St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber reviews key economic indicators

Harowe Servo, Sandy Point, St. Kitts product

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JUNE 21ST 2012 (CUOPM) – The St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce has been reviewing the key economic indicators over the last year.

Chamber President, Mr. David Lake speaking at the 30th Annual Private Sector Gala said the key economic drivers – tourism, construction, manufacturing and non-sugar agriculture are showing some signs of revitalization but are far from being self-sufficient.

He said despite the protracted unfavorable global economic climate and a fledgling US economy, the tourism sector has remained resilient.

“Stay-over visitors to our shores increased by 5.1% for the period January to September 2011 over the corresponding period in 2010. In fact stay-over visitors from the United States increased by 12.4 percent , which is an encouraging sign since many Americans have been affected by job losses, devalued assets and depleted savings,” Mr. Lake said.

He said the re-opening of the Four Seasons Resort in Nevis partly explains the increase in these stay-overs.

“In addition, our local economy has benefited from the direct and indirect activities of a vibrant offshore education sector. Notwithstanding the foregone, I must tell you that the outlook for 2012 is not promising,” he said.

“Ongoing construction projects such as Christophe Harbour, Ocean’s Edge, and Silver Reef are struggling to find investment capital to sustain their activities and sales of their residential units have been floundering. The viability of local hotels particularly the smaller indigenous ones has been severely challenged as a result of increases in their operating costs,” said Mr. Lake.

“We are aware of the enabling efforts of Government to improve hotel occupancy and wish to commend the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport for their continued pursuit of airlift into the Federation,” said the Chamber president.

Homes at Newton Ground, St. Kitts

Mr. Lake is of the view that to sustain growth in stay-over visitors, there must be a constant search for new markets, suggesting that the fast growing BRIC nations are potentially lucrative targets.

He said cruise tourism performed remarkably well for the first nine months of 2011 with 236 cruise ship calls during this period compared to 172 in the prior year.

“This improved performance resulted in a 12.6% increase in cruise ship passengers and a further direct injection into the economy of an additional EC$3.6 million versus the corresponding period of the prior year. Income generated from cruise tourism may not be as great as that from the stay over segment but it is the life blood of many business entities and persons in the Federation including tour operators, taxi operators, duty-free shops, and handicraft makers,” said Mr. Lake.

“So with so much at stake the Chamber fully supports the local cruise industry stakeholders, but these stakeholders must understand that tourism would only succeed if sound strategies are put in place to promote sustainability. In addition to our warm climate and equally warm people, our destination is blessed with an attribute that many wish they had and that is heritage,” said Mr. Lake, pointing out that the Nelson’s Museum, the Old Cottle Church (Nevis), and The UNESCO World Heritage Brimstone Hill Fortress (St. Kitts) cannot be duplicated. Heritage, this is our true competitive advantage yet it remains largely un-promoted,” the Chamber President suggested.

Mr. Lake pointed out that the manufacturing sector continues to play a vital role in the context of its contribution to the local economy.

“In spite of the constant competitive pressure from South America and Asia, high energy costs, and the impact of the global economic crisis on consumer demand, it is still the livelihood of over 2,000 persons in our Federation,” said the Chamber official.

“Cognizant of the fact that new port tariffs could make the exports of the indigenous manufacturers uncompetitive, we are hopeful that discussions which are currently under way with the Port Authority would result in an amenable outcome,” Mr. Lake told business leaders and invited guests.

Cruise ships at Port Zante

In the manufacturing division, he said matters affecting manufacturers whether large, small or medium are brought to the manufacturing council for discussion and further action.

He commended the outreach work being undertaken by the manufacturing awareness week subcommittee which has been deeply involved in getting an understanding of the special needs of small manufacturers and in particular those of the cottage industry.

Mr. Lake said there are over 25 businesses in the manufacturing sub-sector which would enable the manufacturing council to make timely interventions to ensure that these micro businesses get the critical support that they need.

“The Chamber has always been supportive of the development of small businesses and continues to welcome them within our fold. Ours is a long held view that the strength of the Chamber is determined not by the size of individual businesses but by the collective force that we could generate as a unified body. It is the active collaborative participation of our members in advocacy and support for each other that produces the multiplier effect,” said the Chamber official.

He noted that construction activity has been in decline for many years since the completion of several commercial projects and the slowdown in Government’s housing construction programme.

“Local businesses engaged in the provision of building materials and services have seen declines in their revenues which have resulted in re-organization of their work forces. Construction workers have had to seek employment in other sectors to compensate for lost income due to unavailability of construction work,” said Mr. Lake.

He expressed the Chamber’s pleasure to Prime Minister Douglas for his Government’s understanding of the dire need for stimulating activity in the construction sector by introducing a tax incentive programme for private home building projects.

“However we believe that given a more meaningful partnership between the private and public sectors, addressing issues of financing and the supply of building materials, could further enhance this measure and create even more employment opportunities and economic activity for the Federation. Honourable Prime Minister, this initiative is working! And the Chamber would like to see it extended beyond the expiry date of December 31, 2012,” said the Chamber President.

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