First, I would like to thank Prime Minister [Allen] Chastanet for inviting me to Saint Lucia. It is an honour to share this special moment with you all, and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of your country's independence.
I am delighted to see many familiar faces here today. Prime Minister Chastanet and Speaker [Andy] Daniel have both been to Taiwan, and many ministers visited Taiwan last year as well. It is indeed an honour to be surrounded by so many old friends, so far away from home.
Saint Lucia has long been a staunch ally in the Caribbean. Prime Minister Chastanet forcefully spoke up for Taiwan at last year's United Nations General Assembly. And Minister of Health and Wellness [Mary] Isaac made Taiwan's voice heard at this year's World Health Assembly. I want to thank all of you for your courageous support.
On behalf of the people of Taiwan, I thank you all. Your support means much more to us than you can know, and I hope you will continue to stand by us. Taiwan has much more to contribute, and we are determined to make this known to the world.
I chose the themes of freedom, democracy, and sustainability for this state visit because these three values truly reflect our efforts in the Caribbean. We are dedicated to steadfast diplomacy, and mutual assistance for mutual benefits. With partners like Saint Lucia by our side, we can help advance regional peace and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Over the past decade, our countries have undertaken many projects that embody the spirit of the SDGs.
Together, we are ensuring health and wellness for people of all ages. Taiwan has always been more than willing to share our medical and public health expertise. And we are putting this willingness into action right here in Saint Lucia, strengthening your healthcare system through mutual sharing and assistance.
Yesterday morning, Prime Minister Chastanet and I attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the new St. Jude Hospital. This facility marks yet another important milestone in our many years of medical cooperation. And I am proud that Taiwan is able to contribute to your efforts.
Beyond health, we have also worked to pursue sustainable agriculture. In 2013, we initiated a project that successfully tackled Black Sigatoka disease in Saint Lucia. Banana farmers now enjoy increased productivity, new international markets, and higher profits. Today, Saint Lucia is the only country in the Eastern Caribbean exporting bananas to the European market.
Our cooperation in agricultural development resonates with the work of William Arthur Lewis, Saint Lucian economist and Nobel Prize winner, who dedicated much of his work to ending rural poverty.
We have made great strides together in ICT as well. Internet infrastructure is vital for providing efficient government services and narrowing the digital divide. It makes it easier for people to get an education, to find a job, and to do business. And of course, reducing inequality is at the core of the SDGs.
Here, I would like to invite all of you to join us later in a ceremony to launch the second phase of the Government Island-wide Network. This will further broaden Internet access across the island.
Public infrastructure is the foundation for sustainable development in any country, and this year we have initiated many major projects. In addition to the St. Jude Hospital, we have also begun work on the international airport, as well as a national road system.
These projects do more than build resilient infrastructure. They also create high-quality jobs. That is also an important element of the SDGs.
While project loans will come from Taiwanese banks, the work will be contracted to Saint Lucia's companies through Taiwan's Overseas Engineering & Construction Company. This means we will be hiring local workers and using local materials.
This model of cooperation ensures that both our peoples can participate and reap the benefits. There will be no issue of "debt traps," unlike some other cooperation models. We believe in mutually beneficial projects rooted in strong communication and collaboration.
Both of our countries want to provide brighter futures for our next generation, in line with SDG goals to provide equitable, quality education. Taiwan is honoured to help young Saint Lucians develop professional skills and expertise through scholarship programs and vocational training. Saint Lucian students now have access to more diverse channels to make use of their talents and give back to their communities.
Students returning from Taiwan bring home new expertise, knowledge, and ideas, creating new possibilities right here in Saint Lucia.
My time here calls to mind the words of another Nobel laureate from Saint Lucia, the poet Derek Alton Walcott, whose writing made readers all over the world fall in love with Saint Lucia.
In "The Sea is History," he captured the many opportunities and challenges that maritime nations have faced throughout history.
Taiwan and Saint Lucia are small countries, and we both face challenges brought about by geography, access to resources, and climate change. Yet we have both walked the long road to democratization. We respect the values of human rights and democracy. Our shared journey gives us a duty to work together to achieve regional stability, freedom, and democracy.
Once again, I want to thank both Senate President [Jeannine Giraudy-] McIntyre and Speaker Daniel for giving me this opportunity to address you all. Your government and people have been true friends to Taiwan. May our countries enjoy a sustainable future and lasting friendship! Thank you.