Reform in St. Vincent & the Grenadines has been one of the main issues since 2002. According to a survey conducted in 2000, by the World Bank in Collaboration with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States showed that, the Public Sector of St. Vincent & the Grenadines demonstrated a number of inefficiencies in a number of areas. Since 2001, the government has a experienced a change in leadership and the new government has endorsed public sector reform. An important element in the public sector reform process is the move towards e-government to reduce some of these inefficiencies. As cited in the Public Sector Survey, Some people say that the public sector is unable to deliver what is expected of it.
The reasons for this are highlighted in the graph below. Public officials cited “limited capacity/resources,” “systems that do not encourage enterprise” and “too little autonomy” as the primary obstacles to the public sector’s optimal performance. Officials stated that the public sector solicits no feedback from business and civil society groups as to the fulfillment of its goals. Due to the changes in the global environment with respect to Trade Liberalization and Globalization, there is a highly concentrated movement towards regionalism, specifically towards the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) as a premise to preparing for Market Access in other Trading arenas such as the Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA) and the more global World Trade Organisation (WTO).
In that respect so far the legislative framework has been laid down, however at the core of all successful market economies are entrepreneurs and enterprises of all sizes and types as they are the engines that provide growth, employment, wealth and opportunities and choices for a dynamic society. The Business Sector in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is in need of immense support to develop the sector in preparation for a highly competitive trading environment.
The Small Business Sector in St. Vincent ; the Grenadines is economically significant. The recent baseline study commissioned by the Small Enterprise Development Unit (SEDU) indicates that this sector represents between 8000-9000 business units with a total employment of between 10,500 and 11,500 persons. However it must be noted that the majority of small business operating in St. Vincent and the Grenadines arise out of economic necessity rather than opportunity. Therefore many business persons are not entrepreneurs; some businesses are un-entrepreneurial and based on the simple buy and sell ideology.
The government’s role in ensuring that this sector realizes its full potential is to provide an enabling environment for entrepreneurship to flourish via the expansion of Public Sector Reform initiatives, in order to unlock the creative genius of our people expressed in enterprise and to nurture a culture of enterprise in St. Vincent & the Grenadines through the utilization of ICT. 1. Awareness and Education: This issue is an inherent obstacle of any new idea, product or service, but is amplified when dealing with a developing country with lower literacy rates, a lower GDP and the remnants of an inward-looking import substitution driven economy.
2. Market Size: The Internet community according to statistics in 1999, representing 0.3% of the Vincentian population which is too small a market for the Vincentian business community to specifically invest in new technology to reach and the return on investment (ROI) on this outlay is questionable.
3. E-commerce Infrastructure: Lack of an official E-Commerce Certificate Authority (ECA) to introduce a neutral intermediary and guarantor of parties involved in e-commerce transactions through the issuance of certificates of compliance. The creation of a ECA in St. Vincent is crucial, not only because of the importance of the ECA’s duties, but also because of the need for a trusted, impartial, transparent, and knowledgeable third party (with the proper expertise) to offer expert advice to the Vincentian legal system in related cases. The ECA may attempt to align its certificate issuance with compulsory insurance against the dangers of e-commerce. This authority would also work on raising awareness within the Vincentian community, with the aim of developing both the consumer and the institutional bodies related to e-commerce. Also there is a lack of secure electronic transaction compliance.
4. Telecommunications Infrastructure and Planning: While teledensity has made tremendous advances due to Telecom liberalisation. The cost of bandwidth, both for domestic and international connectivity is still overly expensive; thereby limiting the connectivity available and increasing Web lag times.
5. Financial Services and Infrastructure: Only 4 Banks issue credit cards. Statistical data on the number of credit cards issued is currently not available. One Bank offers a local Debit Card. There are no International Debit Cards offered, thus limiting the primary method of payment on the Internet to this small market segment. Availability of banking and capital market information is extremely limited, thereby limiting a very popular part of Web activity. The financial institutions perception of the value-added service received from the use of the Internet is fixed on low-cost additions limited to internal traditional transactions such as wire transfers and the like, to the potential benefit perceived from the network connection.
In general, there have been few attempts from the business sector to embark on e-commerce ventures, the primary reason for which is simply the lack of corporate awareness of the conceivable business advantage of e-commerce. It may be worth mentioning that this situation is about to change, because some banks are moving toward online banking.
6. Legal System: On a global level, many businesses and consumers are still wary of conducting extensive business in cyberspace because of the lack of a predictable legal environment to govern transactions, which results in concerns about contract enforcement, intellectual property protection, liability, jurisdiction, privacy, and security. On a national level, there is an applicability of existing statutes by an overburdened and unfamiliar judiciary.
7. Government Role: While championing IT and Internet expansion, failure of the public sector to actively embrace e-commerce would deprive the effort of a strategic champion. There needs to be more harmony and cooperation in the various public and private sectors. E- Government strategies would lead to tremendous liberation of efforts to develop e-commerce in the country. It is important to point out that a lack of national support (including financial support) for e-commerce will result in damage from international e-commerce to national economies, including St. Vincent.
Complicated and unclear business rules form one of the most critical barriers toward e-commerce, one that exists in many developing countries. Vital components of the e-commerce business cycle (e.g., logistics and customs) are deeply embedded in the government’s operations; the information systems for these operations are manual, bureaucratic, and paper-dependent. The government should be encouraged to recognize, accept, and facilitate electronic communications (contracts, notarized documents, etc.). Coherence, transparency, coordination, and avoidance of duplication should be the government’s guiding principles in this endeavor.
8. Pricing: As discussed in the Internet Activity section, the costs associated with Internet access and e-commerce business costs are high, particularly, lacking a sizeable marketshare.