Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands, a group of islands located off the southeast coast of North America. Due to its small size and relative lack of geological resources, its 2000s economy relies primarily on the sale of banana crops, and the income generated from tourism, with additional input from small-scale manufacturing.
The island supports several small- and medium-sized agricultural enterprises.
In the 1960s, just before establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC), about 80% of the island's income derived from banana-crop exports to the United Kingdom. By the time the EEC was being phased into the European Union in 1993, that bloc's agricultural committees had announced their intention to eliminate preferred access of Windward Islands crops to the United Kingdom, which will cause considerable reduction in the prices which banana crops previously commanded.
In order to mitigate the impact of such income reductions, the island's governments have announced several efforts to diversify the island's agricultural production. They have encouraged the establishment of tree crops such as mangos and avocados.
The island's banana output was heavily impacted in 2007 by the passage of Hurricane Dean. In 2006 the Governor stated:
In addition to banana production for export, a variety of crops are produced on the island for domestic consumption.
The island's tourism industry declined by 6.7% during 2007.
The level of island households living at or below the poverty level increased from 18.7 to 21.4 percent from 1995 to 2005. (As of 2006) another 16.2 percent of the island's population are vulnerable to economic shocks that could easily push them below the poverty line. One rural district had 44.9 percent of households living below the poverty line (2005).
In order to broaden the island's economic base, the government added small computer-driven information technology and financial services as development objectives.
St. Lucia's leading revenue producers--agriculture, tourism, and small-scale manufacturing--benefited from a focus on infrastructure improvements in roads, communications, water supply, sewerage, and port facilities. Foreign investors also have been attracted by the infrastructure improvements as well as by the educated and skilled work force and relatively stable political conditions. The largest investment is in a petroleum storage and transshipment terminal built by Hess Oil. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) funded an airport expansion project.
Until the events of 11 September 2001, the tourism sector had made significant gains, experiencing a boom despite some untimely and destructive hurricanes. Stay-over visitors and cruise arrivals declined in 2001 and several hotels declared bankruptcy, including the Hyatt. The development of the tourism sector remains a priority, and the government is committed to providing a favourable investment environment. Incentives are available for building and upgrading tourism facilities. There has been liberal use of public funds to improve the physical infrastructure of the island, and the government has made efforts to attract cultural and sporting events and develop historical sites.
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