Commercial Court Boost for Business Says P.M.

Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony
Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony

THE inauguration of a Commercial Court here earlier this week will boost confidence in the business sector, according to Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, Anthony emphasized the importance of the legal system, stressing that his government was committed to providing resources to the legal system within the context of its resource constraints.

Declared Anthony: “Today marks an important occasion in our history as we gather for the official inauguration of the Commercial Division of the High Court,” he said. “This has been a much anticipated event for this government since the announcement for the establishment of a Commercial Division was made three years ago. The dedication and commitment that was exhibited in order to bring this initiative about is commendable, as this division would not have existed without key partnerships and stakeholders working together.”

He singled out a number of persons and entities that had played roles in the establishment of the new Court including the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Compete Caribbean, the National Competitiveness and Productivity Council, and the team of consultants led by retired Justice Michael Gordon

Anthony spoke of the benefits of the new court. He said: “It is expected that a specialised Commercial Division will ease the burden on the Civil Division of the High Court and will result in quicker resolutions to commercial disputes. Hopefully, this will improve the efficiency of the judicial system.

The new court would also result in the increased competitiveness of Saint Lucia, defining competitiveness as the key set of factors, institutions and activities that enable a country to offer services and products to sustain itself among its competitors and to earn a high level of income.

Said Anthony: “Therefore, to increase competitiveness it is essential to establish critical institutions to provide support services to businesses and other sectors of the economy. It is expected that the Commercial Division will provide an important service to the private sector by facilitating quick and effective resolutions of business disputes”.

A Commercial Court was necessary to interpret the rules of the business environment and protect the rights of businessmen and women. An efficient and transparent court system encourages new business relationships and expansion because businesses know that they can rely on the court for redress, should legal proceedings become unavoidable, the Prime Minister said

Then there was “an unintended benefit” of establishing the court, that is, greater respect for contractual obligations among the citizens.

Declared Anthony: “Thousands of contracts are entered into every day. Yet, there seems to be little understanding that contractual obligations are sacred. Ask any house owner about individual experiences with building contractors. A price is agreed upon to undertake a contract. When the time comes for payment, the contractor may claim that he or she forgot to make allowances for all kinds of things and therefore requires compensation for these unintended costs. Contractors invoke ‘fairness’ as the original agreement is repudiated and disowned.

“These experiences can be repeated in a whole range of transactions. This is not just a legal problem; it is also a cultural problem.”

Overall, however, the establishment of the Commercial Court will enhance the business environment, Anthony said, noting that the efficient resolution of contractual and other commercial disputes was measured annually by the World Bank for incorporation in its Ease of Doing Business Report for 189 countries. He reminded that for a number of years, this was one the worst performing indicators for Saint Lucia, but since the commissioning of the Commercial Division, there had been improvement in this area.

Anthony said the operations of a Commercial Division could also increase investor confidence and attract foreign direct investment and business opportunities into the country to stimulate economic growth and development.

“While it may seem that the business and legal sectors are separate, a weak commercial judicial system undermines the confidence of investors”, he said adding: “The establishment of Commercial Courts encourages investors to make greater use of domestic courts to resolve disputes. Investors are attracted to Courts that are fair, transparent, efficient, and timely in resolving disputes”.

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