The 2019 Investment Symposium hosted by the St Lucia Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with Invest Saint Lucia and the St Lucia Development Bank titled “Alternative and Innovative Investment and Financing Options” was successfully concluded on Wednesday May 22nd 2019 at the Harbor Club Hotel in Rodney Bay with an engaging and powerful luncheon dialogue led by Egbert Perry of the Integral Group out of Atlanta Georgia, USA.
The Opening Session was addressed by Karen Peter, President of the Saint Lucia Chamber of Commerce who provided the genesis and objective of the Symposium. This was followed by Nancy Francis who represented the Ministry of Commerce, while Nicholas Barnard Chairman of the Board of the Saint Lucia Development Bank, shared important information on the role and work of the Bank in supporting investment in St Lucia.
With the stated objective of commencing a dialogue on Alternative Financing and Investing Options, outstanding and excellent presentations were led by expert panelists and presenters where insightful and enlightening information and food for thought was provided. Bank of St Lucia Investment Services and First Citizens Investment Services while traditionally competitors, proved that they could operate in coordination and fluid combination as they shared information on both traditional and non-traditional instruments. The powerful suggestions on how firms could utilize the aforementioned instruments in practical and beneficial ways was not lost on those present who were lavish in the praise of the presenters.
There was a healthy, robust and interesting discussion on investing in projects and ideas which, while Moderated by Vincent Boland, was led by Denell Florius of EcoCarib and Johanan Dujon of Algas Organics. Both of these gentlemen have been stars of the St Lucia Business Awards and are rapidly moving aggressively to the global stage. In fact, Johanan Dujon has been featured in the Forbes Business Magazine in its February 2019 issue. These entrepreneurs are prepared and capable of changing the investment and business landscape, whether or not the traditional frameworks wish to change and accommodate them as the emerging entrepreneur class on island. Their recommendation to young entrepreneurs was to be relentless and don’t give up.
Some very progressive ideas emerged from the various panel discussions and the insightful panelist such as Zephrin Francis, President St Lucia Civil Service Cooperative Credit Union, Dave Headley of Invest Saint Lucia and Jonathan Johannes of 1st National Bank of St Lucia. Suggestions included new partnership arrangements between banks and Invest St Lucia to collateralize loans, rethinking the role of mentors to consider them being directors and even investors as well. The emerging opportunities for using locally available funds in creative ways also got some attention.
The Luncheon Presentation by Egbert Perry of the Integral Group concluded the day’s proceedings with a thought provoking and impactful discussion on “Challenging Conventional Wisdom on Economic Development”. He pointed out the critical situation of a “race to the bottom approach” of Caribbean countries in their pursuit of FDI while simultaneously exporting their best human resource to “finishing school” (university education). This resource he argued is then ignored, ignoring that they have a powerful affinity to their Caribbean home nations, and their potential as investors not explored or encouraged.
The discussion which ensued spoke to the need for investment in crucial infrastructure such as education, particularly in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), and well-functioning institutions. It was also proffered that there needs to be strategic and deliberately supported local investment and control of basic industries to secure real independence. The need for a long term vision for Caribbean nations derived from the people that went beyond the five year political cycle was expressed by participants, as well as the need to identify a process and approach which was a-political to lead such a national agenda assignment.
The Chamber is extremely pleased with the extent and profound nature of the discussions which took place at the Symposium, and looks forward to working with partners to advance action on key areas and ideas which have been proposed. Among these is an early meeting among Invest St Lucia, 1st National Bank, Bank of St Lucia, the St Lucia Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture, St Lucia Development Bank and other interested parties on designing new collateral satisfying models, designing new venture capital fund opportunities, creating more sustainable mentoring and director structures for SME’s, and planning follow up events, actions and processes to this inaugural Chamber Investment Symposium.