Since the establishment the National Development Corp. in 1971, St. Lucia has succeeded in diversifying its economy. St. Lucia has the most highly developed infrastructure of all the Windward Islands, with an international airport, a highway system that connects the important coastal and agricultural areas with the political and commercial centers, and a fully automated telephone system with direct dialing to most parts of the world.
At the end of 1996, the Lewis government unveiled a job-creating budget aimed at boosting his party's flagging fortunes. A US $242 million package devoted US $136 million to current expenditure and US $104 million to capital items. With the unemployment rate standing at 25%, the prime minister pledged to create 10,000 jobs by the end of the 1997–98 fiscal year. The2.9% gross domestic product (GDP) of 1998 was a marked improvement from previous years, with average growth below 2%. Unemployment was down to about 15% in 1999, and the government had plans to spend half of its budget on capital projects to foster the growing economy.
Although banana production has fallen considerably in recent years, tourism sustains the economy—St. Lucia is the number one tourist destination among Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) members. Drought and a tropical storm in 2001, and the effects of the global economic downturn and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States adversely affected the economy. At the end of September 2002, the total public sector debt had reached 56% of GDP, and the public sector budget deficit had sharply increased. The government in 2003 was focusing public investment on projects aimed at growth led by the private sector and at reducing poverty.