Grand celebrations marked the occasion as guests, staffers, and affiliates of Invest Saint Lucia (formerly known as the National Development Corporation -NDC) met in a social setting to highlight a “milestone achievement” for ISL’s 50th anniversary, earlier this week.
The Business Mixer held at ISL’s Duty Free Pointe Seraphine Shopping Complex, Castries, also provided an opportunity to highlight ISL’s achievements over the years, with focus on important events throughout the agency’s history, as well as the strides it has made towards the socio- economic development of Saint Lucia.
Addressing the gathering, ISL Chairman Lyndon Arnold described the event as a “truly momentous occasion”, since the NDC began operations in 1972.
“The agency committed to an important mandate, to facilitate the island’s economic progress. It was intended to be at the forefront of stimulating and facilitating national development …and 50 years later although operating under a different name and undergoing several adjustments to strategically position the agency for success, Invest Saint Lucia continues to fulfill that crucial role,” declared Arnold.
He added: “Invest Saint Lucia is recognised today as a purpose-driven, vision focused, professional investment promotional agency, which has made remarkable strides in advancing Saint Lucia’s socio- economic development.”
Arnold continued, “From inception, the then NDC engineered the framework and conditions needed to attract and retain some of Saint Lucia’s most successful businesses in three key sectors ; manufacturing , tourism and business process outsourcing .
“Over the years we have facilitated the berth and expansion of some of the biggest names local manufacturing, by providing them with the appropriate infrastructure, offering logistical support and often assisting them in securing much needed incentives.”
He listed companies such as Baron Foods, North American Assemblies Ltd., Caribbean Manufacturers Ltd, and the Windward and Leeward Brewery now Heineken Saint Lucia, which continues “to operate in factory shells within the industrial estate owned and managed by Invest Saint Lucia”.
Arnold noted that, “These enterprises have created hundreds of employment opportunities over the decades and have continued to stimulate economic growth. Invest Saint Lucia remains committed to leveraging its assets to continue strengthening that sector in decades to come.”
On the tourism front, he said, the agency has facilitated key players in the industry, such as Sugar Bay Viceroy Resorts, Sandals Resort International (SRI), Hotel Chocolat, Harbour Club and Coconut Bay among others.
He said the agency looks forward to the construction of more major hotel resorts on island, in its quest to spur economic gains for the country.
On the issue of the Blue Economy and the Chamber of Shipping initiative to be launched, Arnold said, ‘this will be one of our flagship initiatives for 2023. We also look forward to strengthen our local partnerships with particular emphasis on creating stronger ties with agencies such as, the St Lucia Tourism Authority, Export Saint Lucia, and Citizen by Investment programme.”
He noted that despite these agencies operating within their respective policy agendas, the ultimate goal is to produce quality products to depict ‘Brand Saint Lucia’.
Tourism Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire spoke of the hassle involved with offering incentives to foreign investors, while local and prospective business owners lament the lack of support received on the ground.
He quipped, “Is the international system ever sensitive to us as small island states?
Recalling past debacles on trading with foreign countries, Dr. Hilaire said, “Based on our experience with the financial services and even now (with ) the challenges of the CIP programme …do they really know our realities, do they know the disadvantages that we face in an international environment that has no sympathy for Small Island Developing States ,like ours.”
He noted that a former international agency expert has stated that, “we need to stop offering those incentives and facilitate investment in the way which we do, because it’s a distortion.”
To solve the issue, Hilaire said, the foreign gurus should offer the small island states options to help stabilize their assets base.
On the local front, the tourism minister proposed that local investors be given the support needed to enhance their enterprises. He said more effort should be focused on facilitating the growth of local entrepreneurs and business persons, “and maybe shift that needle more in the direction of the local.
Hilaire added, “What can we do to carry our local investors even more.”
He called on the ISL personnel to do more to assist local investors, stating: “I want you to start thinking more of how you can help our local investors ,our local business persons, to give them more support , more encouragement , because …I believe they have a more vested interest in this country than anybody else .”
Among the highlights on display, was the unveiling of a commemorative video entitled “50 Faces of ISL”. The screen shots featured brief speeches and reflective thoughts from key personnel who contributed towards the progress of the agency and its transformation.
Live entertainment was provided by violinist Yannick James; and the latter session saw the Vizion Band providing guests with a hearty groove.
Participating booths included; Saint Lucia Distillers, D’Lokal Bites, Antilla Brewery Company, Sweet Lime, Heineken Saint Lucia Ltd., and Faye Gastronomie.