Saint Lucia continues to slide, according to the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” report. The island is now ranked at 101 but the executive vice president of the Saint Lucia Chamber of Commerce remains hopeful, while not necessarily expecting any improvement in the next report.
In 2013 Saint Lucia grabbed the top CARICOM spot for the second straight year, ranking 53rd worldwide. Back then Puerto Rico had placed highest overall in the Caribbean, coming in at 4 out of 185 countries worldwide.Following his re-election as Chamber president in 2013, Gordon Charles had signaled his organization’s intention to re-engage government on the Ease of Doing Business ranking, calling for more decisive action. The way Charles stated the situation at the time, it could no longer be business as usual. He said the island’s low rating on the Ease of Doing Business index had serious implications for the private sector, not the least of them its ability to attract foreign investment.
“It is therefore a very humiliating experience,” he said at the Chamber’s 130th AGM, “that despite our intentions and efforts and the many pledges and assurances of commitment and support from the government, Saint Lucia has sunk even lower on the EODB rankings.”
On Thursday the STAR spoke to Brian Louisy about the steps the Chamber had taken to rectify the problem. He said: “Last week, we had one of our encounters, with the key agencies reporting on what they have been doing and the result. A number of issues were discussed and I can tell you, for example, where Customs is concerned a number of the forms that one had to deal with have been rescinded.”
According to Louisy a new report should be out in the next three months at the earliest. However, based on the lag time between when a survey is done and a new report comes out, he was not sure whether any positive steps taken by Saint Lucia would be reflected.
The government has appointed Minister of Commerce Emma Hippolyte head of a committee to ensure steps are taken to improve the island’s Ease of Doing Business rating. “I can say from my standpoint,” Louisy said, “that this committee appears more serious and decisive.”
He added that regardless of steps taken, it is actually the people seeking to do business here who must be satisfied. It is they who will determine things have improved. “So even if the ministry says we are doing this or that, and the impact does not register positively on potential investors all efforts will be in vain.”
Brian Louisy has also called for a new attitude in the various sectors. “We cannot afford to hold on to old traditions and practices that are obviously counterproductive,” he said.