First-world wages may stop brain drain

ST CROIX, US Virgin Islands, September 25, 2007 – Sir Allen Stanford said that the biggest challenge facing Caribbean countries is the emigration of talented young people to bigger cities which are paying better salaries.

The Texan billionaire, who is the largest private sector employer in Antigua and Barbuda, was the keynote speaker at the first-ever St Croix economic summit. The summit “Defining a new economy” brought together business, community and government leaders to formulate a new vision for the island’s future.

In his address to the approximately 100 invited guests, Sir Allen laid out his vision for St Croix. He said he believes that the biggest challenge facing St Croix is the loss of its most precious resource, the talented and bright young people who choose to leave the island to pursue more financially rewarding careers in places like New York, London, Miami and Toronto. He said that St Croix, and indeed, the Caribbean as a whole, should work to keep this talented human capital from leaving the islands and going elsewhere to share their knowledge and skill, and the only way to do that is to offer a first- world wage, which Stanford is committed to do. He cited Antigua as an example where the various Stanford companies have hired numerous Caricom nationals paying first-world wages. Stanford is the second largest employer in Antigua. Only the government employs more people.

He also stressed the importance of the United States maintaining a focus on the Caribbean region and doing what it can to aggressively promote and endorse economic development. As its third border, the United States would do well by committing to the economic and social development of the Caribbean region, said Sir Allen.

A change that he said will have the most impact on economic development for St Croix is reform of the outdated EDC (Economic Development Commission) tax reduction legislation that was created in 1954. More due diligence and vetting of foreign investors needs to occur to ensure performance and adherence to commitments made by the investor during the negotiations. Sir Allen recommends that investment incentive legislation be re-written as a 21st century new law that is easy to understand, unambiguous, designed to eliminate tax cheating, expanded to include all the Caribbean as an investment and revenue source area providing that the USVI is the base of head office operations, and administered and regulated solely on USVI soil. “It is my belief that the USVI and the broader Caribbean basin would see an immediate flow of serious long-term investment capital to the region if this were to happen,” said Sir Allen.

In his address, Sir Allen stressed his commitment to St Croix and to remaining in and investing in the island for the long-term. “I have great optimism for working with Governor de Jongh and his Government and I will back that with a solid long-term commitment to the Virgin Islands ….. and in particular here in St Croix,” he said.

The inaugural economic summit was hosted by an organizing committee comprised of leaders from several USVI governmental agencies, as well as representatives from St Croix’s financial, tourism, industry, technology, and transportation sectors. As a result of the two-day event, a task force is being developed whose goal will be to keep the momentum going in St Croix and work with the territorial government. This “Governor’s St Croix Think Tank” will work with other leaders in their industry or community sector throughout the year to make the short-term goals generated at the summit a reality, and will meet with the Governor several times a year to report on progress and ensure the ongoing support of the government so that the long-term goals can be achieved.

Sir Allen Stanford moved to St Croix in 2006 and established the global oversight office and Caribbean regional headquarters for the Stanford Financial Group of companies there. Stanford Financial Group is a global network of financial services companies with US$43 billion in assets under management or advisement. Stanford recently acquired about 40 acres of land near the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport and will build a 90,000-square-foot office building and hangar there. Once completed, the office will employ about 100 local people, according to Sir Allen.

Stanford Financial Group is a privately held, wholly owned global network of financial services companies led by Chairman and CEO Sir Allen Stanford and founded by his grandfather, Lodis B. Stanford in 1932. Stanford’s core businesses are private wealth management and investment banking for institutions and emerging growth companies. Stanford provides private and institutional investors with global expertise in asset allocation strategies, investment advisory services, equity research, international private banking and trust administration, commercial banking, investment banking, merchant banking, institutional sales and trading, real estate investment and insurance. Stanford serves clients from 136 countries on six continents. Securities products and services in the United States are offered through Stanford Group Company, member FINRA/SIPC.