Calls for local Investors to be treated more seriously and provided with a “Local Investor Window” were some of the sentiments coming out of the Chamber of Commerce-hosted Open Forum with Investment Minister Bradley Felix held on Tuesday October 24 at the Finance Administration Center.
The Chamber of Commerce-conceived Open Forum on Investment saw the Minister with responsibility for Investment and his technical team engaged in intimate conversation with Chamber members on this most sensitive and important subject.
The discussion began with Chamber President Martin Dorville calling for government to provide the requisite support to local investment to complement foreign direct investment. He pointed out that while the local business community is not against the provision of incentives to investors, the Chamber believed that all incentives and concessions should be “performance based” and not open-ended.
In a most powerful contribution that resonated with many present, a participant observed that for a small investor to wait 15 months for an approval, promoted as taking three months, was not acceptable and that his company was “scared” to invest in new and additional projects due to that experience.
Other firms noted that they had never been the recipient of incentives, yet they remained in business and continue to invest heavily in Saint Lucia, while a plethora of foreign investors have entered the market over the years and have been recipients of incentives and concessions.
Recommendations were made on ways existing businesses could be incentivized and supported, including through the Inland Revenue Department applying refunds owed in one area, to taxes owed in others, as it was almost impossible to receive tax refunds.
Special efforts to fast track DCA approvals for local investors was another recommendation, in addition to extending tax credits for hiring university graduates of SALCC associated degree programmes.
A number of other important issues were raised during the meeting and it became apparent that more of these types of fora are needed to explore the needs of local investors who are keen to expand and grow their businesses in Saint Lucia.
The Chamber and the Ministry agreed to continue their dialogue in pursuit of “Making Saint Lucia the place of choice to do business”.