The failure of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government has prevented the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines from growing and creating jobs. For twenty years, they have mismanaged the country’s economy, created severe hardship and poverty for most Vincentians. Only with a healthier private sector, can we reduce the unemployment rate, improve living standards and sustainably develop our country.
The ULP government appears not to understand this basic fact. The evidence of this is seen through government’s ill-advised policies. For too long our businesses have been constrained by the political patronage of the ULP who only support their friends, while ordinary Vincentians lose out. Further, according to the World Bank, it has become harder to do business in St. Vincent and the Grenadines under the ULP government. Our ranking has fallen from 103 in 2015 to 130 in 2020. The report reveals that we are one of the hardest places in the world for businesses to find credit and register property.
The ULP promised to reduce that standard rate of corporate tax to at least 27 percent; they did not keep that promise and taxes are still at 30 percent. Our external trade has deteriorated under the ULP, meaning we are importing increasingly more goods and services than we are exporting. The ULP also promised to deliver an office of private sector development to help businesses. They have failed to deliver this. The ULP’s complacency means Vincy businesses have not been given enough support to develop real opportunities for new jobs. Vincy businesses are the backbone of our nation and supporting them to expand and employ local people is one of the New Democratic Party’s cornerstones of our plan for jobs and growth.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) has recognized the importance of private sector development. Tremendous benefits can be derived from private sector development. These include: increased national income, sustainable employment, stable economic growth, competitive markets, higher standard of living, infrastructural development, consumer cost savings and wealth creation and distribution.
The NDP recognizes that improving government policies and behaviour will not only shape the investment climate and drive private sector development, it will also drive overall economic growth and improve opportunities for everyone. We, therefore, will provide a range of incentives and support to encourage private sector development, and above all, create the stable and predictable macro-economic and social environment that will encourage investment.
In our manifesto for the 2020 general elections, we outlined an impressive programme for private sector development. The following is part of our plan for private sector development.
“In order to foster private sector development, the NDP seeks to focus on creating an attractive investment climate. Therefore, the NDP will establish a Ministry of the Private Sector to facilitate the development and expansion of private industry in general.
The role of the Ministry of the Private Sector will identify and seek to develop or expand a range of direct and indirect support services for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), including: business pre-start, start-up and development assistance; business plan development and follow-up; business incubators; legal, accounting and financial services; information services including advice on government policies; advice on the effective application of information, provide communication and business technologies to the business process; offer consultancy and research services; managerial and vocational skills enhancement; promotion and development of enterprise based training. The Ministry will also work in close collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our overseas Missions, CARICOM and the Vincentian Diaspora to identify trade and export opportunities for SMEs.
Moreover, we consider SMEs a critical factor in economic growth, and we will create the conditions that will enable SMEs to play a major role in entrepreneurship, innovation and job creation. In order to create the environment in which SMEs will thrive, the NDP will end the competition between government enterprises and SMEs; adopt and pursue appropriate fiscal and employment policies to promote an optimal economic environment; improve the attractiveness of entrepreneurship and remove the constraints to the development and growth of SMEs through, the establishment of a Development Bank, to provide funding and financial support for SMEs.
The Development Bank is essential to drive growth and jobs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Capitalized with funds from the Citizenship by Investment program and other sources of development finance, the development bank will be a true partner in local ventures. It will provide mentorship and technical support to help businesses succeed. This will put tens of millions of dollars into local businesses each year, not just a few million dollars in grants. We will ensure that this finance is available at the cheapest rate, as the goal of the bank will be to help to develop our country.
We will also reduce costly delays at companies registry and High Court. Many tasks related to setting up businesses are unnecessarily complex. Simple things such as setting up a company should not take weeks but days. The Companies Registry (CIPO) will be made more efficient and business friendly. And, also help local businesses to compete for government contracts and tenders, local businesses should have the best chance to put together a bid or submit a tender for work. That is why we will break up contracts where feasible so that Vincentians businesses can have the chance to compete for the work.
The NDP will welcome Vincentians investors who are based overseas to create opportunities for locals. As a small nation, our people are our most important asset. Our diaspora communities are an important source of investment, who are committed to our future and creating opportunities for locals. We need to welcome Vincentian businessmen and women to St. Vincent and the Grenadines when they attempt to invest in our country, and not treat them as second to foreign investors. At this time, when St. Vincent and the Grenadines is falling apart, the NDP is the viable alternative.”