Saint Lucia
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Baptiste Wants Greater Participation from Diaspora in Country’s Development

Foreign Affairs Minister Alva Baptiste
Foreign Affairs Minister Alva Baptiste

Foreign Affairs Minister Alva Baptiste has called for Saint Lucians living in the diaspora to embark on more investment enterprises in the country.

Baptiste said there is need for greater participation of overseas nationals in national development, especially in these crucial times, as the country transitions into another stage in its overall developmental thrust.

He noted that there are several Saint Lucian professionals abroad that can help boost the level of services and product delivery on the island.

Commenting on the recent CARICOM Heads of Government meeting held in Nassau, The Republic of the Bahamas, the minister said it was a “very good engagement” for the region’s leaders to chart a way forward for its people.

“It is always important for countries to interact with other countries, because it always creates an improved framework for people to dialogue and resolve problems,” Baptiste told reporters, on the sidelines of a Cabinet meeting, Monday.

He said the notion for establishing formal relations with foreign entities is to “create that improved framework for you to match your basic needs with greater possibilities.”

The minister stated there are times when these extended meetings may not yield large economic gains, but the objective is “to avoid a new policy from taking root that may reverse certain gains and so, you go and you negotiate …sometimes for lengthy periods and sometimes for many years to really bring some resolution to the many issues that impact negatively on the country.”

Speaking on the issue of relations with the diaspora, Alva noted that within the ruling St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) 2021 Manifesto, one of the five pillars of its foreign policy hinges on greater engagement with the diaspora.

“We have quite a number of talented Saint Lucian citizens living outside of the country and no doubt we want to create a pathway for them to invest more in Saint Lucia,” he said. “So, just as we have investment regimes for people from the outside …we should encourage Saint Lucians to actually come and participate in national development and nation building.”

The minister adds that importantly, at this juncture, apart from taking on the role of international trade and civil aviation the ministry of external affairs is also tasked with overseeing the issue of Diaspora Affairs.

Noting the significance of creating linkages between nationals abroad to participate in investment projects at home, Baptiste declared: “As a country, we need to create a pathway for them to contribute more meaningfully to nation building.”

For instance, he said, Saint Lucia boasts of several doctors and educators working overseas. And so, the minister added, “maybe it’s time for us to sit and decide on a way forward for education …whether we give them incentives to invest in tertiary institutions and for government to take the monies and probably invest it in tertiary institutions, physical plant, and support the most vulnerable (persons) in the society so that we can expand on education opportunities in the country.”

The minister said another option could entail enabling medical practitioners, such as specialist doctors in different fields to come “and have a specialized medical facility that will cater for things that people now have to go and seek elsewhere …so they can come and be part of the further development of our country.

Referring to the latest Visa developments with specific requirements and conditions that Canada has implemented for Caribbean nationals to visit that country, Baptiste stated, “We have been working assiduously and tirelessly towards removing those visa facilities …and successive administrations with their Counsel General in Canada, would be pursuing that particular aspect of things.”

He said though the issue has arisen before, however, “this time around we had a focus meeting where the Heads of Caricom met with the Prime Minister of Canada in the Bahamas and the visa issue was of central importance to them.”