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EXPORT SAINT LUCIA: Only EC$1.5 M for Expo Dubai

Chief Executive Officer of Export Saint Lucia Sunita Daniel, Monday laid to rest reports that the Government of Saint Lucia will be spending millions of dollars participating in a trade show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates scheduled for October 1, 2021.

She told reporters that Saint Lucia will only be spending EC $1.5 million, a sum funded by the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).

Chief Executive Officer of Export Saint Lucia, Sunita Daniel
CEO of Export Saint Lucia, Sunita Daniel

“We’ve noticed that quite a bit of discussion has happened around Expo Dubai so what we want to do is to provide clarity on grey areas that Saint Lucians may have questions about. The first area of concern people have been speaking about is the cost to Saint Lucia. The cost that the government will be paying towards Expo Dubai is capped at $1.5 million (however) that does not mean that we will be spending all of that money. It does mean we will not be going beyond that figure,” Daniel said.

She added, “I will tell you what the $1.5 million is expected to cover. The initial funding that we have looked at is expected to cover the design and construction of Saint Lucia’s pavilion. The second one is promotional material including brochures, videos (and) photography. We cannot go to a promotional event and not have promotional material.”

Performance fees for artists, taxes for local products including royalties, sales tax and import duties are all included in the $1.5 million dollar budget.

Nonetheless, the cost of participating in a trade show of this nature is usually higher according to Daniel, who told reporters that 90% of the cost associated with Saint Lucia’s participation in Expo Dubai will be carried by the host country.

“Dubai has already paid the shipment of a 40-foot container of Saint Lucian products to Dubai; we’re talking about paintings, mats from Choiseul, jewellery crafted in Saint Lucia, (etc.). We have been given a retail store in Dubai where Saint Lucia will be selling those products on behalf of our manufacturers and creatives,” Daniel said.

She added, “Dubai cannot pay their own import taxes, however. They cannot pay sales tax for us and royalties so that money that the Government of Saint Lucia has allocated will cover royalties, import taxes and the sales taxes on those local goods.”

As a result, Daniel explained, a markup will not be placed on the items in order to attract more buyers.

“We need to make the products as affordable as possible for persons to want to buy them and since this is the first time we are going into that market we thought it was a good idea to take off that markup cost off our creatives and our manufacturers,” she explained.

Dubai will take care of expenses for travel and accommodation for local artistes and creatives, accommodation (shared) constructed on the Expo site for staff who will be working in the pavilion, as well as the venue for special meetings, amongst other things.

“There is a week of activities in February 2022 and our creatives will be taking part in that on Independence Day. Dubai will be paying for the transportation, accommodation, flights, food—everything related to flying our creatives to that event. There is (also) allocation for a media person to attend Expo Dubai (and) that is paid by Dubai,” Daniel stated.

She continued: “There is quite a bit of diplomatic relations that must take place and Dubai will be covering the cost if any minister or high level official needs to travel. Dubai will be covering the cost of accommodation, travel and meals. None of the $1.5 million that have been allocated will be for ministerial participation.”

Preparations for Expo Dubai began last year under the previous administration. According to Export Saint Lucia, given the levels of commitment made by both the governments of the UAE and Saint Lucia, as well as manufacturers and creatives, a withdrawal at this time would be unwise and will not augur well for further trade relations.

Daniel said the event gives Saint Lucia an opportunity to move in the right direction noting that “just one investment to Saint Lucia coming out of this Expo would cover any cost that the government is undertaking right now so I think it’s a great return on investment.”

“When we look at the difficulties that our people have been experiencing during COVID, quite a bit of economic activity has actually declined. The economy has been going through quite a bit of a rough time and people who have been particularly impacted have been our manufacturers and creatives,” Daniel said.

“These products like I’ve said are going to be sold in a retail store in Dubai and all of the money will go directly to the manufacturers and creatives so we will pick up that money for them and remit that money to them,” she said.

According to her, “We do not believe government’s work should stop because we are going through a pandemic. It’s very important for us to continue working. This is really a good opportunity for us to go out and attract the kind of investors we think Saint Lucia requires. The Expo will give us access to 25 million people, 190 countries and most of them are high net worth individuals who are looking to invest in other countries. We must give ourselves that opportunity to make use of those contacts.”

“Cognizant of the current financial challenges, Export Saint Lucia will be continuously monitoring the budget to identify areas of cost savings, which will then be remitted to the Government of Saint Lucia. Some possible areas for cost reduction include shared accommodation for staff, utilization of interns, use of electronic promotional material and a reduction in the size of the delegation attending Expo 2020,” Export Saint Lucia noted in a statement.

Other state agencies such as Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLHTA), Citizenship by Investment Programme and Invest Saint Lucia will also be participating in Expo Dubai.

Expo Dubai will run for a duration of six months. The event commences on October 1, 2021 and will end on March 31, 2022.  Saint Lucia will join other Caribbean countries participating in Expo Dubai, which includes all OECS countries, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Haiti and Cuba.

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