By Edward Harris

   Last year I made the point in several of my articles that St. Lucia was fast becoming the Conference destination of the OECS, today that is reality. I guess this has made a substantial contribution to the increased visitor arrivals.

   With the coming of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the Cricket World Cup (CWC)-2007, St. Lucia will be host to many conferences, especially in these two areas of much anticipated good fortune for our nation.

   The word EXPEDITIOUS must take on a new meaning. We have to move much faster in making decisions in time that affect the lives of individuals and businesses. I continue to hear the call being made to the private sector to get involve but this has to be a joint effort by the public and private sector. Government officials must show an equal enthusiasm to get the job done. Everyone agrees that St. Lucia has great potentials but the pace at which we are actualizing those potentials needs to be accelerated and it behoves each of us to step out and rise to the occasion.

   Every time I am confronted with the thought of how well we should be doing in terms of moving ahead economically which is the basis for our achievements in all other areas, I can’t wait for the CSME to open its doors to business. Freeing up of the economies of the current Caricom States is the fuel that will drive the engine that will energise Government, private sector and civil society as a whole throughout the region.

   For the first time, we will be forced to have an outward look rather than confining our activities inward to the land of our birth. We need to expand our market not only at home but beyond our shores. Joint venture/partnerships will be the way to go and those Entrepreneurs who have the will to explore opportunities will be the big winners. Private sector associations should begin Business/investment Missions to other countries within the region bringing Entrepreneurs together for co-operation in businesses in all sectors of the various economies. Services will be the easiest to promote. How exciting it would be to call your associates or managers in other islands, checking on the day’s sales/contracts and adding to your positive bank balance on a regular basis. CSME offers an opportunity to duplicate our operations several times.

   CSME gives businesspersons a unique opportunity to practice the joint venture/partnership system in the region, gaining experience and venturing out beyond the regional shores into the global arena. It is interesting to note that CSME and FTAA are scheduled to be in place in time to welcome CWC – 2007.

   An important process of preparing ourselves to meet the challenges is to understand the opportunities that the trade agreements will bring and get excited about the prospects of forming alliances and doing business offshore. Don’t get bugged down on how much money you have and limit yourself based on your financial status. This is an era of ideas. Get others to work with you to explore opportunities. Joint venture/partnership arrangements can take your dreams and turn them into reality as you explore countries that are more receptive to innovative projects and put money into certain types of businesses even special programmes for small businesses.

   I am fully convinced that there are exciting times ahead, my optimism will be realized in the short term and I am building alliances to ensure that the transition is well effected. During the past five years, I have been investing a lot of time putting the Internet to work for me. There are some exciting moments as opportunities present themselves. Apart from the several letters which invite me to share in illegal fortunes made in Africa, I receive some legitimate ones as well. The unfortunate thing is that many business opportunities demand stepping out of the box and many decision makers are cautious as   in some cases there are risks that are associated. However, we must arrive at the understanding that major investors are introduced to projects by middlemen/consultants/ marketing specialists, etc. The big time investor/entrepreneur does not go looking for opportunities, he is confronted on a daily basis with several investment options, even when he bumps into an opportunity, he/she sends his advisers to investigate the possibility. In today’s world we must get accustomed to dealing with an AGENT/DEALER who introduces the deals to the investor and in many cases has to stand in line to get a slot to present his deal.

   You can now think big and take our local deals to your international clients and associates, think CSME, FTAA and CWC, be fearless, become an explorer, go for gold. Better days are coming for those who dare to believe they too can realize their dreams – this is your moment.

   Congratulations to the St. Lucians abroad who are collaborating with others at home to ensure that the world is aware of developments in St. Lucia and things St. Lucian. I recommend that you visit promoting an Exhibition of St. Lucian products and services on Sunday, 22/8/04 at Africa House, Brooklyn, NY and promoting Conference on St. Lucia 2004. These are two very impressive websites and they demonstrate what can be done by persons living abroad who wish to do something for their country.

   Keep the Faith, God is in Charge!!!!