PRIME Minister Kenny Anthony Thursday night gave St Lucians an assessment of the state of St Lucia as he announced that general elections would be held on June 6.
Addressing the nation on radio and television, Anthony said the past four years under Labour had been “a period of adjustment for our economy and indeed, for all of us”.
He added: “I remain eternally grateful to you for the support and understanding that you have shown for the adjustments we have made to ensure that our economy became stronger, better, and more resilient. Some of our measures were not always popular but it was never in doubt that the measures were implemented in the best interests of our country. By our common will and collective efforts, we saved our country from the IMF.
“The results of our efforts have now begun to yield fruits.
“Our economy has returned to growth. Last year, it grew by 1.3%.
“We have reduced our fiscal deficit from 9.6% of GDP in 2012 to 3.1% in 2015. This is a remarkable reduction by any measure.
“Our current account surplus increased to $73.8 million in 2015/16. We also registered a significantly improved performance in the primary surplus, which grew to $45.3 million in 2015/16 from $3.7 million in 2014/2015”.
Anthony said unemployment was “finally trending downwards”, from a high of 24.5% to 20% in the last quarter. There was a net increase in the number of employed persons by 3.8% to 77,131. In the fourth quarter alone, the labour force grew by 5,220 persons.
He added: “It is clear we are the only government with a plan for jobs! We need to continue on our path.
“Tourism arrivals continue to increase steadily. For the first time ever, we surpassed the one million mark for combined stay-over and cruise passenger arrivals.
“The construction sector expanded by 7.4%.
“Manufacturing too, is on the rebound. The sector grew by an estimated 13.7%.
“Agricultural production, though uneven, is rising, with banana exports surging by 35.3%. Many of us may not be aware, but Saint Lucia is the only Windward Island still exporting bananas to the United Kingdom.
“Investment has also returned to our country. Currently, two major new hotels are under construction. Some 700 Saint Lucians are employed at the Royalton at Cap Estate; another 275 are employed at the Harbour Club in Rodney Bay. When the Royalton is completed, some 650 to 700 Saint Lucians are expected to find jobs. In the next few days, I expect a sod turning ceremony will be held to signal the construction of the new hotel, Sunset Bay Hotel, at “Sabwisha”, in Choiseul. The developers have already paid for the land.
“The local private sector too is investing in our country again. Unicomer Limited, the parent company of Courts (Saint Lucia) is constructing its new headquarters. The Dayana Centre in the City Centre is nearing completion.”
Anthony said the the public sector too was playing its part. “A sod turning ceremony has already been held to confirm the commencement of the Administrative Complex in Vieux Fort. Two new bridges, one in Thomazo and the other in Canaries are about to commence construction. Plans are now at an advanced stage for the commencement of the Secondary Roads Improvement Project to pave the way for the expansion of the Choc to Gros Islet Highway. The European Union has confirmed financing of a new bridge at Piaye and the reconstruction of the Venus Road in the Anse la Raye quarter.
“The prospects for the health sector are promising.
“The creative industries have begun to take shape; youth and sports are in good hands.
“We continue to educate the children of Saint Lucia to equip them to be the future drivers of our country’s destiny. We provided our students from Form 3 to Form 5 in our secondary schools with Laptops. We plan to extend this programme to Form 1 of all our secondary schools.
“We are well on our way to diversifying our energy needs by developing alternative sources of energy.
“All over the country we are opening modern, state-of-the art Information Technology Centres to give all Saint Lucians free access to computers and high-speed internet for learning and entrepreneurship.
“Our country is, once again, proud, resilient and on the move! However, it is also delicately poised, and all of these gains and the sacrifices we have made to get us here can be quickly undone and reversed by recklessness and irresponsible actions”.