Saint Lucia’s economy has traditionally depended on one or two main industries. During the first half of the twentieth century, we depended on the sugar cane industry. This was replaced by the banana industry, which has now diminished in importance and lost its position of prominence to the tourism industry. Unfortunately, all these industries shared two things in common - vulnerability to natural disasters and external shocks, and operating in an extractive, non-sustainable manner.
Over the last 25 years, Saint Lucia’s economy has not grown at a rate fast enough to provide quality, permanent jobs to an increasingly skilled and educated work force. The youth have been the greatest victims of this problem, and youth unemployment in the country has been persistently high for the last three decades. Because of weak economic output, government revenue is also depressed and unable to finance and maintain modern social services and public infrastructure.
As a result, successive governments have had to borrow heavily to finance development and provide public infrastructure, while resorting to short-term low level employment programs to deal with the unemployment problem.
This situation is unsustainable. We must expand the economy of our country so that it can (i) provide the levels of employment needed to cater to our labour market, (iii) generate the revenue that will allow us to fund critical investments in our social and physical infrastructure and public services, and (iii) generate a financial buffer that will permit us to generate financial reserves that we can use when we are impacted by a natural disaster, or an unexpected health or economic crisis.
Expanding our economy is one of four very important mandates of our movement.