University of Vermont Research Team Visits With Commerce Minister

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A team from the University of Vermont (UVM) paid a courtesy call to Hon. Emma Hippolyte, the Minister for Commerce, Manufacturing, Business Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs, on Tuesday, Jan. 9 at the ministry’s headquarters.

The group, comprising Community Development and Applied Economics students and faculty, is on a ten-day visit to Saint Lucia to conduct a survey on the impact of inflation on local consumers, and collaborate with local organizations on several other projects including a kitchen garden, and a culture and heritage project.

University of Vermont Lecturer, Kevin Stapleton, elaborated: “For the past 20 years, the university has been bringing students to Saint Lucia to do small scale international development projects. There are five projects that we will undertake.

“One is a survey of several hundred Saint Lucians on the impact of inflation; the second is a qualitative look at inflation where we speak with Saint Lucians on their experiences with price increases and how it has changed their purchasing habits and household budgets; for the third, we will be working with the Camille Henry Memorial School to develop a garden and teach the students about gardening and the importance of providing food for themselves; for the fourth project we will work with the Saint Lucia National Trust to improve the relationship between Saint Lucians and their heritage; and finally we have a graduate student working on a network analysis on the charity organizations on island and the connections between them in the hopes of fostering improved communication so that they can more effectively carry out their missions.”

The Minister for Commerce acknowledged the 20th anniversary of partnership between the Consumer Affairs Department and the University of Vermont, and discussed anticipated project outcomes.

“This is an annual trip based on the long partnership between the ministry and the university,” she said. “The university has worked with us on many economic and social programmes and this year, they will assist us with analyzing the impact of inflation by interacting with consumers—persons on the ground to understand how inflation is impacting them. I shared with them government’s policies that aim to cushion the impact of inflation, like the subsidies on flour, sugar, rice and fuel, and the removal of the service charge on goods at the ports.

“The team will also work with one of the schools to establish a kitchen garden and I emphasized that such a project is critical for us to ensure long-term food security, by causing young people understand the importance of agriculture and to embrace employment in the field of agriculture and fisheries. We want to modernize in such a way that young people will find it attractive and understand that they can indeed make money out if it.

“Culture and heritage is another area of interest, so they will meet with the Saint Lucia National Trust. With this project there is potential for national impact. I am hoping that the project can further stress the importance of preserving our heritage, our culture and ways of life that are unique to us.”

The partnership will also allow staff from the Ministry of Commerce to benefit from educational programmes provided by the university.

The UVM team arrived in Saint Lucia on Jan. 3 and will depart on Jan. 13. They will present their findings on Friday, Jan. 12 at a closing ceremony at the Bay Gardens Resort.

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