Saint Lucia is a volcanic island located in the Eastern Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, just above Trinidad and Tobago and is part of the Windward Islands, covering a landmass of 617 square km.
St. Lucia is a representative government established in 1840. It became an independent state in 1979, though it remains a part of the British Commonwealth.
St. Lucia is a two party parliamentary system and has a distribution of governmental powers with the executive branch held by the Prime Minister and his cabinet through the support of majority of the lower house, the House of Assembly. The seats in the House are open to popular election while the Senate is both popularly elected and appointed.
The Chief of State is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy. The judiciary is independent, with the Privy Council being the final court of appeal.
The main political organizations are the St. Lucia Labor Party (SLP), capturing 51% of the vote, and the United Workers Party (UWP) with 47%; respectively, they hold eleven and six seats in the House of Assembly. The country is divided into 11 electoral districts.
The government of St. Lucia is secular though they do maintain active relationships with a local Christian council. The country is an active member of both regional and international treaties and organizations including CARICOM. It maintains and has ongoing relations and trade agreements with the US and Canada and several European countries including the UK and France.
Economy and Infrastructure
The island’s main source of revenue comes from tourism, which accounts for 65% of the island’s GDP, and from the offshore banking industry. Other important industries that contribute to the islands economy are the manufacturing sector, along with bananas, mangoes and avocados exports. The island has modernized infrastructural facilities, including roads, sewage, and a port, with some rural areas yet to be developed. The country also has two airports and modern telecommunication services.
St. Lucia is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, tourism decline, and a dependence on foreign imported oil. Unemployment rates remain reasonable in comparison with surrounding islands, which hover around 15% of the population.
The economy has been growing by an average of 3.5% per year, thanks in part to the growth in tourism and offshore sector. Most of the islands inhabitants (73%) work in the service sector while 7% are in agriculture and 20% in other industries. The country receives over US$50 million in economic aid, predominately from the United States.
St. Lucia is part of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECU) in which the regional currency, the Easter Caribbean Dollar (XCD) is pegged to the USD at a rate of USD 1 = XCD 2.7. Inflation rates remains relatively stable, at just over 5%, while the GDP remains modest at US $5,400 per capita.
Population, Language and Culture
The Dutch were the first European immigrants to arrive in 1600; however, it was the French who first claimed and colonized the island in 1635. Over the next 150 years the island changed hands a total of seven times through fourteen separate wars, until it was finally ceded to the British in 1814.
There are 174,000 inhabitants on the islands evenly distributed between urban and rural areas, though 30% of people live in the capital Castries. Despite their being high emigration rates, the population is still growing rapidly at a rate of 1.2% a year with much of the migration heading primarily to Anglophone countries.
The island has an educated labor force with literacy rates of 90% with the official language being English. Though the island remains part of the Commonwealth, much of the local population (95%) speaks St. Lucian Creole French or “Patois”, as it is locally referred to, and still retains some elements of French culture. This form of Antillean Creole is used in much of their literature and music and is gaining more official recognition.
St. Lucian population is mostly of African (85.3%) and mixed African-European descent (10.85%), with a small Indian-Caribbean minority (3%). Most St. Lucians are descendant from African slaves that were brought over by the British to work on sugar plantations during British imperialist rule. St. Lucian culture is mixed, retaining elements of African, East Indian, French and English heritage. St. Lucian has a strong indigenous folk dance tradition called Kwadril with other forms of music and dance influenced by Caribbean culture.
About 70% of St. Lucians are Roman Catholic with the rest of the population spilt between other Christian denominations, including Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, and Anglicans. St. Lucia boasts of having two Nobel laureates native to the island nation, which gives them the highest ratio of laureates, in relation to total population, in the world.
The St. Lucian national dish is green banana and salt-fish with the local cuisine being a unique blend of West African, European and East Indian cuisine, with lots of stews, rice dishes and hearty soups.
There are no exchange rate controls, capital controls or foreign currency controls in St. Lucia.
Type of Law
St. Lucia has a mixed legal system that is based both on Civil and English Common Law. The islands have its own local statues that cover the international financial and offshore sector, which deal with specific policies and business practices. St. Lucia is a member of CARICOM and OECD; together, they seek to make the regional financial arena transparent. However, the law governing the International Business Companies Act is locally administered through the St. Lucian government.
Principal Corporate Legislation
The International Business Companies Act 1999 was the official law that established the rules and regulations for the formation and operation of IBC’s in St. Lucia. Since then, three additional amendments have been passed between 2000 and 2001.