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A duty-free zone may do wonders for SVG

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Editor: Oh, how I wish the elections talk will go away, but then again the general elections were the most important event on our calendar for 2005.

Bearing in mind the implications of the elections on our future then I must express my little piece on the matter. Of course I am influenced by the opinion of those who frequent the “mauby shop”. And what is very important to forward-looking patriots is to find something positive that came out of this election.{{more}}

I took a look at the Manifestos of the three political parties with a view of commenting on some of the creative solutions especially those offered to the general public as we were enticed to offer our support to them.

The Green Party offered an interesting proposition in relation to Agriculture – Hemp. Even though it was not said, I suspect the Green Party wants us to capitalize on competency we have already in the illegal production of marijuana. The proposal is brave and comes from outside the mainstream which I think is where our economic solutions lie. We may recall recently the former government Minister and now Senior Magistrate Carlyle Dougan was chastised as far away as Barbados for his suggestion that perhaps we should look at decriminalizing cannibis. This project will be a hard sell but we have to look for solutions that suit our purpose. Why not look at hemp/marijuana production as serious cash crop alternatives.

The most ground-breaking suggestion made by the Green Party is the suggestion of a duty-free zone for Chinese products and to supply other Caribbean countries. Though I would not restrict my focus to Chinese products, I think a duty-free Port might do wonders for SVG.

The idea of a duty-free zone is good for a number of reasons:

1. A major duty-free facility for the southern Caribbean should direct a significant amount of traffic to our beleaguered economy. Perhaps we need to challenge the political directorate to examine the feasibility of giving up import duties for higher taxes on profits in a tax-free regime?

2. In the absence of a well developed tourist product then perhaps we can offer SVG as the shopping experience of the southern Caribbean and challenge ourselves to become No.1 in five years.

3. As more multi-nationals move into the Caribbean, storage and re-distribution is becoming a major requirement in the region. At present, Puerto Rico and Miami now dominate in this area. This happens for one major reason: both of these holding Ports put your goods closer to market but still in the US – tax-free until it moves to its final destination. SVG can offer cheaper storage and management than Miami and Puerto Rico. I do not think that it is impossible for SVG to develop a first class logistic service in the southern Caribbean. A duty-free zone can facilitate this.

4. We have already seen that the distributive trade is a major area developed by our local businessmen over the years. This idea will work well with their investment philosophy. They will have to be prepared to give to the state what is due to the state if such a strategy is to work effectively.

The New Democratic Party’s economic plan presented a very creative proposal in the area of entertainment. I was left a bit confused when it was not dealt with in the manifesto – be that as it may, it is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that we need to bring our economy to first world standards.

Kevin Lyttle, Becket and now ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ II and III have shown us the way. Let’s put our house in order and catch the bus while it is still on our route. Let’s formulate a strategy. We need to understand what the needs of the movie directors and their studios and advertising agencies are and aggressively go after that business. As a positive spin-off it does not hurt when all is done for us to lay the claim: “That movie, that ad was shot in SVG.”

While I am at it, let me make a plea for more support for the arts. The nature of our development, and the present state of our economy will not allow the individual to commit the necessary resources to move the sector forward.

It was generally agreed that the ruling party had the advantage of being able to implement most of their manifesto. However, most of us in the “mauby shop” strongly believed that Education is perhaps the lynch-pin to our future economic development.

Marlon Stevenson

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