On November 14, 2012 Emma Hippolyte, Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs, as the guest speaker at the AGM of the Saint Lucia Chamber of Commerce, explained Saint Lucia’s decision to participate in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report of 2007.
“Realizing that Saint Lucia needed to be recognized globally as an investment destination,” she said, “the decision was taken to participate in the International Finance Corporation World Bank Doing Business Report.”
She revealed that since Saint Lucia started participating in the Report, it had received worldwide recognition as one of the best CARICOM countries in which to do business. In 2007 the island ranked 27th out of 127 countries, and first within the CARICOM grouping. Since then, however, Saint Lucia has slipped to 101, out of 189 economies.
The 2014 World Bank Report notes: “St. Lucia made trading across borders more difficult by introducing a new export document.” Over the years there has been a storm of complaints from local manufacturers, mainly centered on process.
The Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA) is the entity charged with managing this country’s air and seaports. Plans for the redevelopment of Hewanorra International Airport are in advanced stages with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for assistance with an evaluation for this project. SLASPA is also seeking to restructure its seaports operations. On Thursday the entity held a stakeholders’ briefing at Coco Palm, to explain the proposed changes.
According to Keegan Cox, SLASPA’s general manager, the proposed changes at the seaports are predicated on “making future operations more efficient and cost effective.” The objective of Thursday’s exercise, he said, was to provide information and for engagement and discussion with stakeholders. In attendance were representatives of the various unions, manufacturers, shipping agents, the Chamber and government agencies.
Cox pointed out that there has been a shift from traditional and inconvenient commercial hours; the traditional 8 am to 4 pm was “uncompetitive.” He also highlighted what he described as “the pillars of reform,” which included potential efficiency, driving more business and customer-centricity.
In pointing the way forward it is expected that there will be a review towards strengthening transport and port infrastructure, improved port procedure, reducing the number of documents and improved electronic submissions.
Also on the agenda is a proposal to implement a private “labour company” that will be responsible for the stevedores.
SLASPA has also proposed extended operating hours including a roving shift system, a 7 am-11 pm work schedule for operations and 8 am-7 pm for shed divisions.
“We do not have all the answers,” Cox said, “and nothing here is cast in stone, which is why we are here with the stakeholders to get feedback and suggestions.”
Following Cox’s presentation questions were solicited from the floor with the general consensus being that change was indeed needed at the ports. The question was also raised about the role of Customs in the proposed change. According to Cox they would form part of a multi-stakeholder committee that would engage the unions and obtain feedback from consumers and the general public.
It remains to be seen whether the changes proposed will put an end to the notion of Looshan time!