It is necessary for me to be at large this week as there is so much happening. There are so many meetings and functions to attend. Executives have to get assistance from other professional staff to cope with the demand for meetings. There is no shortage of information, stakeholders are given opportunities to contribute to the many programmes from the ground up. 

   Just out of the Easter Holidays, citizens are caught up with the 2004/2005 Budget. In between there are so many meetings and urgent business that needs attention. St. Lucia is definitely the meeting capital of the OECS. As I make my rounds I cannot resist the feeling that something big is about to happen but something is holding back the process and ultimately the progress of the nation. It further appears to me that we will have to get high on the positives of this small but great nation. Lot’s wife looked back and she turned into a pillar of salt. There is virtue in moving forward.

   Making my daily stop at a supermarket on the Gros Islet highway, I met a gentleman at the check out counter and he said “I have been reading your articles and you are the only one in this country who is optimistic”. The remarks were not made in a complimentary tone but I am very certain that many people see the signs that I see and are involved in processes that I am involved in to bring investments to St. Lucia. Many of our citizens are doing extremely well financially and otherwise. It is all a matter of faith and staying focused. Must I change my theme for promoting St. Lucia from “St. Lucia - A Unique Destination for Business & Pleasure!!!” to a negative theme? I will not do that. I am committed to assisting those of like minds to have faith in the glorious possibilities that are all around us backed by the uniqueness of the isle of St. Lucia.

   In recent weeks I have attended many meetings targeting the private sector, where the Government and International Agencies are doing their best to inform civil society in general and the private sector in particular to understand the realities of globalisation and how to position our country. Many programmes are already in place, others are currently being implemented and some are now being developed, all in the process of giving St. Lucia a competitive edge.

   Finance continues to be the problem, there is just not sufficient risk financing programmes available to Entrepreneurs for existing and new businesses. The established commercial banks are risk averse. There is help on the way. Officials of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) met with Entrepreneurs and other stakeholders on Wednesday 21/4/04 at the Bay Gardens Conference Centre to introduce the Eastern Caribbean Enterprise Fund (ECEF) as a part of the overall money and capital market development strategy. As an institutional mechanism, the fund is intended to serve as a catalyst for mobilizing resources for developing the real/productive sectors in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), consistent with the economic development strategy for the region. Full implementation of the programme is scheduled for the first quarter of 2005. This project is expected to direct its efforts towards filling the void for risk financing and is expected to supplement the efforts of those banks and institutions currently seeking to find creative ways of providing risk capital.

   MGA Caribbean Limited after years of effort finally was able to put together a team of  Entrepreneurs from South Africa to share their experiences to host a Conference on Medium and Small Agri-Business Development and Technology Transfer which will last from 22-24/4/04 in St. Lucia. The programme was supported by OECS/EDU and OPSR. The programme was held in Dominica and also include St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada. This can open a new avenue for joint venture and other programmes.

   A group of Venezuelan Entrepreneurs will be visiting St. Lucia from 23-25 April, 2004 to showcase their products. The exhibition will be hosted on board a vessel belonging to the Navy. The activity is co-sponsored by the Venezuelan-Caribbean Chamber of Commerce. The vessel will be docked at Berth 2 at Pointe Seraphine in Castries.

   Now, the budget is in the open. There is no need to guess what will be taxed and what will not be taxed. I hope to look at the goodies and what is in for me. I look forward to the debate to learn more about the prospects for the future. I remain excited about the future. I predicted that the year 2004 will be great and from all indications, I have no reason to believe otherwise.

   Looking at the American elections, I am anxiously awaiting the announcement of Senator John Kerry’s running mate. Senator Hilary Clinton in a recent interview said she would not be on the ticket. But one never knows, so we will have to wait a bit longer until the party’s convention. It is interesting to note that almost immediately after that interview, President Bush’s rating improved. Pres. Bush supporters will host parties across the USA on April 29 to boost support. I am thinking about hosting a party but I discovered most of my friends are Democrats.  Maybe some Republicans will like to invite me to a Bush/Cheney Party. Have you noted since the recent job report, there has been a shift from jobs in America to the war in Iraq? In spite of the 3 books written by insiders, the President stands firm in the ratings. I am thinking about writing a book – “Pres. Bush Stands Firm”

   Now, it is time for some fun, cricket is in the air, jazz is in pursuit, then it will be cricket again. There is no stopping the fun. How could anyone be anything else but excited? Like me, invite your relatives, friends and business associates to join in the fun. When is there not a fete in St. Lucia? How could anyone blame me from being optimistic? I encourage you to keep your eyes on the prize with optimism.

Keep the faith – God is in charge!!!