NES: Selection of Priority Sectors

img: The six OECS, 15 CARICOM and 12 Commonwealth Caribbean member-states will be expected to come out of the current 37th CARICOM Summit, under way in Guyana, with plans to address the expected Brexit Caribbean blowout, which offers both challenges and opportunities for new relationships with Britain and the EU.

PRESS RELEASE – IN the previous articles, we established that CARICOM agreed at a conference in Barbados in 1994, in a document known also as the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA), that in small islands like Saint Lucia, “it is necessary to develop overseas markets for value-added exports in areas in which they are internationally competitive” (Vossenaar, Rene, 2004). Also that the development of a successful National Export Strategy (NES) involves a collaborative and concerted effort by the public and private sectors, NES Development is Everyone’s Business and that the development of an NES is not easy.

The development of the NES began in earnest with the identification and rallying of the stakeholders in the public and private sectors and funding by the Trade Export Promotion Agency (TEPA). TEPA is in fact an output of the previous NES and is the lead agency responsible for the NES development process. TEPA operates under the auspices of the Department of Commerce.

The public sector stakeholders are the Departments of Commerce, Statistics, Customs and Tourism; Ministry of Finance and Economic Development; Ministry of Agriculture; the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards; Ministry of Health; and the Ministry of Education. The private sector stakeholders are Saint Lucia Manufacturers’ Association, Saint Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Saint Lucia Industrial and Small Business Association, Saint Lucia Coalition of Services Industries and NGOs. The NES development process is ably assisted by the professionals from the International Trade Center (ITC).

The next steps were a candid review of the previous NES, lessons learned, outputs, outcomes and shortcomings, nomination of teams (coordinating, core and wider body), and the National Consultant and Navigator (the ITC is kept in the loop), National Consultations, the iterative process of developing the roadmap with the assistance of ITC.

The outputs of the National Consultations are inputs for the iterative process of the development of the NES. The coordinating team gathers facts to support and/or refute positions taken. The roadmap is amended as the process evolves.

The national state of play was reviewed. Specifically, Trade and Investment, Trade Policy Framework, International Donor Activity, Saint Lucia’s Trade Support Network, Key Competitiveness Constraints (Border In issues, Border issues, Development Issues, Border Out issues) were reviewed and analysed for the purpose of charting a way forward in terms of Export Development.

For each constraint identified, a plan of action to remedy the constraint was developed to a level of specificity that will facilitate a high probability of successful implementation (still a work in progress).

The stakeholders, after much discourse, selected a vision for the strategy. The vision selected reads as follows: “Uniquely Saint Lucian with global appeal”. To realize the vision, the following strategic objectives were formulated:
1. Strengthening the competitiveness of the business environment to boost the creation of firms and SME growth.
2. Expanding the national productive capacity and diversifying the export basket by attracting knowledge-enhancing investments.
3. Ensuring that economic development is attuned with the preservation of the natural environment and that the benefits of increased trade are widely shared.

The objectives ensure compatibility to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The “Strengthening the competitiveness of the business environment to boost the creation of firms and SME growth” is intended to focus attention on boosting the capacity of the business support institutions to deliver the quality services that are required to facilitate small businesses’ adoption of, and adaptation to, modern best practices. It will specifically address gaps in the delivery of business support services that are impeding our businesses’ competitiveness and to do so in a concerted manner.

Saint Lucia has the model to execute this objective already. It is the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The SBDC is a consortium of the business support institutions including academia. The SBDC partners are Small Enterprise Development Unit, Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards, Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, National Skills Development Centre, The James Belgrave Fund, Monroe College, UWI Open Campus, Saint Lucia Trade Export Promotion Agency, Bureau of Standards, National Research and Development Foundation, National Competitiveness and Productivity Council, Department of Environmental Health, and the Development Control Authority. These entities operate with memoranda of understanding to promote the concerted effort at small business development.

It is a serious attempt to reduce the silo effect which has frustrated many an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs have had a litany of complaints about the “run-around”, the conflicting pronouncements on the same issues and the seemingly inordinate length of time to get things done.

SBDC is intended to make the road to starting and running a business seamless and clear. In addition, it seeks to facilitate the graduation of businesses from start-up through to becoming players on the export market. The major difference with the SBDC is its focus on measuring economic impact of the concerted efforts of the partnership of the business support agencies, also known as the Trade Support Network (TSN).

The sub-objectives are:
•Reducing the regulatory burden on enterprises and investors
•Providing value-adding services to enterprises and investors.
•Creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurship.

The objective of “expanding the national productive capacity and diversifying the export basket by attracting knowledge-enhancing investments” has a focus on enhancing the human capital of existing firms at a management level and attracting knowledge-enhancing investments to Saint Lucia.

The sub-objectives are:
•Strengthening the skills and competencies that SME managers require to engage in international trade.
•Increasing the local retention of value-added from existing investments.
•Attracting knowledge-enhancing foreign direct investment in new sectors.

The objective “Ensuring that economic development is attuned with the preservation of the natural landscape and that the benefits of increased trade are widely shared” is geared towards adopting the methodologies that ensure sustainable and inclusive economic growth. It has a particular focus on youth and job creation and environmental management. The sub-objectives are:
oEnsuring inclusive economic growth.
oPreserving the natural environment and landscape.
With these objectives in mind, the following criteria were selected to begin to identify priority sectors for the NES:
•Sectors for which there is high demand in world markets.
•Sectors with potential for employment and socio-economic development.
•Sectors that can drive innovation, upgrading, and high-value-addition.
•Sectors with SME development potential.
•Sectors with the ability to attract domestic and foreign investment.

The criteria yielded a long list of sectors. The second National Consultation resulted in a smaller list of four sectors after factors like the spillover effects of one sector on other sectors, for example, by contributing to upgrade the offer of related sectors, were considered.

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