Saint Lucia, also known as ‘Helen of the West Indies’, is a small island located in the East of the Caribbean Sea, boasting a typical island lifestyle of sand, sea and a laidback attitude. Although the island is small, it is geographically diverse and bursting with life. Locals and tourists alike participate in a multitude of activities. The island has excellent beaches, scenic waterfalls, mountains, rainforests, orchids and exotic plants. The twin mountain peaks of Les Piton drop dramatically to the water’s edge on the west coast. In the south, bubbling pools of lava and steaming sulphurous spouts at Sulphur Springs Volcano, the Diamond Waterfall and Mineral Baths, all showcase the beauty of the island.
The turquoise waters that surround the island of Saint Lucia allow for the enjoyment of water activities like fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, sea trekking, snorkelling or simply floating atop some of the clearest waters in the world. Adrenaline seekers can hop aboard a Segway, horseback ride along the coast or climb Gros Pitons mountains, and food lovers have the opportunity to discover the island through their taste buds in a number of different bars and restaurants flaunting the island’s mouth-watering cuisine.
Saint Lucia offers a variety of authentic cultural experiences that showcase the rich diversity of the island’s history. Some of the local communities offer cultural immersion activities that range from traditional dancing to cassava making. The Saint Lucian Carnival includes costuming, parades, Calypso contests, queen contests, and general celebratory behaviour. A second event, of more recent vintage, is Jounen Kwéyo` l (Creole Day), a week-long festival celebrating traditional music, dance, storytelling, costuming, crafts, and Kwéyo`l language.
Saint Lucia also boasts good diplomatic relations through membership in multiple international organisations including the Commonwealth of Nations, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and the International Organisation of La Francophonie.
Agriculture was historically the main economic activity on St. Lucia. The island is in fact the leading producer of bananas in the Windward Islands group. However, the focus on commercial export-driven production has meant that agriculture for local consumption has suffered in recent years and it currently only composes only 2% of the island’s GDP .
Services and Industry have risen in importance contributing to 74% and 11% of GDP respectively. This is largely arising from trade preferences with the EU and USA, and the government’s interest in establishing a more diverse economy, with well-developed manufacturing.
Saint Lucia has also encouraged development of an offshore financial services sector and a framework of sound regulation has been established. Trade is vital to the economy with the combined value of exports and imports equal to 96% of the GDP, the average tariff rate applied for which is 5.9 percent. However, some barriers impede on trade due to issues of bureaucracy and administrative inefficiency which continue to act as deterrents. Furthermore, the banking sector is fairly limited, and access to financing can be difficult.
As a result of growth in tourism and the introduction of the Citizenship by Investment programme, Saint. Lucia’s property market is booming. Most buyers in Saint Lucia come from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. There are no restrictions on foreign nationals purchasing real estate in Saint Lucia, and since its currency is pegged to the US dollar, there is a decreased risk when it comes to currency fluctuations.
Aside from the increased interest from foreign homebuyers, developers and investors are also starting to return to Saint Lucia, thereby diversifying the property markets from a buyer’s market to include investors. Residential property prices in Saint Lucia vary from US$700,000 to US$15 million, with most luxury homes in the US$2 million range. This is significant in light of the government’s hopes to market Saint Lucia as a luxury destination. Property prices are also strong when it comes to the lower end of the market, which has always seen a constant demand, with prices of certain condominiums ranging from US$200,000 to US$550,000.
Saint Lucia has two public hospitals; St Jude’s Hospital and Victoria Hospital. There are district hospitals at Vieux Fort, Dennery and Soufriere that offer primary health care services and limited secondary care and emergency services. There are also more than 30 health centres. Saint Lucia has one privately run hospital and a number of other private facilities that provide specialised medical and dental services, particularly in the north of the island.
Although the situation is improving, the last recorded total expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP (2014) is 6.7, which is relatively low when compared to other nations. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave the Saint Lucia health care system an upper-middle classification, which shows the system’s good standing. Furthermore, visitors have been known to take advantage of in-house doctors that are offered by many hotels and resorts throughout the island.
Saint Lucia’s education system is based on the British model. There are ample schooling options with 150 preschools, 33-day cares, 75 primary schools, 24 secondary schools, 5 special education schools, 7 private primary schools and 3 private secondary schools on the island. Compulsory education is between the ages of 5 and 16 .
At the end of the seventh grade, students take the Common Entrance Examination (CEE) to determine placement for additional compulsory schooling. Students choose which secondary school they wish to attend, and the CEE scores are used in assigning schools with those with higher scores getting preference.
Many students continue on at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College which offers two-year certificated degrees in a variety of areas . There is also a branch of the University of the West Indies in Saint Lucia which provides for the first two years of a degree program after which students complete their studies at the main campuses in either Jamaica or Barbados.
Saint Lucia is characterised as having a Free status with regards to political and civil rights, having a strong score of 91/100 in the Freedom House Index. The justice system does not appear to suffer from corruption, having a ranking 50 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), but serious case backlog is an on-going issue. Such delays exacerbate prison overcrowding, with almost half of detainees on remand or pre-trial detention.
In the security sector, while the police force enjoys a high level of public confidence, there are some concerns about abuse which combined with inefficiencies have hindered Saint Lucia’s efforts to tackle crime. Supporting an on-going modernisation of the police force, pushing for improvements on police conduct, vetting procedures and assisting measures to cut the backlog in the judicial system, are among the actions which the Government of Saint Lucia is looking into to improve institutional capacities.
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