“We at Compete Caribbean hope to maintain our track record of delivering support and results in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Finance & Operations Coordinator Russell Franklyn for the multilaterally funded, Inter-American Development Bank titled project said. He then announced: “we are currently supporting the development of SME’s (small and medium sized enterprises) through strengthening the institutional capacity of the Commercial and Intellectual Property Office by digitizing it’s business registration processes.

“This is in line with Minister Gonsalves vision of the country as expressed at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank 4th Growth and Resilience Dialogue by modernizing the important interactions between citizens and State.”

Franklyn was at the time delivering brief remarks at the SVG Investment Forum 2020 media launch at the Bungalow in Villa. He also informed media audiences that the current venture makes it twice in 5 years that both IDB Compete Caribbean and Invest SVG are partnering to attract foreign direct investments to Vincentian shores.

ANN caught up with Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves for a quick exclusive set to a celebrity pannist – Rodney Small and Company – musical backdrop, on the sidelines of Tuesday’s Investment Forum 2020 media launch.

“We are in the middle of negotiating some financing with the World Bank and Compete Caribbean for what I like to call a citizen centric digital services.

The government has invested a lot of money in ICT (information & Communication Technology over the last few years – CARCIP Caribbean infrastructure communications project has been over $50 million and we have invested money with the Taiwanese, we have invested money with the Indians and we have invested other World Bank monies in digital services. But, the consumer, the citizen, the Vincentian citizen has not seen and felt a lot of these investments because they’ve been in the back room. So what I want to do is to use ICT to transform the way in which Vincentian citizens interact with the government. Right now we have a lot of administrative procedures that are trapped in the fifties,” explained Minister Gonsalves.

The Minister continued to enumerate some of the archaic processes that plague the government services and which, in the main, frustrates the average citizen’s access to same. “If you want something you have to go to this office, you have to sign a paper and carry it somewhere else, you have to go get a stamp, pay a fee somewhere else. Try going to Inland Revenue, try going to renew your driver’s licence, your passport. Major points in your life: the birth of a child, you have to interact with the health care system, you may have to interact with social welfare – social services system, you may have to open a bank account. All of these things are too time consuming and we believe that there are ways in which we can use technology to streamline these processes.

“One of the ways,” he said, “is in starting businesses. If you want to start a business – you have an idea and some resources – you shouldn’t feel like you have to go and get a lawyer and the lawyer is going to charge you some money and you’re going to have to wait 2 and 3 weeks and then you’re going to have to fill out all these paperwork. There should be a way that you have a more streamlined way of applying, a more streamlined way – as a citizen – of checking who’s a legitimate, registered business. A more streamlined way of paying your taxes. A more streamlined way of asking the government a question.”

The eventual rollout is still a ways off as the Minister cautioned “there’s more investment we have to do on the back end with servers and cyber security and privacy and all the rest of it but what we are hoping is that we can create some digital portals through which citizens can interact with the government in a less cumbersome manner.”

The East St George incumbent MP is optimistic that this new digital platform “would have benefits for the ease of doing business in St. Vincent and the Grenadines but more than that we feel its good for governance because when people get the run around they lose faith in the system or they lose faith in governance and we want to deliver services in a more timely, more efficiently and a more even handed manner.

“The worst thing you hear if you’re government and you set up institutions is that ‘so and so get through and I ain’t get through because this person I met didn’t like me or this person giving me a hard time.’ All citizens should have access to the same services and one of the best ways to do that is to create an even platform across the board where people can access information and access services from the government and that’s what we’re trying to do there.”

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