IN delivering his Budget Statement for the year 2012-13, his first after the General Elections of November 2011, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony began by reminding the country that in delivering his 2011/12 Budget Address, the former finance minister Stephenson King had “proudly announced” that the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank had determined the growth rate for St Lucia in 2010 would be 4.4%. It is now common knowledge that that announced growth rate was false and the economy had instead grown by only 0.6%.
In the context of what he described as those “arid days” of low growth, Dr Anthony appealed to the population of our country, reminding them once again that the situation “requires that we find better ways”.
Yet, the leaders of today’s UWP – chief among them is one whose record for financial extravagance in his short ministerial tenure has been unparalleled in the life of our nation – continue to bray at the admonition of a Minister of Finance, well cognizant that in a world emerging from the recession of 2009 and after, that we would have to literally drag ourselves out of the downward economic spiral.
That the global economic recovery is only now revealing itself – our recent tourism figures bear testimony to this – has meant nothing to the UWP scribes and shouters, desperately trying to hide the disorder among their own ranks. Instead, their message to the people of our country is that they who left the country in an economic hole, while trying to pretend to have expertise they clearly did not possess, are the ones who can rescue it.
Clearly, facts mean nothing to those who seek, at all costs, to lead this country of ours. Instead, those in the UWP leadership – at least the faction led by Alan Chastanet – prefer to spend their time encouraging (to use a non-offensive word) unemployed scribes to inform the people; day after day, they can do today for the economy what they so badly failed to do just three years ago. The very set who set us back economically now say they are the ones to propel it forward.
So week after week, those who should have been held to account long ago, are now busy encouraging the media, especially, to place blame on the SLP government generally, and on Kenny Anthony in particular. Given his ability to forcefully remind the population of the economic desert which he and his party inherited in December 2011, Chastanet and the UWP clearly see Anthony as the main obstacle in the way of a UWP return.
The stark reality to be faced by Chastanet and company is the fact that signs are beginning to emerge from the arid days. They are confounded as all indications are that St Lucia has revived its reputation as a tourism destination of worth. Rather than embrace this the detractors are instead doing their best to disparage the valiant efforts made by our Tourist Board and the private entrepreneurs who have taken the strain unrecognized by the then Finance Minister in his promises of more economic growth after 2010.
So, unhappy at recognizing the shoots of a new tourism spring, one editorialist has joined the purveyors of gloom in trying to disparage better days in tourism. The editorialist, who should certainly know better has, surprisingly to us, preferred to adopt the long-time criticism of the anti-tourism pseudo-left propagandists, as follows: “With tourism touted as the new economic saviour, we have already squandered huge chunks of our patrimony and created a situation where more and more St Lucians are finding themselves crowded out of natural God-made amenities like our beaches that our people should be free to enjoy”.(The VOICE,21st February 2015).
And as if to drive the nail into the coffin that they perceive before them, the editorialist now seeks to jump on the bandwagon of hostility to the recent proposals for economic citizenship. And he does so, not by the reasoned argument that would be expected from St Lucia’s oldest newspaper, but by trying to light a fire by announcing to the citizenry that “now we are contemplating selling the citizenship of this great little country of ours for money”.
Those who remember the antagonism expressed against the Rodney Bay Development, can easily recognize the desire, in those words, to now find a new arena of hostility to government’s thrust. But we know that now, as then, all this verbiage has nothing to do with ideology, but with the fight for power. Sometimes it looks as if the founders of journalism in this country, persistent promoters of free enterprise and foreign investment, using their legal and entrepreneurial skills to draw attention to St Lucia, are being turned on their heads.
Would it not have been preferable, on the eve of our Independence date, to celebrate the fact that the tourism industry appears to be making some progress, desperate as we are to ensure that the sons and daughters of those now unemployed, or on minimal earnings as the banana industry has regressed through no fault of our own, can find alternative employment? Should such soi-disant nationalistic and leftist criticism be accepted, with the people of our country left helpless on the roadside?
Would it not have been preferable, as has been indicated in another media outlet, to emphasise developments in the tourism industry and elsewhere, as done just prior to Independence day, by the Director of Invest St Lucia?
What the director reported is worth repeating at length for the information of the people of St Lucia. And certainly few who understand the process of investment acquisition, would claim that the credit must go only to the SLP Government. He writes:
“The current situation with new investment projects consists of the following – Sunrod Properties Inc. completed the construction of Dive Saint Lucia and constructing 115 rooms (Harbour Club Hotel; CapellaMarigot Bay completed refurbishment and officially opened on December 15, 2014; Carbon Marine, customized boat building investment from Canada; the Landings Resort out of receivership; Freedom Bay commenced first phase in Soufriere with the construction of villas, to be followed by spa and restaurant; and the list goes on – justifying the “better ways” of finding “oases of growth” which Prime Minister Anthony spoke of, in his 2012 Budget Speech earlier cited.
It is undoubtedly the case that much remains to be done, particularly to draw further investment into the country while St Lucia, unlike other OECS countries continues to seek to ensure a balanced fiscal situation that is the basis of confidence in economic policy making.
There can be little doubt, too, that in spite of the continuing public sector negotiations currently being undertaken on behalf of the Government by one of St Lucia’s brightest sons drawn from the private sector, that good sense and a productive resolution of issues will be found.
Patience is an attribute of the present government. And not a few will have noticed the manner of resolution of the Fire Service dispute, managed by Hon Phillip Pierre whose private and public sector experience is undoubted.
In all the difficulties, “better ways” are being developed. There is no need for the pessimism engendered by ambitious, tested but disproved politicians, anxious for another try.
St. Lucia cannot afford the discarded politicians returning with their tried and failed suggestions. We must stay the current path to ensure that the shoots of growth now being evidenced grow into mighty oaks!
By Stephen Lester Prescott