Ever since Prime Minister Philip J Pierre initiated plans for implementation of the Youth Economy about one year ago, mechanisms have been put in place to facilitate the transition to that enterprising venture.
The Youth Economy Programme is touted as an initiative designed to afford young entrepreneurs access to financing for micro-businesses.
The initiative, originally conceptualized by PM Pierre affords young aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners an exclusive and streamlined facility to acquire grant and loan financing to start or expand their micro-business ventures.
Last year, the Pierre Administration allocated more than EC$10 million in the 2022/23 Budget towards the Youth Economy Programme. And last July, legislation establishing the Youth Economy was enacted in the lower house.
“The Youth Economy Agency (YEA) was launched about two weeks ago …and they have started giving grants,” PM Pierre told reporters at a media briefing, Monday.
He said the agency will be located on Chaussee Road and there will be a formal opening on April 3.
While noting that “the interest is out of this world”, Pierre stated that the YEA has begun granting loans. Presently, he said, there are about 65 applications for grants and more than 20 applications for loans.
“So the young people of Saint Lucia have gravitated with both hands …and everybody will not be able to get what they want, but we’re on, the website is up and running,” added Pierre.
The YEA programme caters for youth within the age range from 18 to 35 years and the venture will be spread island-wide.
“Particularly, we want to deal with the so-called ‘youth at risk’, we want to be able to get (to them) and that’s why the location is strategic, it’s all inclusive and we want everybody to get involved,” said the prime minister.
He explained that the programme is not meant to be a “free for all” and that not anyone can just come in and get funds. The YEA will be regulated with standardized practices and procedures to cater especially for “youth who have the talent and the discipline that are going to be supported in a flexible manner, in an agile manner …and 11 of these young people with an additional six more have got their grants.”
The implementation of the Youth Economy will help create a more conducive economic environment that promotes entrepreneurship and facilitates business development and growth in Saint Lucia, primarily amongst the nation’s youth.
PM Pierre adds, “It will be revolutionary and the first time in Saint Lucia’s history” that something like this has happened.
The prime minister said the criteria for meeting that threshold is very simple. All it requires, he explained, “is talent, discipline and skill and a lot of this venture will involve training. There will be lots of training for young people in different fields.”
He noted that recently the authorities through the St Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF) received a grant of $100,000 from the Bank of Saint Lucia (BOSL) towards the YEA programme.
The prime minister stated that the initiative has garnered global attention and the authorities intend to afford young persons from across the island an opportunity to earn a livelihood.
In the initial stages, the Taiwanese government donated a sum of EC$137,000 towards the YEA programme, and Pierre is excited about other outside support from foreign donors.
Said Pierre: “There is quite a lot of interest (from) international bodies, and there is lots of excitement about the Youth Economy.”
I was informed by someone with ties to a certain Central American Country that China are all over Central and South America offering bigger and better gifts, loans and development aid to these Countries, than any other Country are willing to offer, and of course things are beginning to work their way. So let us see how far this will work for St. Lucia, knowing how vulnerable our standing is financially, politically and Socially with China while the U. S. is watching.