CALLS for local investors to be treated more seriously and provided with a “Local Investor Window” were some of the sentiments coming out of the Chamber of Commerce-hosted Open Forum with Investment Minister, Bradly Felix, held on Tuesday, October 24 at the Finance Administration Centre, brought with the compliments of Flow.
The Chamber of Commerce-conceived Open Forum on Investment brought Minister Felix and his technical team to have an intimate conversation with Chamber of Commerce members on this most sensitive and important subject.
President of the Chamber, Martin Dorville, started the discussion going with a strong opening statement calling for government to provide the requisite support to local investment to complement foreign direct investment (FDI). He pointed out that the local business community is not against the provision of incentives to investors and that the Chamber believes that all incentives and concessions be performance-based and not open-ended.
In a most powerful contribution which resonated with many present, an investor observed that for a small investor to wait 15 months for an approval, promoted as taking three months, was not acceptable and that his company was “scared” to invest in new and additional projects due to that experience.
Other firms noted that they had never been the recipient of incentives, yet they remained in business and continue to invest heavily in St. Lucia, while a plethora of foreign investors have entered the market over the years and have been recipients of incentives and concessions.
Recommendation were made on ways existing businesses could be incentivized and supported, including through the Inland Revenue Department applying refunds owed in one area to taxes owed in others as it was almost impossible to receive tax refunds. Special efforts to fast-track DCA approvals for local investors was another recommendation, in addition to extending tax credits for hiring university graduates to the hiring of graduates of SALCC Associated Degree programmes.
A number of other important issues were raised during the meeting and it became very apparent that more of these types of fora were needed to explore the needs and requirements of local investors who were keen to expand and grow their businesses in St. Lucia. The Chamber and the Ministry agreed to continue their dialogue in pursuit of “Making St. Lucia the place of choice to do business”.