Prime Minister of Saint Lucia

Prime Minister 

Honourable Allen M. Chastanet

Prime Minister's Remarks

The COVID-19 virus which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11th, 2020 is without equal the most challenging event that the world collectively has had to confront since the great depression, let alone a small vulnerable island developing state like Saint Lucia. This pandemic is unprecedented and multidimensional in nature. Firstly, it is both a public health and an economic crisis that are both unfolding simultaneously. At the same time, its reach is both global and local in nature, with significant uncertainty regarding the availability of a vaccine and how the global economic system will be transformed once the dust settles. The death toll at the time of writing was estimated at above 500,000 with a staggering 12.1 million infections across a total of 213 countries.

The Government, recognizing the existential threat of COVID-19 to our small population, has adopted a triaged approach to responding to the virus, beginning first and foremost with the Public Health Response Plan. In our bid to protect the life of every single Saint Lucian, which is and continues to remain our number one priority, the Government took swift and decisive action to minimize the likelihood of an outbreak and reduce transmission of the virus in our communities by expeditiously implementing border closures, instituting social distancing protocols and curtailing domestic activity. Thankfully, by all accounts, these measures have paid off and Saint Lucia has recorded no COVID-19 related mortalities and a low incidence of confirmed cases.

However, while Saint Lucia and the Caribbean region have been lauded for their stellar response to the public health crisis brought about by COVID-19, the region is facing the specter of a severe economic downturn, particularly for tourism-dependent countries like Saint Lucia. Prior to the onset of COVID-19, Saint Lucia was poised to record robust economic growth in the region of 3.5 percent in 2020 according to the International Monetary Fund. As a result of COVID-19, this favorable projection is now significantly reversed, with the economy estimated to contract in the range of 8 to 18 percent.

 

The immediate economic fallout of COVID-19 on Saint Lucia has manifested most noticeably in the complete halting of the tourism industry due to severe outbreaks in Saint Lucia’s main trading partners such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

 

This has subsequently resulted in substantial layoffs and furloughing of employees from the sector as well as other sectors of our economy, which caused anxiety and concern to Saint Lucians. To provide relief to households and businesses, the Government triggered phase two of its response by launching the Social Stabilization Plan. This plan aims to provide social and financial support to both individuals and entities directly impacted by COVID-19.

The Government of Saint Lucia is now transitioning into phase three of its COVID-19 response strategy, which is geared towards stemming the hemorrhaging of our economy and livelihoods of ordinary Saint Lucians. The Economic Recovery and Resilience Plan, is the collective effort of a multi-stakeholder committee, comprising of private and public sectors and civil society, who responded to the call to assist our country in a time when our mutual creativity was most needed. This Plan, which forms the backbone of Saint Lucia’s economic response to COVID-19 focuses on safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of every Saint Lucian. The Plan is anchored on six response strategies: three recoveries and three resilience strategies.

Budgeted at an estimated cost of $548 Million, the Economic Recovery and Resilience Plan represents the bold and unwavering commitment of the Government of Saint Lucia to spare no effort in ensuring that we safeguard the development gains that we have made over the past four decades since post-independence. It is a comprehensive multipronged response Plan that seeks to leave no one or sector behind.

 

The Plan will focus on stimulating Saint Lucia’s economy to ensure livelihoods are protected as well as supporting the business sector. This will be done through a menu of response interventions geared at providing liquidity support to both individuals and businesses. Cognizant of the need to jumpstart the economy, the Government will fast-track an ambitious portfolio of shovel ready capital investment projects which will generate employment and provide incomes to households.

 

This pandemic has amplified the sheer extent of vulnerabilities that the ordinary Saint Lucian household confronts. The Plan will expand on the number of households currently on Saint Lucia’s Public Assistance Programme. COVID-19 has shown us that the resilience of the private and productive sectors must be a top priority of strategic importance. As such, deliberate focus will be placed on accelerating ongoing public digitization efforts and providing support to the private sector in adopting new technologies.

 

The Public Health System will be strengthened to respond efficiently and effectively to future health crises such as the COVID-19. This will be achieved by improving primary health care as well as establishing protocols for telemedicine. Finally, the Plan will focus on disaster risk mitigation and climate change in Saint Lucia. Although largely over shrouded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Caribbean region is now in the 2020 hurricane season, one which is projected to be unusually active. The Plan will seek to redouble resilience building efforts by employing disaster preparedness initiatives.

In closing, let me reassure every Saint Lucian of the Government’s concern about the personal impact of COVID-19 on our citizens. However, while this pandemic is the greatest challenge we are facing as a people, the task before us is not insurmountable and can be achieved if we unite. This is a defining moment for our country and the rest of the world. However, we will emerge out of this crises, a better and stronger Saint Lucia.