2012/2013 BUDGET DEBATE - Hon. Lorne D.C. Theophilus
Hon. Lorne D. C. Theophilus, Minister for Tourism, Heritage and the Creative Industries and Member for Choiseul/Saltibus
“Mr. Speaker, I have often wondered whether the now Leader of the Opposition, when he sat as Prime Minister of this country, knew or even understood what he was doing, or what he would confidently read to the people of this country. The reason why I ask this question is because if he did not know, then it means he was duped by someone, or some group of persons, and if that is true then he is under a duty to disclose who these imposters posing as advisors to the Prime Minister are. But then, if of the other hand, the member for Castries North was neither duped nor misled, then it presents this nation with a picture of something more sinister for their consideration.”
FALSE PRONOUNCEMENTS BY THE FORMER ADMINISTRATION
1. GROWTH RATE
“I recall listening to that very budget presentation [2011/2012] and heard the public declaration of 4.4% economic growth. I was so shocked by this revelation which I could only assume to be factual, because this is an Honourable House, that I could only conclude that Saint Lucia was blessed and under the protection of the Almighty…but to my absolute horror, this declaration, just like a few others made by the same honourable member, was a flagrant breach of the ninth commandment of our Lord and Saviour.”
“Mr. Speaker there ought to be some form of legal sanction applicable to this abhorrent behavior and overt act of deception.”
“Another glaring example of the deception that is practiced by the less honest amongst us in this House, is the hue and cry of the now opposition on the topic of VAT…I am almost tempted to ask you to give a Lucas Direction prior to the presentations on some members of this House.
“A worthwhile piece of advice is, if you don’t know what you are talking about, shhhh. If you doubt the accuracy of what your speech writers, or those you are too afraid to challenge, because maybe its “your job you protecting” tell you to say, shhhhh. Or better yet if you wish to save yourself from the public embarrassment and ridicule that public records can put you through, then for God’s sake, shhhh.”
EXAMPLES OF WASTAGE UNDER THE PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION
1. The pages of time as adequately reflected in the minutes of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, show that contrary to the advice of the board, the minister entered into a revenue guarantee with American Airlines, which in less than one year of its existence, plummeted this nation into a debt of $7,259,747.00
2. The services of MR. Hepple cost this nation over $900,000.00 in salary alone, in two years.
3. Boxing in Paradise came at a price tag of $3,470,013.00
4. Food and Rum Festival cost $672,715.00
5. Caribbean Marketplace cost tax payers $7,510,409.00
6. FCCA, another conference cost $3,564,127.00
7. The highest cost of hosting the Jazz Festival was under the former Minister for Tourism’s watch-$7,969,454.00.
8. The decision to rebrand Saint Lucia and mover away from the tag line: Simply Beautiful to Live the Legend cost us $300,000.00USD.
“Fasten your seatbelts, because all in all, a partial tabulation of the moneys squandered by my predecessor between the years 2008 to 2011 is $51,477,617.00”
2011 PEFORMANCE OF THE TOURISM SECTOR
• Total visitor arrivals declined by 3.9%
• Stay over arrivals declined by 0.4%
• Cruise arrivals dropped by 6%
• Total visitor expenditure declined by 7.4%
BUILDING AIRLIFT CAPACITY
During this financial year, efforts will be placed on expanding airlift from existing gateways as well as exploring new and emerging ones such as Panama and Brazil among others.
CANADIAN MARKET: has displayed steady growth over the past three years. Canada has seemingly weathered the global financial and economic crisis better than most other developed countries; therefore a new approach is being taken with respect to this market.
FRENCH MARKET: while small for the time being in total number, this market has also shown growth. By ensuring that Saint Lucia has a dedicated presence in this market and by facilitating airlift to Saint Lucia via Martinique, Saint Lucia has begun to reap the benefits of this strategy, which is reflected in the increase in arrivals by over 20% last year and 14% so far this year.
UNITED STATES MARKET: Arrivals will be greatly enhanced by daily flights out of JFK this year and the increases in airlift that we are currently pursuing out of the north eastern corridor of the United States. Whilst pursuing all of this we remain steadfat in our support of airlines and initiatives, aimed at reducing the cost of regional travel, as the Caribbean is our island’s third major source market.
ENHANCING OUR PRODUCT
• Suspension of ADT pending review of the project
• Commissioning of consultancy associated with the development of the road network which is aimed at narrowing the time window between Castries and Vieux-Fort, to the pleasure and benefit of all tourist arrivals and our people as a whole.
• Focus will be placed on the fact that our destination is unique in history, culture, creative talent and natural beauty.
• Strengthening the linkage between tourism and the rest of the economy, to areas where the direct impact of tourism may have been neither felt no experience. An initiative called VILLAGE TOURISM will widen the expanse of tourism benefits to the rural communities.
• Modernize the legislative framework which governs the sector so as to strengthen its regulatory elements, whilst simultaneously ensuring that the licensing regimes develop. This will police the adherence of participants in the sector to provide the services that they are license and approved to perform.
• Development of a yacht registry which should very soon yield the first registration of a yacht in Saint Lucia.
BENEFITS TO PARTNERS AND STAKEHOLDERS
• Amendments to the Tourism Incentives Act will enable incentives to begin anew. This will bring tremendous ease to hoteliers.
• Amnesty on penalties and interest on outstanding HAT owed to the Government of Saint Lucia
• Reduced implementation figure for VAT of 8% for the Sector
• A new department will be established commencing with an initial staff complement of two-director and creative officer, to guide and coordinate the development of this sector.
• During this financial year, it is expected that a full work programme for the sector will be developed, after consultation with stakeholders.
• Provide a framework for the granting of the fiscal and other incentives which will stimulate this sector. This would include legislative as well as regulatory statements.