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Government to Secure St. Lucia’s Future, Acting Governor General Cyril Errol Melchiades Charles

Acting Governor General, Cyril Errol Melchiades Charles
Acting Governor General, Cyril Errol Melchiades Charles

Acting Governor General, His Excellency Mr. Cyril Errol Melchiades Charles, Tuesday, said government will place special focus on areas like economic transformation, constitutional reform, strengthening of regional institutions, health, education and tourism. 

Charles was at the time delivering the Throne Speech at the Opening of the Second Session of the Twelfth Parliament of Saint Lucia.

He stressed on the need for unity and cooperation and revealed that measures will be taken to secure democracy, systems of administration and access to healthcare, housing, food, and water. Government will also take steps to promote regional cooperation and security.

“Our economic decisions must be driven by information and knowledge. An important measure that will drive this is by obtaining data from this year’s National Census. My government is mindful of the slow pace of uptake of technology, particularly in public services. Measures aimed at digitalization of the public service will be placed under greater care and scrutiny so that the public can see the results in a more conducive business environment,” Charles said.

“My government, during this parliament, will reform the Income Tax System to allow for easier collection and payment of taxes,” the Acting Governor General stated, adding that the disposable income of lower-income taxpayers will be increased through the granting of higher allowances “and the current burdensome imposition of interest and penalties on outstanding taxes will be reviewed.”

Government will also pursue the expansion of export-driven sectors including manufacturing and business process outsourcing. It will continue to provide support to the Bureau of Standards and Export Saint Lucia and assist local companies in finding new markets for new and existing viable products.

Government’s legislative agenda will support the private sector. According to Mr. Charles, this year, government will ensure the passage of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency legislation that has been spoken of for so many years.

In addition, the Security Interests in Movable Properties Bill and the Credit Reporting Bill will be enacted this year. It is expected that these and other important legislation will strengthen the ease of doing business in Saint Lucia.

“We must rethink the way we attract capital to build our economy. My government will therefore start the process of establishing a sovereign wealth fund,” the Acting Governor stated.

Government also plans to reignite the discourse on what form and style democracy should take, especially within the context of the technological era of ICT.

Charles said the Parliamentary Committee created for this purpose will be revamped and mandated to consider specific areas such as prime ministerial term limits, a fixed date for General Elections, the appointment of a Deputy Speaker, and the matter of becoming a Republic.

Charles revealed that government intends to strengthen functional cooperation and integration, particularly at the level of the Eastern Caribbean sub-region.

The Acting Governor General said government is desirous of pushing forward the long talked about regional air and ferry service as well as the review of shipping operations. He described the present system of regional air and sea transportation as a “disincentive” to trade travel and tourism.

Concerning health and social security, Mr. Charles said “government will take steps to secure a better quality of life for all.”

“How we achieve this requires that we make optimum use of our resources, even as we promote economic growth. My government will initiate a discussion on a respectable living wage that promotes fair compensation for workers. In particular, our seniors, persons with disabilities, and single-parent households will be targeted for such measures,” the Acting Governor added.

Consistent with the desire to protect persons from sudden shocks due to unemployment, as had been witnessed during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Charles said government will task the National Insurance Corporation with analysing the feasibility of unemployment benefits.

“My government believes that healthcare must be kept on the front burner of priorities, despite the waning impact of the pandemic. My government will pursue improved public infrastructure at the primary and secondary levels. My government advises that work on St. Jude Hospital will recommence during this session of Parliament,” he said, adding that government remains committed to the goal of Universal Health Care, underpinned by the principles of universality, accessibility, affordability, and equity.

A special unit will be established to refocus efforts in this regard.

The Acting Governor General said government intends to place special focus on transforming the tourism industry to ensure that more Saint Lucians can participate in the industry.

Government recently passed the Community Tourism Bill which provides the creation of authentic Saint Lucian experiences through accommodation, attractions, and gastronomy.

According to Charles, government intends to review and revise the incentives and legislative framework that guides the development of the tourism industry by enacting a Tourism Development Bill this year.

“It is hoped that this will restructure the industry to move from a focus on accommodation to include the growth and development of other sectors and will define the role and place of Saint Lucians in the industry,” Charles said.

Further, “In the area of Creative Industries, my government will review the Cultural Development Act to create a new enabling institutional and legislative framework that will formalize the cultural industries in Saint Lucia. My government believes that the cultural and creative industries are the new economic frontiers and that the time has arrived for deliberate and concentrated focus on nurturing and enabling that sector.”

He also addressed the issue of climate change and said that its disastrous effects have affected small island states like St. Lucia disproportionally. Government believes that it has a moral responsibility to support the commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Our survival as an island nation depends on that commitment and so my government will play its part by being less reliant on fossil fuels, embracing the use of renewable energy, and building climate resilience infrastructure,” he said.

Charles called on international agencies to accelerate the pace and delivery of funding promised at different international forums.

He touched on education and sports subsequently and a number of other areas. According to him, education will continue to be given priority.

“My government has already made good on its promises to resume the laptop programme, payment of facilities fees, and CXC examination fees in Mathematics and English. Modernisation of the school plant continues and by the end of this session of Parliament, fifty smart classes would have been installed across the island’s schools,” Charles said.

“My government remains committed to expanding access to tertiary education. The goal is one university graduate per household. My government will continue to broaden sporting facilities across the island including the construction of a National Aquatic Centre which will provide our swimmers with the facilities to compete regionally and internationally,” the Acting Governor added.

YOUTH  ECONOMY

Regarding the youth economy the Acting Governor general stated government has already begun its rollout, which will see an expansion of opportunities for young entrepreneurs through skills development, access to finance, and business support. Measures will target at-risk and unemployed youth.

The Youth Economy will be structured with its own agency and board to provide greater autonomy and flexibility in decision-making. It will create special areas in the economic system for young people to develop, grow their ideas and create generational wealth. It is intended to create a new enterprise culture and reduce the constraints that youth face in accessing business finance, training, and support services to succeed in business ventures.

Government, through the Youth Economy framework, will provide special incentives to support the integration of young people in employment generating and wealth-creating business activities. Measures will be targeted at the digital economy, green economy, blue economy, orange economy as well as traditional sectors.

Additionally, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports, young people will be given the facility to upload their skills and talents onto a virtual platform, which can be accessed by local, regional, and international employers.

HOUSING & URBANISATION

Government will introduce measures to promote affordable housing that meets the demands of citizens and consolidate and rationalize where possible, existing communities through better urban design and amenities.

LOCAL EMPOWERMENT

Government will ensure that all Members of Parliament and constituency councils will be afforded resources for local development. It will also ensure that the outstanding Constituency Boundaries matter is resolved so that the aberrations that exist with the disparity of sizes of constituencies are resolved in accordance with the Constitution.

Government will continue efforts to bring greater investment to deprived communities. The recently passed Community Tourism Act is expected to catalyse the growth of authentic Saint Lucian experiences in accommodation, attractions, and gastronomy.

FOOD SECURITY

Government will continue to provide support to the Food & Agribusiness sector including the expansion of opportunities to access credit to youth and women. Recent amendments to the agricultural incentives act will encourage greater diversification and quality of products. A total of nineteen new crops have been identified to receive support.

Saint Lucian ingenuity is being seen in areas such as the production of mushrooms, value-added sea moss products, honey, specialty gluten-free flour, and a variety of products. Measures will be taken to support these areas and many other growth opportunities.

Government will adopt the recommendations of the Task Force on the Banana Industry to chart a way forward and will examine the possibility of recommencing the export of bananas to the United Kingdom and expand regional opportunities for banana exports.

ENERGY SECURITY

Government has taken measures to cushion the blow on the transport sector with considerable loss of revenue to the state. Whereas the stated excise tax on fuel was set at $4.00 per gallon, today government collects about 7% of that amount. Government will move forward with the Electricity Supply Bill and Regulations for review, revision, and amendment. It will continue to encourage renewable energy use at both the distributed and grid level.

Government’s decision for exploratory drilling for geothermal energy will commence during this financial year. Measures at promoting the use of electric and hybrid vehicles as well as LED street lighting will continue.

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