The Saint Lucia Development Bank, the SLDB is back. And we say so boldly and unapologetically. In making this bold statement we do so not out of sentimentality or nostalgia, but with the realism borne out of the experience of the last seven to eight years of its hiatus; and with due cognizance of the prevailing global financial and economic conditions and what they portend. SLDB is back and we proclaim this as we seek to give manifestation to the expectations of the hundreds of Saint Lucians: farmers, fishermen, students and small business people who in several ways, have expressed their frustrations and dissatisfaction with the prevailing order, and welcome the rebirth of the SLDB. (Over 60% of the almost 1000 people surveyed throughout the length and breath of Saint Lucia, in a very scientific market study, have called for the reestablishment of the SLDB.) SLDB is back and we give manifestation to the vision of the late Sir John Compton, who saw and felt the need for the SLDB that had hitherto made a vital contribution to the social and economic development of Saint Lucia, under his successive administrations. Who perhaps jealously admired what his good friend, Lee Kwan Yew was able to achieve in Singapore through its own development Bank. And yes, SLDB is back; and the debate regarding the relevance of national development banks, the debate regarding the activist role of the public sector in fostering economic and social development in our small resource-starved economies, the debate regarding the role of commercial banks in fostering and supporting entrepreneurship, the debate regarding relevant economic development models will continue in the old boys clubs, in the corridors of power in the region, and in Washington D. C. Those who have sought to reduce development banks to the scrap pile of history; those who have sought to use large brushes to paint the experiences of development banks in the Caribbean region and in the world, and indeed mischaracterize the former SLDB, should revisit the facts and the literature on the roles of development banks and development bank-type institutions, even when they are called by other names.
After all, information is only now a mouse-click away. And those who believe that commercial banks, investment banks and merchant banks can remain loyal to the dictum of maximization of shareholder value and at the same time assume the risks naturally associated with the development of enterprise and entrepreneurship – development banking should perhaps review the dynamics and implications of the evolving international financial crisis. Madam MC, Your Excellencies, very distinguished guests, colleagues, for many of us the 22nd February 2009; which marks the 30th Anniversary of our independence, evokes special feelings. But for those who have laboured over the last few months to re-establish this Bank, it is indeed a very proud moment, and while I do not want to pre-empt or usurp the role of my colleague who will be moving the vote of thanks, I want to say that our presence here today; that we have succeeded in launching the SLDB here today, is testimony to the ability of our workers and artisans to deliver when they have to. On December 08, 2008, we started the refurbishment project to prepare the premises for the SLDB, which we are about to formally open,. Many doubted that we would have been here today, but I am sure when you would have walked into those premises, as you will shortly do; you will agree that there is need to celebrate the workers and artisans of Saint Lucia who were mandated to provide us with an environment that is not ostentatious, but comfortable and inviting to all those who will seek to conduct business here, especially our young people.Indeed, we celebrate them as the majority of persons who worked on this project can be considered our youth. So in re-establishing the SLDB, we want especially to celebrate our workers, the youth and the little people of Saint Lucia. And in doing so, Madam M.C, I want, on behalf of the management and staff of the SLDB to pledge our unswerving commitment to the socio-economic development of our people, a development approach that is inclusive and gives all a chance for a better life in our Saint Lucia – affording opportunity for all.
We pledge our unswerving commitment to service excellence, and partnership with all those who will become customers of this Bank, in making their aspirations for a stake in this Saint Lucian society and economy a reality. We pledge commitment to working with our several young men and women, with enormous talent and potential to take their rightful place as the future entrepreneurs of this country, the future farmers and fishers, the future professionals – affording opportunity for all. In that regard we welcome and will promote active collaboration with other institutions willing and capable of contributing to our common goals . In making these pledges Madam MC, your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we are fully cognizant of the necessity to ensure that this Bank is both financially viable and self-sustaining. We are mindful of the necessity to ensure that the SLDB does not become a welfare agency. We are fully cognizant of the necessity to ensure that in the conduct of the affairs of this institution, we demonstrate and consistently adhere to the highest standards of prudence, ethics, corporate governance and transparency, as we work towards affording opportunity for all. These we will not find difficult. Madam MC, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, for those of us who were associated with the former institution are quite familiar with those standards. In closing, Madam MC, it would be remise of me if I did not take the opportunity to publicly, thank the Board of Directors of SLDB with the concurrence of the Honourable Minister of Finance, for the opportunity to again serve the people of Saint Lucia, this time in the capacity of Managing Director of this institution. I thank all those who have personally assisted and supported me over the last few months in leading this project to operationalize the SLDB; in particular my Directors, the Consultants attached to this project and my Senior Staff. Moreover, I say thanks to the Almighty for health and strength and for his continued guidance as we move forward; and to my family and wife in particular who consented in allowing me to return to Saint Lucia to engage in something that I have been very passionate about. The last few months have been difficult, but the real challenge commences on 24th February as we begin navigating the uncertain waters of the current financial and economic meltdown affecting the developed economies and strive to meet the several very high expectations of the many Saint Lucians whom we surveyed towards the end of 2008. We nevertheless see opportunity in those challenging times as we seek to make opportunity affordable for all.
I thank you Introduction of Staff Permit me now your Excellencies distinguished ladies and gentleman, as Captain, to introduce the SLDB Team who will seek to deliver on the mandate of the Bank and on the pledges which I made earlier on their behalf. In introducing the Team, I wish to note that we have deliberately moved away from the traditional structure and nomenclature associated with Development Banks. We thought that titles such as Project Department and Project Officers and Credit Officers and Loans Administration Department, did not quite fit the business model that we seek to embrace and our operational philosophy. As well, some of the traditional names did not reflect some of the contemporary practices of banking. Instead, you will hear names like Service Delivery Department and Risk Management Department, Titles such as Relationship Specialist and Risk Analyst. Clearly, you will detect a desire to partner with our customers and build longlasting,mutually beneficial relationships. You will, as well, detect a desire to be prudent in our undertaking, while seeking to satisfy the several needs that will come before us. So here comes the Team: The Service Delivery Department will be the department interfacing with our clients, forging relationships and seeking to represent and find solutions to the needs of our customers. This Department is headed by Mr Hilary La Force, a veteran development banker, who has gladly come out of retirement to assist us in making his considerable knowledge and skills available to us. He is supported by three Relationship Specialists. One will assume responsibility for Agriculture, the other Housing and the other Services, Education, Tourism and Industry. As well, the department will be supported by one Customer Service Associate and one Administrative Assistant. The numbers are expected to increase as business develops and some of the technical work will also be carefully outsourced to ensure that we meet the service standards that we will hold ourselves to. The Finance and Accounts Department is headed by Ms. Gennifer Faissal our Chief Financial Officer, who has joined us with several years of accounting and auditing experience. She is supported by a Senior Accounts Officer, two Junior Accounts Officers and an Administrative Assistant. The Risk Management Department is headed by Ms Dorn Lafeilllee – Manager Risk Management and she will be supported by one Credit Risk Analyst. The Technology Research and Information Management Department (TRIM), upon which a lot will depend to ensure that this institution remains trim and efficient, is headed by Mr Amatus Edwards another not so veteran development Banker, from the previous SLDB. He will be supported by a Computer Specialist and an Information Systems Specialist. The Managing Directors Office,is headed by your humble servant, the Team Captain, and is supported by an Administrative Assistant, the Receptionist, the Office Attendant and frankly everybody else in the organization. So this is our team, 20 of us ready and willing to serve Saint Lucia. Ladies and Gentlemen the SLDB Team!