Practitioners of the arts would be center stage in this year’s October Financial Information Month (FIM), says Sybil Welsh, the ECCB official chairing the FIM Coordinating Committee. Financial Information Month is held in the eight member countries of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union to stimulate the development of stronger financial and business support through information and capacity building programs and activities. “This year we are putting emphasis on the arts, as an avenue for entrepreneurial development, for the development of creative thinking, and that level of competitiveness and sharpness required to drive such new economic areas for our development and growth. It’s about strengthening their foundations and helping them to grow to the next level,”Welsh told the Observer. “The collective belief is that our best citizen in the region is an informed and knowledgeable citizen and one who is engaged and FIM provides the platform to have that engagement each year.”FIM generally addresses issues related to the strengthening of the business environment and the empowering of persons to make better and more informed decisions in their finances and in their economic situations. The program strives to help OECS member citizens aspire ‘to go further, to strive to be better stewards of their finances, to be better stewards of their micro and small businesses, to be better stewards – if they are in the Private Sector operating as an employer or an employee – that they must always hone their skills, always seek to learn more, always seek to be on par with international standards and competitiveness”. Welsh indicated that youth is a vital target group of the FIM activities, as they are considered ‘the foundation, the building blocks, of our economy and our future, and FIM provides a starting point for activities, programs and engagements that can occur throughout the year”. She explained that this year, the economic circumstances in the region should persuade persons to be attentive and become involved with the FIM activities. “We know that we have been grappling with slow growth and low growth, the economic indicators tell us that. The growth indicators show that it is slower than what is required to get us to that next level. I think that every year when we find ourselves at this juncture of planning Financial Information Month, we always aspire to be relevant, to ask what is on the ground that compels us to move ahead, to plan, to prepare, to empower, to educate, so that persons coming out of financial information month would be better equipped than before we would have started the campaign.”FIM preparations are progressing through a high level of cooperation and involvement of the committee members, Welsh highlighted. “The strength lies in collaboration. We can achieve more together than individually. It is amazing what we can achieve when we put our limited resources and our limited ideas in a collective pool and that we create avenues to impact our world in a positive manner. The recent meeting is a continuation of our collaboration to create the capability to inspire, educate and inform the populace about the issues that are germane to our own wellbeing and our own growth and development.”As part of the FIM activities, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) instituted a Savings and Investment Course. Recent statistics indicate that the program has educated 2,681 persons across the region through financial and investment training. The training is done through a collaborative effort that brings together persons from the financial sector, the business community and the public and private sectors, who come on board as facilitators, mentors and partners. Last year an ECCB/FIM program contribution of equipment helped three small businesses move to a higher level of service. FIM gets into the schools and there are now regional innovation contests in which students participate. This year is the third year of the Regional Innovation Contest that pushes young people to think creatively, not just about how to get a job, but how to create their own employment and career path. 2014 will see the fourth regional Business Symposium, which has impacted hundreds of persons across the region, who are linked via videoconference. They listen to experts in their fields engage, share and discuss business insights.