Critical Issues Raised by Chamber’s President in 139th AGM Speech

Ross Gardner
Ross Gardner

The St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture successfully concluded its 139th Annual General Meeting on November 29, 2023. With President Trevor Louisy not being available, Mr. Ross Gardner, 1st Vice President delivered the President’s Report in his stead. The President’s Speech focused on three main issues.

On the issue of Meaningful Engagement on National Policy, the President advanced that “there must be regular and meaningful dialogue”. He insisted that “stakeholders must be engaged before a final decision is taken, and long before the eleventh hour.” He argued that “We cannot expect a diverse nation that articulates their interests differently and from different perspectives and with varying capacity, to participate, in one meeting, review, understand and commit to any policy within a two-week period.”

President Louisy also spoke to the once popular subject “Ease of Doing Business”, he congratulated SLASPA, the St. Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority “for their determined drive to enhance the quality and speed of their services over the last year, with their significant investment in upgrading the equipment, operations, and capacity to deliver cargo to the nation.” Noting that after challenges in the previous year, the Chamber is “pleased to see that SLASPA is better prepared to serve the nation” The Chamber President however lamented the status of “the long-promised Port Community Single Window”.

In response to Government engaging the services of a consulting firm to help the Customs & Excise Department to improve their service delivery, he intimated that the Chamber wanted to be optimistic about this venture. Yet based on experience, “they are at best cautious”. The President went on to point out some of the short comings of the services delivered by the Department, saying “To date, Risk Analysis remains a figment of our imagination, advanced classification and valuations have been avoided to no one’s advantage, and the trusted trader program has been relegated to the broken promises heap, on the excuse that the Business Community or Importers do not want it as they do not want to be Audited.” He informed that the Chamber Secretariat “can provide the Customs and Excise Department and Government with a list of at least twenty firms who are prepared to participate in this Program immediately……. pilot or otherwise”.

In speaking to the issue of Price Escalation, he referred to it as a global phenomenon. President Louisy emphatically stated that the local businesses were not engaged in price gouging. The President highlighted some contributing factors including but not limited to the rising costs faced by businesses, including increased shipping costs, increased costs of goods, new taxes, and elevated fuel and labor costs all factors beyond their control and emanating from outside of St. Lucia for the main part.

The President suggested that the situation presented “another opportunity for the Government to expend more effort in exploring seriously and meaningful, ways to address the myriad of problems of local agricultural production,”

President Louisy concluded his remarks by urging members to continue supporting the work of the Chamber and thanked his colleagues Board Members and the Secretariat for their support.

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