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BANK OF SAINT LUCIA (BOSL) GLOBAL INVESTMENT FUND

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.

 

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