Things are hectic here in St. Lucia. There is so much happening, everybody getting involved. When one looks around at the hive of activity, the level of entertainment taking place, there must be money around in spite of the cries that things are bad.

Banana down, tourism up, construction holding its own be it roads or buildings. The telecommunication hustle and bustle is toning down, those who had three cell phones a month ago have gone down to one. The Fad is leveling out, commonsense has prevailed. Some took pride in referring to their friends out dated phones as phone booths, you had to have Samsung Blue or nothing. But in the lead up to Jazz Festival, 2003, the Telecommunications companies kept the nation engaged, it was free fete fo so. Party in the streets, party in the Malls, party everywhere.

Now Jazz is here, SARS or no SARS the show goes on, Yahweh is good, St. Lucia is blessed. Like in the case of the Iraq War, in a twinkle of an eye, it was all over, live is back to normal at least outside of Iraq. Then SARS came along and it did not escalate, especially in the major tourist markets where the majority of Jazz Enthusiasts come from. So JAZZ got a break and the fans are pouring in. Hotels fully booked. Flights fully booked. Yes, things nice! Fete fo so! Business bright! The party started last Friday night and continues. The curtain comes down on Sunday 11/5/03 and given the line up of artistes, it would be another great season of JAZZ with everyone making advance reservations to be back next year for St. LUCIA JAZZ FESTIVAL, 2004.

It is a great life, and for those of us who will be attending the Pigeon Island Main Stage Events, will once again thank Yahweh for being alive and for such a moment in time. There is no other place on earth like Pigeon Island when it comes to selecting a venue for a JAZZ event. You have got to experience the heavenly feeling, the ambiance and most of all, the LOVE. Love is always in the air when Jazz is at Pigeon Island. As I reflected on the several festivals I have attended over the years at this special landmark - Pigeon Island venue, I can see why the French and the British fought fourteen times for this Helen of the West Indies. St. Lucia, NICE!!!, St. Lucia, SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!! St. Lucia is Paradise!!

When it rains, it pours, Jazz and More! It is not only about Tourism and the many benefits that Jazz brings to the sector, this week saw the European Union as it celebrated Europe Week and Europe Day on May 9, 2003 that Ambassador John Caloghirou, Head of Delegation, European Union, Delegation of the European Commission in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and Honourable Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Minister of Finance signed yet another Agreement of Assistance in Castries. The EU made a further twenty five million EC dollars available for agricultural, economic and social diversification programmes.

Most people hailed the budget, with the Private sector endorsing it. We are already one month in the new budget, Grant Funding is already pouring in. The latest road project for feeder roads is about to begin, developers are busy clearing lands for residential and commercial construction. What does all these developments signal? While no one can claim that all is well, no one can deny the fact that in spite of the world’s economic problems, St. Lucia is holding its own and with the quantum of support being given by the European Union and other donor agencies, St. Lucians should seize this opportunity to utilise the funds effectively.

There are however, three assistance programmes totaling approximately, forty million EC dollars, that we must not loose sight of. These are, 1) The Rural Credit Facility, 2) The Low Income Housing Credit Facility, and 3) The Business Development Programme. The Officers within the Office of the National Authorising Officer for the European Development Fund are eager to provide information on the special assistance programmes which are executed by Financial Institutions, including Credit Unions and OPSR. There is opportunity for everyone.

While we enjoy a period of seeming abundance, it would be of no good to us unless we seize the moment to be creative and to put our energies into a direction that will bring prosperity to our nation. Are you satisfied with the level of tourist expenditure during Jazz? Could we have retained more of the tourist dollar here? A fair answer to these questions would cause us to make a commitment to expand our range of offerings next year.

Go out and enjoy what is left of Jazz, 2003 and be grateful that we live in Paradise where it is possible to mix business and pleasure.

Keep the faith! Yahweh is in charge!