A GREAT deal of technical and other assistance for entrepreneurs is being promised by the authorities, especially as Saint Lucia observes Business Month. However, with the economy being described as sluggish for years now, such assistance should not be restricted to being just lip service.
This year, the Department of Commerce’s focus is on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which, according to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), accounts for between 70% and 85% of the Caribbean’s businesses, contributes between 60% and 70% of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) and provides nearly 50% of the region’s employment.
Of key importance is businesses’ ability to adapt to the ever-changing climate that calls for high standards and reliable supply at competitive market prices. As such, access to key markets is no longer predicated on preferential treatment but by businesses asserting themselves through their quality products and services.
It is no secret that many local businesses have become increasingly frustrated over the years with government’s slow pace of facilitating trade. While many mechanisms have been set up to enhance trade, many businesses complain that these only worsen the situation. The VAT regime, for example, has been one of the many angsts businesses have been grappling with since their cash flow is affected.
The Department of Commerce’s promise of making things easier for businesses is obviously welcome news for entrepreneurs, especially small business owners who are sometimes forced to close up shop shortly after setting up.
Fortuitously, Business Month could not come at a more opportune time. With the Prime Minister expected to address the nation shortly, the revised rate for the VAT is one that businesses and the wider saint Lucian community are focusing their attention on. That is why it is crucial that the government does deliver on the promises made to alleviate the economic plight currently affecting many Saint Lucians.
A recent report compiled by the Development Center of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD), the United Nations Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and Development Bank for Latin America (CAF) has concluded that the gross domestic product (GDP) for the region is expected to shrink by between 0.9 and 1% this year.
Despite the Latin American Economic Outlook 2017 indicating that regional growth should change for the better next year – between 1.5 and 2% — such growth is still determined to be below that of advanced economies.
With Saint Lucia’s unemployment rate estimated at around 23% — and youth unemployment estimated at nearly 50% — the time for talk without accompanying action is over. People need results and people need jobs. That is why it is so important that whatever plans the government aims to embark on shortly should redound to more than just promises. It is time to do the walk and stir up some real business in this country.