Address by Honourable Stephenson King, at the Workshop for the Establishment of an NCPC

The means by which international competitiveness can be achieved, occupies the minds of policy makers everywhere, in both the public and private sectors.  

The vagaries of the world economy, particularly the extent of recent economic and financial crises, have brought the issue to the fore, whether or not countries are labeled "developed" or "developing".  The rise of previously dormant emerging economies in recent years, is yet another factor underlying the urgent necessity for action to improve the competitiveness of sluggish and ailing economies. 


Here in Saint Lucia, we recognize that higher productivity is critical to becoming more competitive.  Productivity helps generate greater competitiveness which in turn generates positive feedback effects on the productivity of economic agents.  They are mutually supportive in a kind of virtuous circle, and ultimately provide an additional impetus to per capita income, living standards, growth and a more favourable environment for social progress.


Your presence here is indicative of your recognition that competitiveness and productivity are of crucial importance to our success, as we step boldly into a post-recession future.  We cannot continue in the old ways, rife with inefficiency and replete with attitudes and behavior which retard social and economic progress.  I am convinced that a significant rise in productivity can account for a considerable addition to the rate of economic growth in Saint Lucia.  We must become more productive and competitive or be condemned to languish in the doldrums of mediocrity.

Even a cursory examination of the Global Competitiveness Report for 2011 to 2012 produced by the World Economic Forum, points to the importance with which competitiveness is viewed by the international community.  The common theme of competitiveness runs through the report and it is clear that countries are evaluated against the degree of competitiveness demonstrated by their particular mix of economic and social factors.

I will give you a few examples. 

The Top 10

As in previous years, this year's top 10 remain dominated by a number of European countries, with Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands confirming their place among the most competitive economies.  Singapore continues its upward trend to become the second most competitive economy in the world, overtaking Sweden, while the United Kingdom returns to the top 10 as it recovers from the crisis.

Switzerland retains its 1st place, characterized by an excellent capacity for innovation and a sophisticated business culture,

The United States continues the decline that began last year, falling two more places to 4th position. While many structural features make its economy productive, a number of escalating weaknesses have lowered the US ranking over the past two years.

China, up two positions to 27th place, has reinforced its position within the top 30.  It is the only BRIC country to improve in the rankings this year, thereby increasing the gap with the other three. China's performance remains stable in most areas compared to last year, with its main strengths being its large and growing market size, macroeconomic stability, and relatively sophisticated and innovative businesses.

Latin America and the Caribbean: The economic outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean shows a relatively positive picture for the coming years, notwithstanding some uncertainty linked to a possible slowdown in Europe and the United States, both important trading partners.  In order to keep up the momentum, Latin America and the Caribbean will need to address some of the persistent challenges that constrain their competitiveness. While the region is vast and heterogeneous as a whole, four key challenges that affect each country differently can be highlighted: (1) weak institutions with high costs associated with a lack of physical security; (2) poor development of infrastructure; (3) an inefficient allocation of production and human resources and increasingly, (4) a lag in innovation vis-à-vis more developed and emerging economies.   Addressing these challenges in the next decade will be crucial to ensuring the economic and social progress of the region.

Countries were evaluated in twelve inter-related areas:

  1. Institutions
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Macroeconomic environment
  4. Health and Primary education
  5. Higher Education and Training
  6. Goods Market efficiency
  7. Labour Market efficiency
  8. Financial market Development
  9. Technological readiness
  10. Market size
  11. Business sophistication
  12. Innovation

It is clear that the task of increasing productivity and competitiveness in Saint Lucia requires a multi-faceted approach and the involvement of the entire population.

Saint Lucians will have to grapple with a matrix of complex issues, but the following general points are of particular importance:

  • Saint Lucia as a small island developing state will have to navigate a fast changing and sometimes hostile economic environment;
  • Government intervention will have to be increasingly undertaken in a fiscally constrained environment;
  • There will be significant barriers to be overcome by the private sector when competing in domestic, regional and international markets;
  • We will continue to face eroding preferential trade arrangements, dwindling aid, increased competition for foreign direct investment and donor fatigue;
  • The dire need to formalise dialogue with relevant stakeholders means we will have to become increasingly creative, innovative and dynamic in our productive relations and in forging partnerships at home and abroad.

Saint Lucia's economy grew by 4.4 percent in 2010 compared with a contraction of 1.3 percent in 2009. This growth was driven by the construction and tourism sectors supported by the distributive trades and the real estate sector.

However, we must not become complacent. The global recovery commenced during the final months of 2010 and continued into 2011 and it is believed by some economists that country-specific rather than worldwide recessionary factors relating to productivity and investment in key economic sectors, are now the dominant factors supporting growth.

It is within the above context, therefore, that Government gave serious consideration to the establishment of a National Competitiveness and Productivity Council (NCPC).  This is consistent with Government's economic and social programme in recent years, as well as its medium to long term strategy.

Government, in its quest to promote private sector development and national competitiveness, requested support from the Compete Caribbean programme to develop and implement a project to formalize public-private dialogue through the establishment of an NCPC. Your presence here today to assist in shaping the design of the project is a manifestation of the favourable consideration which has been given to this project.

The concept of the NCPC was first launched in August 2010, at a multipartite symposium.  It was then agreed that productivity, international competitiveness and improved quality of life can best be achieved by consensus and broad participation.

We look forward expectantly to the establishment of the NCPC and are confident that it will provide a vital platform for meaningful stakeholder dialogue and that it would set the stage for increased economic growth.

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The NCPC is being conceptualised as a tripartite body with a national mandate.  Its members are to be drawn from government, the private sector and the trade unions.

The NCPC is to be developed and maintained as a "people-oriented organization", and will be structured to include individuals with diverse backgrounds and cross-functional expertise.  Inter-sectoral cooperation is to be fostered.  This would no doubt contribute to the development of a multidisciplinary approach to the complex issues of productivity and competitiveness.

If Saint Lucia is not to be submerged by the many challenges which globalization presents, the core objective at the national level must be the development of a productivity culture.  Productivity at the individual and enterprise level has to be combined with an enabling environment to foster industry and country competitiveness.  This enabling environment needs to be engineered by making Saint Lucians work together.  All Saint Lucians must, therefore, pay heed to this clarion call and strive for a concerted and coordinated national integrated strategy.

The enabling environment referred to earlier must be shaped by sound macroeconomic policies, a stable political environment, realistic and workable governing legislation and well equipped and functioning legal and regulatory institutions.

The creation of opportunities for structured and managed collaboration on the one hand, and spontaneous interaction on the other, is mandatory if this initiative is to be successful. However, this will be effective only if trust and shared values which nurture collective action aligned with a common and shared vision, exist.  To create this trust, we will have to develop a culture of collaboration at all levels, that is, the individual, the organizational, the sectoral and the national.

It is heartening to note the wide range of representation here today.  I am confident that your presence is an indication of your commitment, dedication and future level of participation in this initiative and consequently that the longevity and anticipated positive impact of Saint Lucia's National Competitiveness and Productivity Council, is assured.

It is with much anticipation, therefore, that we look forward to the establishment of Saint Lucia's National Competitiveness and Productivity Council.  I wish you success and fruitful deliberations today as you formulate a project that will redound to the benefit of our people and country.  Let us allow this initiative to not only cement the bonding among "like-minded" people, but to also build the bridges with those who think differently.

I thank you.