Letters & Opinion

The Gibraltar of The Antilles

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By John Peters

WHEN Victor Hugues in 1795 described St Lucia as the Gibraltar of the Antilles, his words were unknowingly describing St. Lucia’s future role in the Caribbean. The historians will convey the role that St Lucia played in the Brigands War of the Eastern Caribbean, and the introduction of a type of warfare that took two superpowers by absolute surprise, despite their military strength.

I believe our history guides us in our approach to our future, and we have to look at these events over the last four hundred years to understand how a small nation can survive in the swirling seas of globalization.

There are a few important truths that one would wish to extract from that period of history. Firstly, the wars of that era show us that St. Lucia is more than land but also has a marine area of importance. From an economic standpoint we have not looked at our 200 mile exclusive maritime zone as part of St. Lucia, and thus part of our development space. We need to not only look at the 238 sq. miles, but the thousands of square miles that are covered with water as also part of our territory.

I firmly believe that there is great potential in our fishing industry that can be fully exploited. There is absolutely no reason that we are still importing fish in 2014. If you take a visit to any supermarket and look in the deep freezers, you will see one small compartment with local fish; the other five compartments will have imported fish. It means that less than 20% of the fish available for local purchase is from St Lucian fishermen. If we learn from our history that wars were fought primarily at sea between the French and the British, then we can glean that the economic wars can also be fought on these same seas.

The second lesson can be obtained from looking at the Brigands War. How do you deal with the might of the superpowers? The Brigands understood that they were no match in a conventional war, and thus the creativity caused the beginning of a new type of warfare. We have been sending our economists to universities who have been taught the conventional approach to solving economic problems; they have returned with the various degrees and have put forward the conventional weapons to fight an economic war. We have been losing this war bitterly, and now we are highly indebted states, and there are no solutions.

We have to learn from the Brigands, that to fight against a mighty army you have to be creative and begin to use new tactics and strategies that go against the traditional thought process. The core economic principle of demand and supply for example was based on an agrarian society, where the farmer had to sell his produce cheaply at the end of the day if he was left with plenty of goods. We focus on Debt to GDP ratios when the more important criterion is the ‘quality’ of debt a country has and its ability to pay these debts.

St Lucia needs some ‘Brigand Economists’ who can leave these conventional economic thoughts aside and become creative in the battle. We need to look at which economies did best in the economic crisis; were they services –based or the goods –based economies. By far it was the goods – based economies. We must not forget the importance of the manufacturing and agricultural sectors and believe that a services based economy will keep us afloat. Despite all the hype we hear every December about the increase in tourism arrivals, there is no impact on the unemployment rate or the growth in the economy. In fact unemployment and economic growth have gone in the opposite direction, and I seriously believe that we need a serious rethink on the role of tourism within the economy.

However, it is the statement of Victor Hugues that I wish to close off with. St. Lucia is the Gibraltar of the Antilles. I have strong beliefs that St. Lucia has a special place in the eyes of God. I am a born again Christian who understands the concept of divine purpose. What Victor Hugues said was a correct description of the future role of our nation. St Lucia is the Gibraltar of the Antilles. I believe that our waters have resources that will propel St. Lucia’s economic development. I firmly believe that we have oil and gas deposits that will be found soon. This is the Good News that I will leave you with in 2014.

I do not believe in Christmas as it has no basis in Christianity, it was never celebrated in the first 400 years of the early Church, so I would not wish you Merry Christmas. I however would wish all a blessed New Year and may every purpose and plan of God for your life be fulfilled.

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