Prime Minister Allen Chastanet says Saint Lucia has suffered massive unemployment due to the closure of the tourism sector amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
He made the disclosure in an opening statement to a press briefing Wednesday on the IMF-World Bank annual meeting.
Chastanet’s portfolios include Finance and Job Creation.
He explained that the situation necessitated social and economic relief measures aimed at providing support to the poor and vulnerable, and those directly impacted as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
The PM noted that growth in the Caribbean region and Saint Lucia has been relatively tepid, and traditionally has relied on construction activity and tourism related developments.
He revealed that prior to COVID-19, Saint Lucia recorded real growth of 1.7 % in 2019, with expectations of 3.0 to 4.0 % for 2020.
“Saint Lucia also experienced a decline in unemployment during the period 2017 to 2019, which was driven by developments in the tourism and construction industry,” Chastanet stated.
He told reporters that while the decline observed in Saint Lucia’s unemployment was welcomed, estimates suggest that unemployment, as at early June 2020 went back up to 21.0%, primarily due to the effects of COVID-19.
However the PM said that despite the effects of the pandemic, the Saint Lucia Government has embarked upon a multiplicity of policy responses to help mitigate the effects of the crisis, and bring relief to the most vulnerable groups.
Among the measures he mentioned was the Social Stabilization Programme, which was announced on 8th April 2020.
Chastanet explained that the programme allowed for the provision of income support, tax relief, and other social support measures which catered to individuals, households and businesses most impacted by the pandemic.
He asserted that in light of the current situation facing the region, Saint Lucia and the Caribbean countries have put forward key recommendations.
Among them was the need for a forum to look into the crowding out effect on growth and deterioration of their fiscal positions which comes from the constant need to replenish capital stock due to disasters, as well as revisiting the calculation of the debt to GDP metric.