Economic diversification could be challenging yet rewarding for jobs in St. Lucia
CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA — Economic diversification and expanded training programmes could very well be the key to generating more jobs in St. Lucia, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
However, the challenge lies in getting there, as the kind of economic diversification that has been successful in other Caribbean nations could prove unattainable for St. Lucia’s economy.
In its most recent country report on the island nation, the IMF noted the severe toll the COVID-19 pandemic had on St. Lucia’s economy.
It emphasized the resulting increase in unemployment levels, honing in on what St. Lucia’s government could do to address this and also make employment more resilient against external shocks.
“Resolute containment measures in 2020 — border closure, country-wide lockdown — successfully prevented community spread, but the collapse of international travel took a severe toll on economic activity,” noted the IMF.
As such, its records reflect that unemployment rose from 16.8 percent before the pandemic to as high as 21.7 percent during.
Underscoring the need for something to be done to address this, the IMF added, “Recovery remains incomplete mainly due to the only partial return of tourism in 2021.”
Diversify for more jobs
To this end, the IMF said, “Increasing diversification into sectors with potential for export and link to tourism, including business process outsourcing (BPO), agro-processing and health and wellness industries, would add value…and boost productivity growth.”
Additionally, it noted, “Lowering of unemployment could be achieved with the expansion of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes to reduce labour skill mismatches, enhance opportunities for self-employment and improve labour productivity.”
However, the IMF also acknowledged the uphill battle the newly elected government of St. Lucia has in store to achieve these goals.
“The [St. Lucian] authorities noted that economic diversification in a small island state is challenging, but it could increase employment and value added if appropriately targeted,” the global group said.
“Their development agenda, with a strong emphasis on human development, includes programmes to stimulate entrepreneurship and private employment with training for business development, including in vocational activities.”
Giving credit where it's due, the IMF acknowledged the St. Lucian government’s intention to “increase diversification” into the same sectors it recommended, as well as financial services.
Further, the organization spoke to the tremendous potential for job growth that could come about as a result.
“Expansion of business process outsourcing, including call centers, will remain a growing sector and will provide additional employment opportunities,” the IMF said.
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International Monetary Fund Country Report, St. Lucia