Over the last five years the performance of Saint Lucia’s economy has been generally weak with only real output averaging negative 0.4 per cent.” This was the declaration of Senator Dr Ubaldus Raymond as he met with the media on Thursday to disclose the CDB/ECCB diagnostic fiscal reform report on Saint Lucia. According to Dr Raymond, “The CDB made a presentation to the Ministry of Finance on Wednesday, providing a diagnosis on the fiscal standing of Saint Lucia, and provided various recommendations based on what they found.”
The CDB, along with Dr Raymond, Minister in the Ministry of Finance, made the draft report public at the press meeting. In his remarks, the minister indicated, “There needs to be a comprehensive reform . . . the debt level is too high.”
Accompanying him was CDB’s Director of Economics, Dr Justin Ram, who broke down the highly anticipated draft report on the economic state of the island. As alarming as the figures presented were, the director noted that there are ways to make significant improvement. “Focus on reforms that will promote growth of the economy,” was a point he reiterated during the press briefing.
He also noted areas that should be looked at including fiscal consolidation in the form of revenue reforms that improve efficiency and collections; structural reforms to improve competitiveness and increase growth, and strategic liability management aimed at containing the cost of debt. Though the presentation was detailed, one aspect of the revenue reform report struck a chord with the media huddle. The recommendation of reducing the list of VAT-exempt and zero-rated goods did not sit well with the reporters present.
However, the senator advised the media that though the government eagerly anticipated the CDB/ECCB report, it should be clear that the report does not represent the government’s policies. “We want to gather sufficient information that we can use as building blocks in ensuring that we devise the correct policy when that time comes,” Minister Raymond advised. Concluding his remarks on the draft report, Senator Dr Raymond asserted that the joint CDB/ECCB report will be used as a guide for the government to pursue its three-point economic plan for the country: increasing economic growth, reducing cost of living, and decreasing the high level of debt.