May 15, 2015

PM describes agreement as ‘disruptive thinking’

Without memory of what came before, we would be unable to properly embrace this future.

Prime Minister Gonsalves, during a signing ceremony for a partnership agreement between Invest SVG and Compete Caribbean Ltd, highlighted the journey of this country’s financial investment frameworks.{{more}}

“Sometimes we have amnesia, but without memory, we can’t embrace the future properly…” he stated.

Citing a “generally accepted hit or miss approach” to investment prior to 2001, Gonsalves, who is also the Minister of Finance, described the Development Corporation, which preceeded Invest SVG, as “neither fish nor fowl” and lacking the vision needed to support a modern, sophisticated post-colonial economy.

The very public failings of the industrial site at Campden Park were laid at the feet of “industrialisation by invitation” models of investment, which gave way to a centralized holding entity, with a robust portfolio that saw a premature end.

On the former national Development Bank, Gonsalves described it as a stillborn entity, which was strangled by bad debt inherited from the industrial estate years and the use of “preference heavy” investment, which gave great incentives to companies to begin work, but not to maintain presences in the region.

Moving into the modern initiatives, Gonsalves said Invest SVG (formerly the National Investments Promotions Inc) now seeks to partner with Compete Caribbean Ltd to boost its chances within the region.

The Prime Minister described the initiative as “disruptive thinking,” designed to push “beyond the bounds of colonial minds”.

Executive director of Compete Caribbean Sylvia Dohnert mentioned successful initiatives with Jamaica’s JAMPRO and Belizean Beltrade as indicators of the programme initiated in 2010 by the Inter-American Bank (IDB), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the UK Department of International Development (DFID).

The initial investment by these member governments was US$32.55 million dollars. With offices located in Barbados, the focus is on increasing non-traditional exports from 2.2 per cent of GDP on average in the region, to 7 per cent of GDP by 2017.

With over 50 projects completed and ongoing throughout the region, Complete Caribbean lists their main goals in St Vincent and the Grenadines as: “…to address the country’s decline in status as a trading nation since 1990, by proposing a strategic framework that is designed to enhance the global competitiveness of StVincent and the Grenadines….”

The agreement between Invest SVG and Compete Caribbean was signed on May 12 at Cabinet Room.(JB)