The Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Information Technology has expressed high hopes for a successful outcome of Invest SVG’s ongoing capacity building and institutional strengthening project – which is being funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Speaking during a recently held virtual media launch, Hon. Camillo Gonsalves described the consultancy as “a very important demonstration of support by the Caribbean Development Bank at a particularly difficult time regionally”.
“In this difficult period of time, we have to think about ways in which growth can be maximized and ways in which we can attract the type of investments that will create high quality jobs and accelerate development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” explained Gonsalves.
This consultancy – titled ‘Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building Support for Invest SVG’ – has two objectives. These include the delivery of a five-year strategic and implementation plan; and developing and delivering training workshops to build the capacity of staff members.
In particular, the staff training workshops will focus on export development (a relatively new element of the agency’s operations), reacquainting all staff with currently-utilised investment promotion strategies (especially in the areas of investor targeting and lead generation), and learning new investment promotion techniques.
Gonsalves further highlighted that, with preliminary information suggesting that the OECS economies have collectively contracted by 15 per cent and UNCTAD estimating that the region is not likely to return to old levels of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) until 2023, our recovery requires a “robust and active investment promotions agency”.
Gonsalves lauded the investment agency for adding value to the Government’s pursuit of FDI and pointed out that Invest SVG has been “leading the way” in enhancing its own institutional and strategic strengthening.
“As the investment climate begins to improve, those investment entities that are best prepared to court and be advocates for their respective countries, they are going to be ones who lead the recovery,” added the Finance Minister.
“The distinguishing factor between and among countries in the pursuit of investment is going to be the quality of service that they offer to respective investors. That demands a strategic analysis of where we are and where we want to be – not only through the near term, but also going forward.”
Daniel Best, CDB Director of Projects, also delivered remarks at the virtual launch, noting that the COVID-19 global pandemic has not only severely impacted investment but also trade and employment – which is “especially troubling” given the importance of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to Caribbean economies.
“This project aims to bring about an overall increase in Foreign Direct Investment inflows and an improvement in the trade balance of St. Vincent and the Grenadines due to the increased competitiveness of exporting firms in the country,” said Best.
“In this regard, the new strategic direction of Invest SVG will ensure enhanced capability to provide investment promotion and export development services in line with international good practice.”
Best further explained that the subsequent strategic plan that comes out of this project will improve the business support services and advocacy for MSMEs locally.
“The project will also increase Invest SVG’s capacity to tackle specific business climate reforms, outlined in the regional investment strategy – which are aimed at improving the country’s ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report.”
Additionally, he reiterated CDB’s regional commitment to supporting, financing and promoting initiatives that enhance competitiveness.
“The good people of our region deserve no less!”
In her remarks, Invest SVG Executive Director Annette Mark gave a brief overview of the agency’s function and mandates; noting that Invest SVG is “the single point of contact for all investors seeking to do business in St. Vincent and the Grenadines” and also includes export development activities “to complement” the aforementioned.
“To be truly competitive though… the need to have an effective development strategy, with investment promotion and export development at its centre, has become even more important,” said Mark.
“Invest SVG is now being presented with the challenge of charting a new strategic direction for the agency, as well as building the capacity of the staff to execute a new vision fit for the new global realities.
This new vision will position Invest SVG as a central institutional pillar in the state administration to promote and attract Foreign Direct Investment to the country, as well as develop and promote export competitiveness. To achieve this, we need to reinvent ourselves into a truly modern Trade and Investment Promotion Organization.”
She explained: “Our competitivenessgoing forward will be determined by the presence and implementation of efficient monitoring systems that are supported by a strong policy and legislative environment.”
To this end, Mark further elaborated: “IDB Compete Caribbean is facilitating a second consultancy for improving the business environment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, intended to further enhance investor confidence in doing business here.”
The main objectives of the second consultancy will be: the issuing of a Government supported Investment policy, the drafting ofthe legal framework to strengthen the purpose and activities of Invest SVG and the improved functioning of the Doing Business Reform Unit – which has already been established within the Ministry of Finance.
Chairman of the Board of Directors (Invest SVG) Anthony Regisford, in brief opening remarks, expressed his pleasure at seeing the current stage of this CDB-funded project, which began in January and is expected to be completed by May 2021.
Regisford noted: “As an investment agency, we are facing… different and challenging times. The maelstrom of [COVID-19] is a cause to pause and a cause to rethink how we adopt a strategy going forward… Whatever investment projects we encourage here have got to be sustainable.”
Describing Invest SVG as an “important entity” to investment and business within St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Chairman of the Board assured that the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will not last forever.
“It is as good a time as any for Invest SVG to plan for the period beyond that!”
[Invest SVG press release]