St Vincent wooing investors

THERE IS a wealth of investment opportunities in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), says a visiting contingent from that island.

Acting executive director of Invest SVG, Cleo Huggins, is leading a delegation of about ten members, representative of both the public and private sector, on a mission to make the rest of the Caribbean aware of exactly what St Vincent offers.

The officials spent two days in Barbados and will travel to Trinidad and Tobago today.

In a Press briefing at the Hilton Barbados, Needham's Point, St Michael, on Monday, Huggins said they wanted to promote their agro-processing, information technology, manufacturing, and financial sectors.

However, she acknowledged that the lack of an international airport was a major obstacle.

"One sore point for years is the difficulty in accessing St Vincent, but an international airport will hopefully be opened by 2012," she said.

In addition, Jacqui English of the SVG Tourism Authority said a ferry service was scheduled to come on stream in October.
Huggins continued: "When you look at regional industries, they are very similar, but SVG has a varied labour pool and a range of agricultural products, as well as opportunities in the clothing industry.

"We need to support each other in this crisis, and SVG is offering good opportunities. We remain committed to the ideals of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy," she said.

Business development officer Debalani Cruickshank of the SVG Chamber of Industry and Commerce said there were not enough Barbadian-owned businesses in St Vincent, but the ones there held significant market share.

"One of our biggest distributors and one of our largest retailers are Barbadian-owned. The numbers are small but they hold about 25 per cent of the market," she said, identifying businesses such as A.S. Brydens, Goddards, Frank B. Armstrong, Designer Decor and C.O. Williams.

As for how businesses were coping, given the global economic turmoil, Cruickshank said the cost of doing business had risen significantly but manufacturers have turned toward using indigenous materials and creating original products, as well as ordering in bulk to offset this.

Huggins added that the country also had the advantage of not being as heavily dependent on tourism as other Caribbean countries, although permanent secretary in the Ministry of Urban Development, Labour, Culture and Electoral Matters, Sandra Davis, said the service industry was the hardest hit by job losses. (CA).