Caribbean is focused on increasing amount of national resources and develop new and dynamic partnerships

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil Dougas (Photo by Erasmus Williams)

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, OCTOBER 27TH 2011 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has told world business leaders that the twin-island Federation like some Caribbean nations, have focused increasing amount of national resources and have continued to develop new and dynamic partnerships in order to reinforce and improve the skill-sets and installed capacity of their peoples.

Delivering the keynote address at the forum ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Pert, Australia, the St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister pointed out that the investment by Caribbean governments in one-to-one laptop computer programmes for each student in high schools, will result in every individual being computer literate when entering the workforce in the next decade and beyond.

“The Eastern Caribbean, in particular the OECS countries, due to our small population size and high standards in relation to pay and work conditions, which in part reflects the quality and relatively high level education of our workers, tend to attract high-end manufacturing. For instance, St. Kitts and Nevis is the highest net exporter in the OECS Caribbean of electronic sensors and light dimmers to the United States market,” pointed out Prime Minister Douglas.

He said it was no secret that small economies have in the past relied on the unique appeal of generous tax breaks and other fiscal incentives to attract foreign direct investment.

And although some of these have had to be reduced or eliminated altogether, in St. Kitts and Nevis for example there remains on our law book the Fiscal Incentives Act, which provides for corporate tax holidays and duty free import concessions on items necessary for the production of goods, for up to 10 – 15 years with negotiation of a renewable contract,” he told over 1200 business leaders.

He further pointed out that in the development of the International Financial Services sector, St. Kitts and Nevis has negotiated with several countries Double Taxation Treaties, Tax Information Exchange Agreements, which resulted in the jurisdiction meet the international standards for supervision and regulation of the sector.

Prime Minister Douglas also pointed out that the Hotels Aid Act provides for duty free concessions as well as tax-free concessions for specified periods for persons wishing to develop resorts and hotels on the island.

“The scope of the concessions provided under these pieces of legislation tend to increase based on the size of the project proposed. In recent times however, the call for regional integration has brought into question the issue of consistency across the Caribbean region as it pertains to treatment of investment incentives and also the treatment of investors from within the region and outside of the CARICOM region,” said Dr. Douglas.

He noted that the existence of a common tax regime in many Caribbean Countries has led to a reduction in many of the investment incentives investors would receive upon starting a business in the region; “we have recognized that we must do more to maintain our competitiveness and offer investors an opportunity to compete.” “To this end, throughout the region, we have been investing heavily in modern information technology infrastructure to ensure that investors have the necessary framework in which to conduct their business in real time and at reduced cost. In addition to this, because we are a 15 member community, bound together by treaty, we have free movement of skilled and professional labor throughout the community as well as free movement of goods and services without attracting additional import and export taxes. Also, this community is located just a few hours from the United States market which is the largest consumer market in this part of the world,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

He said several of countries generally, and St. Kitts and Nevis in particular, have focused increasing amount of national resources and have continued to develop new and dynamic partnerships in order to reinforce and improve the skill-sets and installed capacity of the people.

“We want to ensure that new and existing investors have the trained human resource base which allows their companies to continue to compete and to grow. As a result of this new thrust and the need for ongoing training and making sure that our young people have the relevant modern 21st century life-skills, our very small country now houses a state of the art Information Technology Centre to train people of all ages to ensure that they are equipped to take up employment in any sector,” Dr. Douglas told business leaders.

He also pointed out that in recent years, St. Kitts and Nevis has been able to attract Call Centers, Data Entry Service and Data Processing type businesses.

“What this says to us is that small countries have to stay a few steps ahead in the development curve, building on strategic partnerships to take advantage of technology which in turn helps to level the playing field for all. But let me also say that whilst we are doing all that is necessary to create the appropriate enabling environment for investors, I would like to urge the investor to understand that working together to secure a genuine partnership with governments redounds to our mutual benefit.”

“It should therefore not be regarded necessarily as something to fear or that is inimical to the bottom line. It is not mutually exclusive. We can reconcile national expectations with profit margins. We must be able to see our efforts in common as a prerequisite for growth and not an obstacle to joint development. We can work in partnership and get what we each want. I believe strongly in this, and I want to assure any investor who is genuinely interested in St. Kitts and Nevis, and in other Caribbean countries that they will have a genuine partner in my government and other Caribbean governments.”

Prime Minister Douglas referring to the current global financial crisis, the effects of natural disasters such as hurricanes and the increased mobility of business particularly in the manufacturing sector to the East, has led to a considerable slowdown in growth in economies. “Our governments are therefore trying to become more creative in the way we negotiate with potential investors in seeking to entice them to make the final decision to invest within our shores, but at the same time encouraging them to become genuine partners,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

“We are also seeking to become more sophisticated in dealing with our future partners whether in (1) how we deal with and the negotiate the terms of investment agreements with foreign and local investors; and (2) measures employed to monitor the progress and the needs of these investors in order to ensure that the full benefits of investments in our small countries are realized,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis leader, who added that it is for this reason that the St. Kitts Investment Promotion Agency (SKIPA) and the Nevis Investment Promotion Agency (NIPA) were established.

“These agencies are specifically mandated to promote our countries as viable investment locations, to facilitate the establishment of new businesses and investments and also to monitor the progress and implementation of these investments,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

He said many other Caribbean countries have also established their own Investment Promotion Agencies in order to deal exclusively with the issue of attracting and monitoring investment in their countries.

A regional organization called the Caribbean Investment Promotion Agency has also been developed to allow personnel from the various investment agencies in the Caribbean Region to exchange ideas and expertise, as well as to share best practices with each other to attract and maintain foreign investment.

“The Caribbean is open for business, come experience it for yourself. You will find creative, hardworking, efficient and bright people who are as committed as you are to the growth and success of your businesses, and growth and success of your country and our countries in the region,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

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