St. Lucia Economy Poised to Grow

STAR PUBLISHING (September 22, 2008) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says although economic activity was “flat” in St Lucia in 2007, growth is likely to accelerate over the next two years. The IMF says agriculture, the tourism sector and related support activities would spurthe economic growth in 2008 and 2009.

The Washington-based financial institution noted, however, that while medium-term growth prospects were favourable, risks were “tilted to the downside given the uncertainties in the external environment, in particular with regardto the effect of energy price increases on tourist arrivals.” It said it had considered that the reforms envisaged by the authorities, aimed at strengthening the tourism infrastructure, improving the investment climate, and diversifying exports, would broaden the bases of economic growth and reduce exposure to external shocks.

The IMF said it welcomed the recent improvement in fiscal performance and stressed the need to maintain a primary surplus to ensure debt sustainability, and to help dampen inflationary pressures. The financial institution has called for a broadening of the tax base, along with stepped up preparations for the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT), and has urged the Stephenson King administration to follow through on commitments to introduce a “more flexible retail fuel pricing mechanism to achieve greater pass-through of world oil price increases, as well as market valuation-based property taxation.”

The IMF said achieving fiscal and debt sustainability would also require greater prioritisation of capital spending, limiting the civil service wage bill, and enhancing debt management, noting that the acceleration in inflation appeared to be due largely to the high prices of imported food and fuel and the ongoing depreciation of the US dollar.

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