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Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves (File photo: Oris Robinson)

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – This country’s economy is expected to grow by 0.8 per cent this year, after three consecutive years of decline Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves announced in his Independence Address Thursday morning.

Further, Gonsalves told citizens celebrating the nation’s 32nd anniversary of independence that they can expect the economy to grow 3 per cent in 2012 “unless a double-dip recession globally bites deeply”.

The projected growth this year is two times the 0.4 per cent the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank last week forecast for the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, of which this country is a member.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, further said that he would make “certain important announcements” during his Budget Speech in December.

“I must report though that the revenues of the central government have been falling as a consequence of slow or no economic growth and the limitation in the tax administration,” he said.

He told citizens that the deficit has been increasing “though not in an unplanned or unrestrained fashion” and that this is the fiscal condition “more or less, in almost every other Caribbean country.

“Indeed, most are in a far worse position that we are,” he said.

Tourism, manufacturing and construction are likely to register modest increases this year, the Prime Minister explained.

And while more growth is expected in 2012, Gonsalves said that fiscal rebalancing and consolidating would occur over the medium term.

He said this would be done without compromising efforts at job creation, poverty reduction, heath, education, low-income housing and the physical infrastructure.

“Immediately, and over the next year, in the economic sectors, my government is focusing on the rehabilitation of agriculture and strengthening food security, the expansion of the tourism sector, and the lifting of quality standards,” he said.

“And we are seeing substantial investments currently in this important area,” Gonsalves remarked.

Gonsalves said that his Unity Labour Party administration will also concentrate on enhancing air transportation, especially the continuation of the EC$652 million Argyle International Airport, which, he reaffirmed, would be opened in 2014.

The government will also pay attention to expanding the information communication sector, building upon the recent expansion of manufacturing output, further expansion of the construction sector, and a continued thrust to renewable energy, he said.

“All these productive advances rest, necessarily, on an economy with solid fundamentals, which reside in a stable currency, low inflation, a sound fiscal condition and a well regulated financial system,” Gonsalves further said.

“A quest to maintain these fundamentals is part and parcel of our overall developmental thrust within the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union’s eight-point growth and stabilization programme,” he noted.

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