Year 2023, we generated sufficient revenue to cover recurrent expenditure and to service the interest component on our debt obligations. But equally important, in 2023 we implemented a set of policy interventions which directly benefitted thousands of our citizens of all walks of life.

We increased social support to the less fortunate persons in our population, expanded educational opportunities, enhanced health care services, supported youth business development, and financed micro, small, and medium-sized businesses.

Through our prudent financial management and inclusive economic policies, we created the enabling environment to stimulate expansion in the productive sectors, particularly in tourism.

 

Outlook for 2024

We are very optimistic about the continued growth prospects for 2024.

However, we must proceed with caution as there are some downside risks. The most recent United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects 2024 states that “Last year’s stronger than expected GDP growth marked short-term risk and structural vulnerabilities in the world economy”. The UN’s flagship economic report predicts tighter credit conditions and higher borrowing costs.

Having achieved the necessary financial stability and growth milestones, in 2024 we will prioritise investments in Infrastructure, housing development, seaports, airport, and road rehabilitation.

 

Global Port Holdings

Global Ports Holdings (GPH) will soon start work on the redevelopment and modernisation of the Cruise Infrastructure of Port Castries and the Soufriere Waterfront on a 30-year concessionary agreement. The two ports have not been sold and remain national public assets owned by the Government of Saint Lucia. The truth is that, on average 10% of SLASPA’s revenue is generated directly from Cruise ship operations and it is this [10%] that will fund the development on a revenue-sharing agreement.

The Cargo Operations will continue to account for 90% of SLASPA’s revenue and this will remain with SLASPA. SLASPA’s cruise-related debt of approximately US$20 million will be paid by GPH.

 

Road Infrastructure

We will allocate significant technical and financial resources to road rehabilitation and construction. We will commence remedial work on roads island wide including the Castries Gros Islet Highway. We expect significant progress on both Lots of the Millennium Highway Project as progress on Lot One has so far been unsatisfactory.

 

Housing Development

We expect major private and public investments in housing development with a special focus on providing affordable housing for low and middle-income earners while paying special attention to public servants.

 

Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment

We will start construction of the Hewanorra International Airport Terminal Building in a responsible manner. Work is continuing on the Control Tower Building and work on the runway, airfield, and ground lighting system will commence this year.

 

St. Jude Hospital

We will continue work on the construction of St Jude Hospital to deliver a well-equipped hospital to the public. Work on four buildings is expected to be completed by June 2024. Work on the other buildings will commence shortly after.

 

Other Areas of Development

Business Support & Job Creation

We will continue to implement policy measures to give birth to a new generation of entrepreneurs through our Youth Economy and MSME Facility.

These programmes have demonstrated the innovative capacity of our people to generate sustainable employment and wealth in the future.

We will continue to nurture a conducive business environment, through the digital transformation of government services, and improvement to the ease of doing business. Our aim is to provide to the private sector an environment where impediments to business start-up and expansion are lessened.

We will continue to grow the economy by empowering all sectors. Our tax reform and tax amnesty policies will be reviewed so that more disposable income will be placed in the hands of businesses and individuals.

 

Macro Investment Legislation

During 2024 government intends to pass new legislation, that encourages large local and foreign businesses to invest across all sectors of the economy. That legislation will include enhanced incentives and improvement in the granting of approvals and other processes.

We will introduce legislation to encourage our residents in the diaspora to return to open business ventures in our country.

 

Social Policies

The pressing social needs of our population will remain a priority as we will continue to pursue people-centered policies to ensure that no one is left behind in our developmental thrust. We will continue to create more educational opportunities for our students. We remain deeply committed to creating opportunities for all Saint Lucians to realise their full potential and to protect the less fortunate and marginalised in our county. We are also strongly committed to preserving and protecting our national patrimony, and the environment, for the enjoyment of the present and future generations.

Minimum & Equal Wage Livable Legislation

The Minimum & Equal Wage Committee has submitted a draft report to the Cabinet of Ministers. We expect to have further consultations with the private sector on the report. We expect to be able to implement a livable wage for workers across sectors in Saint Lucia later this year.

 

Food & Nutrition Security

Ensuring food and nutrition security for all citizens will continue to be an important priority for this government. We will intensify the import substitution strategy through the expansion of vegetable and livestock production.

New sectors like seamoss and cocoa production will be encouraged while our exploration of opportunities in the Blue Economy will be enhanced.

 

Crime Reduction & Citizens Security

In 2023, we witnessed an alarming increase in gun-related homicides particularly among some young males fueled by an imported gang culture. We are committed to attacking that problem with all available resources and call on the support of the public, and all social and Non-Government Organizations.

We will continue to empower the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force with the technical, physical, and human resources they need to detect and solve criminal activity.

The timely dispensation of Justice will be improved with the commencement of the construction of the new Halls of Justice during this fiscal year providing a suitable working environment for Judicial Officers.

 The society as a whole must encourage values that will steer our youth from the false hope and gains of a life of crime to productive pursuits that will redound to the benefit of everyone.

Government pledges its support and availability to constructive dialogue on the improvement of citizen security in our country.

 

Health

Our goal of Universal Health Coverage, to provide affordable, accessible, and equality in health coverage for the population will be intensified in 2024. We call on all Saint Lucians to observe healthy lifestyles to reduce the alarming increases in Non-Communicable Diseases plaguing our country.

 

Conclusion

Fellow Saint Lucians, since July 2021, the government focused on critical issues of poverty reduction, crime and security, social justice, economic empowerment, education, health care, food security, and infrastructure. We will continue to address those pressing issues of great importance to our people.

However, in 2024, we need to broaden our national discourse to include financial literacy, global economic events, national pride and identity, healthy lifestyles, reparations, and climate change which is now viewed as an existential threat to human existence.

We need to adopt mitigation and adaptation policies to reduce the risks to our population even if it has been accepted that Small Island Developing States are not the cause of these destructive weather changes.

Society must keep these issues in the national focus as they are vital and impact the individual aspirations and overall national development goals.

I want to thank the people of Castries East for their unwavering support over the past 27 years. You have been my inspiration and my source of strength throughout my journey in public service.  You have never forsaken me, and I will never let you down. You have been patient while I attend to the affairs of the state. I will continue to serve and respect you.

I want to thank all the people of Saint Lucia, my Cabinet of Ministers, my family, all members of the public service, NGOs, and friendly countries for their support in 2023, as we look forward to working together in 2024. The Government and People of Taiwan have continued to provide useful assistance to the People of Saint Lucia for which we are grateful.

Let us have confidence and trust in ourselves and our ability as a people.

Let us be positive, and disciplined and move forward with pride and dignity.

I thank you and end with an excerpt.

 

Ring out false pride in place and blood,

The civic slander and the spite;

Ring in the love of truth and right,

Ring in the common love of good.

 

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,

Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.

 

Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.

 

Excerpt by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"Ring Out, Wild Bells"

HONOURABLE PHILIP J. PIERRE

PRIME MINISTER OF SAINT LUCIA

Africa-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum 2023 (ACTIF23) in

The Cooperative Republic of Guyana

 31 October 2023

 

[Salutations]

The Caribbean shares a profound and deep-rooted connection with the African continent which traces back to the harrowing times of the transatlantic slave trade. Today, the echoes of this shared history resonate in the culture, music, traditions, and even the spirit of resilience of the Caribbean nations.

Allow me to share a few thoughts with this gathering, underscoring our commitment to 'Creating a Shared Prosperous Future' with our African sisters and brothers. You will agree that we all recognise the immense potential that lies in strengthening economic ties through robust trade links and investments, tapping into shared markets, especially in developing sectors such as technology and renewable energy.

Saint Lucia remains committed to fostering cultural and educational exchanges, aiming to bridge our heritage and histories, while building solid partnerships between our educational institutions for knowledge transfer and research.

In my first Policy Statement after being sworn in as Prime Minister on July 28, 2021, in observance of Emancipation Day on Monday, August 2, 2021, I announced that I had instructed the Ministry of Education to prepare a syllabus for the teaching of African history at our Educational Institutions in Saint Lucia.  From last year, in Saint Lucia Emancipation Day activities stretched over a four-week period to emphasise the historical significance of the official end of the transatlantic slave trade.

My Cabinet has mandated that an experienced Diplomat prepare for its consideration, a comprehensive policy on ways in which we can strengthen our economic and social relationship with the African continents.

Meanwhile, Saint Lucia is ready to engage other OECS and CARICOM countries with a view to sharing a joint diplomatic presence with countries in the African continent.

Addressing the pressing challenge of climate change and advocating for environmental sustainability is at the forefront of our agenda, as we engage in collaborative research, policymaking, and the sharing of green technological innovations.

In the area of healthcare and well-being, our regions have much to gain from joint medical research and sharing best practices in public health management. This need was made even more evident in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Enhancing our infrastructure and connectivity through improved transportation links and technological innovation also remains a priority. Making our regions more accessible to each other should foster trade, tourism, and people-to-people contact. We are committed to learning and sharing best sustainable farming and fishing practices aimed at enhancing the CARICOM food security agenda.

In all our endeavors we underscore the importance of inclusive growth, creating avenues for youth economic engagement and women’s empowerment.

In this way, we can collectively strive towards a future marked by prosperity, stability, human rights, and shared success.

This forum symbolises a bridge, a vital link, fostering economic and cultural relations between the African continent and the Caribbean region. Our coming together here in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana reflects our shared commitment to building resilient economies and communities through enhanced trade, investment, and cultural exchange.

I believe, that the theme of this year’s forum, “Creating a Shared Prosperous Future”, is apt and timely. We are here - to build on the progress achieved at ACTIF2022, consolidating our gains, and setting a clear and actionable agenda for the future.

In the past year, we have made some strides in deepening our engagement with the African continent. African Export Bank has played a pivotal role in facilitating trade and investment flows between Africa and the Caribbean, offering the financial instruments and support needed to bring our business communities closer together. Saint Lucia was one of the first countries to sign the treaty with the Africa Export-Import Bank.

Looking ahead, Saint Lucia is committed to deepening our engagement with Africa, leveraging the opportunities presented by African Export-Import Bank and other strategic partners. We anticipate significant work in areas such as technology transfer, innovation, sustainable tourism, and the creative industries.

In the tourism sector, we envision a future where Africa and the Caribbean are connected through direct air and sea links, enabling travel, cultural exchange, and economic cooperation. This is not a dream, but a tangible goal that we are working diligently to achieve.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the journey ahead is filled with opportunity and potential. The connections we forge, the partnerships we build, and the initiatives we undertake today will pave the way for a future of prosperity and collaboration between Africa and the Caribbean.

As a united people, the continent of Africa and the Caribbean can transcend boundaries, and overcome the historical obstacles that seek to divide us.  Let us, together seize this moment together, embrace the opportunities, and work together to build a future that is bright, prosperous, and interconnected.

I Thank You.

Mr. President, Distinguished Heads of State and Government, other Distinguished Heads of Delegations and Delegates, let me join in the congratulations to you Mr. President on your election as President of this august body.  This is the first time that a national of your country, Trinidad and Tobago, has assumed this office and only the fourth occasion that a representative of a Caribbean Community State has been so elected. Let me therefore, not only wish you success as you preside over our deliberations, but also Mr. President, let me assure you of the fullest levels of respectful cooperation from Saint Lucia, as we work together to advance the collective interests of our common civilization.

Mr. President, there are many amongst us - the small and marginalised islands of our globe, surrounded by rising seas and scorched by rising temperatures – who are beginning to question this annual parade of flowery speeches and public pretence of brotherhood otherwise known as the UN Annual General Assembly.  What is the point, we are beginning to ask, of meeting here every year, when every time the international community is called upon to take the agreed collective actions on the critical issues affecting the poor and the powerless, there is always some hesitation, some delay once we vacate this historic building?

And so, with just seven years left to the target year of 2030, we are gathered at this 78th Session of the General Assembly, to discuss accelerating action towards the 2030 agenda because its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are in peril. We have been summoned here to rebuild trust and to reignite global solidarity for the 2023 Agenda when trust and hope are the devalued currency of global dialogue.

Despite our greatest efforts to maintain faith and belief in the principles of global engagement, our entire post-independence experience has been one of dashed expectations and institutional frustration.

In the1990’s we watched helplessly as powerful countries utilised the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to dismantle Saint Lucia’s marketing arrangements for bananas in Europe, forcing hundreds of our farmers into poverty, while these already rich countries provided huge subsidies to their own farmers. 

When some of our Caribbean countries successfully developed our financial services industries, we were black-listed and grey-listed like lepers and global undesirables.  However, the Russia – Ukraine War has now clearly revealed to us which metropolitan capitals are the real tax havens and which are the true pipelines for illicit money.  And now today, our Citizenship by Investment Programmes which we have successfully pursued for decades are being undermined, while the Golden Passport and Golden Visa programmes of some OECD countries remain unquestioned, untouched and unmolested. We nonetheless remain committed to keeping our programmes transparent even whilst we strengthen our due diligence regime.

Mr. President, Saint Lucia has come to this 78th Session to say that there must be justice in the relations between developed and developing countries, that we are no longer willing to come to this annual parade merely to lend our voice to support this or that global conflict, or to condemn whoever, from year to year, is the new global enemy.  No powerful nation’s global agenda is more important to us than our own, and we insist that our legitimate concerns be listened and be acted upon.

REPARATORY JUSTICE

Mr. President, the people of the Caribbean and Saint Lucia have been designated by the African Union as part of its Sixth Region which comprises people of African origin residing outside the Continent. We feel ourselves obliged to seek justice, through reparations, for the crimes against humanity that tore our ancestors from our African homeland and enslaved them in the lands of the Western hemisphere.  It is laudable, that for the last decade and a half, the United Nations has been observing 23rd August as the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Slave Trade. The UN is also to be commended for proclaiming the International Decade for People of African Descent which ends in 2024 and we look forward to the proclamation of a Second Decade. However, the time has now come for the issue of reparations for the transatlantic slave trade and slavery in the Western Hemisphere to become a more central part of the global agenda and work of the UN, and not an issue only to be whispered about in the corridors and at the margins.

 It was the 400 years of the enslavement of Africans and colonialism that has led to the need today for action to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The Secretary General of the United Nations made this unambiguously clear in his Message, this year, to mark the International Day of Remembrance of Slavery and the Slave Trade. He said: “We can draw a straight line from the centuries of colonial exploitation to the social and economic inequalities today.”

Reparations for slavery, Mr. President, therefore mean that the countries which benefited and developed from four hundred years of free labour from enslaved humans should now pay back for that free labour.  We urge that the UN embraces this principle as a central part of its work in the coming years, with set goals, timelines and programs of action.

CLIMATE JUSTICE

In the same way, Mr. President, we cannot speak of accelerated action for the sustainable development goals for developing countries, when Developed Countries do not treat the climate challenges facing Developing Countries, with the urgency and importance they deserve. These challenges not only negatively impact our economic growth but they threaten our very existence. Yet developed countries behave as though they are blameless and not responsible to repair and compensate for the damage they have inflicted on our planet. Have they not understood that climate change is a danger not only to the existence of small island states, but to the survival of all countries - today, and not tomorrow?

In just about two months, we shall be travelling yet again to another conference on climate change – COP 28 in Dubai. We will be doing so with the current extreme and extraordinary weather events graphically demonstrating the gravity of the climate crisis.  On behalf of the People and Government of Saint Lucia, I extend sincere sympathies to the people and Governments of the Kingdom of Morocco, Libya and the other countries that have recently suffered the obvious ravages of climate change. The new manifestations of the crisis are signalling to us that the goal of 1.5°C to stay alive is now very much at risk. it is said that the Roman Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burnt. We cannot continue to be Nero-like talking away while the planet is literally burning and sometimes drowning.

If COP 28 is to be transformational, and not another disappointing “Nero-like” conference, then it must deliver an ambitious global climate action plan to 2030 if it is to answer to the necessity for climate justice for developing countries like Saint Lucia.

Having said this, Mr. President, we wish to reiterate, however, that what is critically needed is a complete reform of the global financial system, to make development financing truly developmental and climate financing truly just. As has been said so many times before, and in so many different fora, and by so many Small Island Developing States, the negotiations and the agreements for developmental assistance for these States, must take into account their peculiar vulnerabilities. 

Consequently, one area where accelerated action is certainly necessary is that of the adoption of a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI) for SIDS, in order to replace the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita as a primary measure for concessionary financing. Another measure that should be considered is the Recovery Duration Adjuster (RDA), as proposed by the Caribbean Development Bank, which measures the internal resilience capacity of a country after a shock or natural disaster. It is past time for the Multilateral Development Banks and International Financial Institutions to introduce these reforms.

But global financial reform has to be comprehensive and radical, as put forward in two recent proposals which I commend to this august body and to international financial institutions. The first is the Bridgetown Initiative presented last year by my CARICOM colleague, Prime Minister Mia Motley of Barbados, which argues for resilient finance mechanisms that will address both the climate and developmental crisis facing developing countries. The second is the UN Secretary General’s SDG Stimulus to Deliver Agenda 2030, tabled in February this year.

Both plans are an appeal for immediate action and they provide a practical pathway to sustainable development and climate justice. There is therefore no deficit of ideas for reform of the international financial architecture.  There is simply a dearth of goodwill.

PEACE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Mr. President, in the Declaration issued in 2015 on the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals, it was said that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development”. Today, fifteen years later, we are in a world without peace and the Sustainable Development Goals are in jeopardy.

How can trust and global solidarity for sustainable development be rebuilt when the unwarranted Russian war in Ukraine rages on with its collateral economic damage to other countries the world over, of biting inflation, particularly on food prices, high oil prices and shortage of food?

If trust and global solidarity for sustainable development are to be rebuilt, the unjust, unilateral and inhumane economic embargo against the people of Cuba must be immediately be withdrawn.  The unmerited and cruel sanctions against the Government and people of Venezuela should cease.

The Palestinian people should have their own State alongside Israel, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions. 

The people of the Republic of China on Taiwan should be allowed the continued enjoyment of their right to self-determination and the exercise of their democratic freedoms without threats to their autonomy and with a place in international fora.

There must be an end to the conflicts in Africa and a halt to all forms, whether old or new, of the colonial exploitation of the Continent’s resources so that the African people can fully benefit from the riches of their lands and from greater unity among African nations.

HAITI

In our Caribbean region, the Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) remain gravely concerned over the deteriorating political, social, humanitarian and security crises in Haiti, their sister Member State.

Haiti needs the urgent and dependable support of the international community. The response to date has been underwhelming. UN efforts of a few months ago to raise $780 million for humanitarian purposes have received low pledges. The need for robust security assistance to counter the murderous armed gangs is clear. Yet the decision to enable this is meandering slowly through the Security Council. The Caribbean Community hopes that the establishment of the multi-national force will be given full endorsement by the United Nations Security Council as a demonstration of the commitment of the international community to support the restoration of law and order and improve the humanitarian conditions of the people of Haiti.

CARICOM welcomes the Government of Kenya’s willingness to lead such a multi-national force. Member States of the Caribbean Community will contribute personnel as well. The Community will also continue its good efforts through its Eminent Persons Group to assist the Haitian stakeholders in finding a solution to the political crisis, a critical necessity to pave the way towards an improved future for the people of Haiti.

I urge the various Haitian stakeholders to cooperate with CARICOM to find a political compromise for the sake of the Haitian people and in honour of their heroic and fabled ancestors whom they revere so much, for daring to break the chains of slavery two hundred years ago and bring freedom to the black people of the Caribbean.

GLOBAL MILITARY EXPENDITURE AND THE ILLEGAL ARMS TRADE

Mr. President, the immorality of the suffering, the destruction and death that these conflicts are bringing to the world are not the only reasons for our appeals to end them. The immorality is only matched by the absurdity of the expenditure on the arms that sustain these wars and inhibit peace.  This should be of grave concern to all of us.

What is of equal concern to States like Saint Lucia is the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons which ran into billions of dollars in 2022. Not only do these arms and light weapons fuel lesser conflicts all over the world, but illegal small arms facilitate criminal activities in Saint Lucia and other CARICOM Member States. Illegal firearms were responsible for 70% of the homicides in the Caribbean Community in 2022; and in Saint Lucia, the majority of homicides are firearms-related and involve young people, both as victims and perpetrators. Yet Mr. President, neither Saint Lucia, nor its fellow CARICOM Member States, manufacture small arms, light weapons and ammunition. Their sources are our continental neighbours to the North and South of the Caribbean.

Saint Lucia therefore continues to strongly support the international instruments aimed at preventing and curbing the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons.

Mr. President, I welcome the announcement by the United States Administration, earlier this year, to provide technical assistance and support to combat illegal weapons smuggling into the Caribbean and in solving gun-related cases. Let us be reminded that SDG 16.4 aims at “significantly reducing” illicit arms flows.

HOPE FOR GLOBAL SOLIDARITY            

There is, however, hope for global solidarity. In June this year, the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction adopted the historic Marine Diversity Treaty.  For Saint Lucia, a Small Island Developing State, the protection of the oceans is an imperative since the oceans and their resources do not belong to one country but are the heritage of all mankind. Saint Lucia signed the treaty this week and will move towards its ratification in the shortest possible time.

Mr. President, I offer my congratulations on the opening of the UN Youth Office.  As I said in my address last year, the importance accorded to the Youth by the UN is in harmony with my Government’s policy of giving priority to youth affairs through the creation of a Youth Economy in which young people, with State assistance, can turn their talents, skills and hobbies into businesses that will provide sustainable self-employment. I am therefore pleased to report that our Youth Economy was formally launched in March this year and has been met with enthusiasm and success. To date, about 300 young persons in Saint Lucia have benefitted from funding and training from the Government to assist them with starting or supporting their businesses; and the numbers continue to grow. Once again, I invite the International Community to engage with us on mutually beneficial relationships and projects to promote the Youth Economy.

Through the Youth Economy we are responding to SDG 8 and with my government‘s policy of “putting people first” we are addressing the other SDGs.

CONCLUSION

Mr. President, after the destruction and ruin of the Twentieth Century’s World Wars and the Cold War, one would have thought that the start of the Twenty-First Century would have ushered in a new era of global solidarity.  It has not.

In conclusion, I ask these questions, for which we must all provide urgent responses as the fate of Agenda 2030, depends on our answers:

Is there the political will and commitment to divert financial resources away from destructive activities like wars and other conflicts?

Is there the political will to place these financial resources instead into the productive action of responding to the climate crisis?

Is there the political will to use these trillions of dollars to end starvation and underdevelopment in the world and provide the justice of reparations?

Is there the political will to put people first and not weapons first?

Is there the political will to develop trust and build a lasting peace that will rekindle our Sustainable Development Goals and lead towards prosperity, progress and sustainability for all? 

For the sake of us all and for future generations, we must find it!

Mr. President, to quote Saint Lucian-born Noble Laureate, Honourable Derek Walcott: "Hope is not a thing to be deferred, but a thing to be pursued with all hungry passion of our existence"

 I thank you!

Salutations

First, let me express appreciation for the warm hospitality extended by the government and the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The government and people of this beautiful country have demonstrated the true meaning of resilience in the face of adversity. We bear witness to your recovery in the aftermath of the recent volcanic eruptions. We also hail the completion of the international airport and the establishment of the medicinal cannabis industry.

Today’s ceremony though short is significant. With great optimism and unwavering confidence, I pass the mantle of chairmanship of the Monetary Council to the Honourable Camillo Gonsalves. Before I continue, permit me to extend a hand of friendship and welcome the new Council Member, Honourable Dennis Cornwall, who is attending his very first Council meeting as the new Minister of Finance for Grenada. I wish Hon. Cornwall well in his new Ministerial assignment.

This year, our Central Bank is celebrating its 40th anniversary.  The ECCB is a pillar of strength and stability for our region. I commend the Governor, other members of the Executive Committee, Management, and staff, as well as all Bank Governors alumni for their exemplary service to our Currency Union over the past four decades. The Bank has been a model for Caribbean Unity and the fact that our currency has remained stable s testimony to the benefits of Monetary economic integration.

 

REPORT ON MY TENURE AS CHAIRMAN

 

When I began my tenure as Chairman, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) forecasts for global growth were 3.6 percent for 2022 and 2023. Since then, the IMF has downgraded global growth. While the worst of COVID-19 seems behind us, there is still trouble in the world. The world is plagued by some other Cs, including climate change. The reality of destructive climatic events was felt as recently as last month, when Tropical Storm Bret formed early in the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Bret caused damage across several sectors in Saint Lucia, including agriculture, which saw extensive damage to the banana and plantain crops. Moreover, the global economic recovery is fragile, with countries large and small affected by high inflation and there is as yet no end in sight for the war in Ukraine. Robust government policies, programmes, and projects as well as the resolve of our people, have helped propel economic recovery in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). Economic growth in the ECCU accelerated to 8.9 percent in 2022, from a rate of 5.8 percent in 2021. This welcomed recovery followed an unprecedented economic contraction of 16.5 per cent in 2020.

PROGRESS REPORT ON POLICY AGENDA

During my tenure as Chairman, the Monetary Council advanced the people-focused agenda, which I articulated one year ago, though there is still much work to be done.

  1. Tackling Inflation

Undoubtedly, inflation is one of the most pressing policy issues.  Consumer price inflation in the ECCU

surged past pre-pandemic levels, from 0.4 percent in 2019 to 6.7 percent in 2022. Unlike some advanced economies, we are unable to use monetary policy to manage inflation. Nevertheless, member governments have done their best to cushion the impact of rising food and fuel prices through tax cuts and social safety programmes. The Monetary Council placed additional focus on advocacy, consumer education, and protection. In Saint Lucia, for example, a consumer protection law came into effect early last year.

  1. Financial Stability and Financial Inclusion

Our regional financial system has withstood many tests over the years. We must ensure its continued stability.

Member governments made strides in implementing a legislative  reform  programme to enhance financial sector resilience in the ECCU. The enactment of legislation is now approximately 75 percent complete. During the past year, a draft Eastern Caribbean Deposit Insurance Corporation Agreement and Bill was completed. Implementation of this Bill will allow for the protection of depositors of licensed financial institutions.

The Monetary Council also supported work to make it easier for our people to access credit. To that end:

  1. A regional credit bureau will be launched in Antigua and Barbuda this year;
  2. A Financial Inclusion and Literacy Survey was recently completed in all ECCU member

The findings of this Survey will inform our strategy for financial inclusion; and

  1. Work has commenced on the establishment of an Office for Financial Conduct to deliver effective consumer protection.

 

3. Resilient and Inclusive Growth

 

Ongoing strategic initiatives include those for wealth creation, as well as food and nutrition and energy security. For wealth creation, there was the launch of the ECCU’s first mutual fund in May of this year. National initiatives to bolster food security include crop programmes and export projects. Work continues to develop a Renewable Energy Infrastructure Investment Facility and tap into the green climate finance market. I issue a clarion call to social partners to support these growth initiatives.   In Saint Lucia, we launched a

  1. Youth Economy Agency (YEA) and are supporting more women in agriculture

 

4. Payments Modernisation and Digital Transformation

The Monetary Council continued to support initiatives for the enhancement of the payment systems of the ECCU. Supported by the Caribbean Digital Transformation Project, key milestones within the past year are:

  1. Approval of the Payment System and Services Bill and the drafting of the Payment Systems and Services Regulations;
  2. Ongoing drafting of the Payment System Oversight Policy, and the Payment System Vision and Strategy;

     3. Work on the draft Data Protection and Privacy Policy, which will inform the development of the Data Protection and Privacy Bill; and the

     4. Drafting of the Virtual Assets Business

 

CONCLUSION

The recovery of the ECCU is well underway. However, there are some worrying downsides. The threat of climate change. Our region is one of the most vulnerable. The entire GDP of our ECCU can be wiped out in a few hours by a hurricane. Floods, drought, and unseasonal weather are becoming more frequent and dangerous, then there is a hostile international political and economic environment that threatens to break our resolve at economic diversification and improved quality of life for our people.

These are indeed challenging times but history has shown that our people and institutions are resilient and can overcome any obstacle with unity discipline and hard work. Let us protect the gains we have made and continue to aspire to improve the quality of life of our people.

Let us follow the advice of the esteemed Prime Minister of St. Vincent Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves given in his book and see this time in our history as “A time of Respair” and never ever despair and remain together, sound stable and strong.

 

I thank you.

 

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