THIS administration is good at fiddling its thumbs while Rome burns. This is in the midst of a general uncertainty about the future of our country, about our economy and our social and political institutions. This was clearly demonstrated in the observance of our country’s 36th Anniversary of Independence. While our country’s economy continues to decline, without the presentation of strategies to alleviate the problems affecting our country, citizens are encouraged to ignore the realities and indulge in reckless merriment. The consequences are that persons go through life–changing experiences of a tragic nature due to the carelessness and recklessness of caretakers and guardians. The tragedy that visited us was that there were four reported cases of drownings of children and adults during the long Independence weekend.
With the observance of thirty six years of a country’s independence, it would be more prudent to celebrate this milestone in a more reflective and contemplative way. It is a time to take stock and walk back into history and invoke the memory of St. Lucia’s greatest political leader, Sir John Compton, and his battles and struggles as the architect of St. Lucia’s Independence and the advanced development of our country.
On the part of the government it should be addressing the challenges facing St. Lucia at this juncture in its history, and presenting strategies and a road map for the future development of our country.
In the latest U.N.D.P. report for this period, the world organization speaks to the English-speaking Caribbean territories on what they should be doing for the growth and development of our region in order to build more robust economies. The U.N.D.P. specifically recommended that there should be a conscious and determined effort on the part of regional governments to concentrate on higher agricultural output to achieve greater self-sufficiency in food production, because of the region’s astronomical food-import bill.
With St. Lucia’s rich alluvial soil and climate, our future economic development lies in the expansion of agricultural production which would complement our tourism sector, in which we could produce a wide range of agricultural products for export and agro-processing. Do our Caribbean countries need experts from international organizations to lecture us on appropriate policies that would contribute to our economic self-sufficiency and development? Instead we have well-trained persons in agricultural science, mindlessly chasing windmills for the generation of electricity which will blight our verdant and awesome landscape.
The U.N.D.P. report highlighted the high rate of unemployment in the islands, particularly among school-leavers and newly qualified persons unable to get jobs, resulting in a high degree of frustration. In our neck of the woods we are all too familiar with the recent rising level of suicides particularly among the young, which plagues St. Lucia today. Large numbers of school leavers can be absorbed in the field of agriculture with the large scale cultivation of a wide range of exotic, tropical produce.
At one time, St. Lucia boasted of being the most advanced country in the O.E.C.S. But instead of positive policies and measures that would sustain and provide a solid base for our country in the long term, our government is now a follower of others in the region who were lagging behind us, with questionable policies which do not contribute to sustainable development. This administration which is bankrupt of ideas, is flirting with the idea of Economic Citizenship as the answer to our economic woes. The message that is being sent to the people of this country is that they have no plans, no vision, no commitment to elevate the respected status of this country, but just to enrich and keep themselves in office.
Let us examine the implications of this reckless policy. What is the motivation of the politicians who are promoting this repulsive idea? Legitimate investors or business enterprises, do not need ‘citizenship’ of small, insignificant underdevelopment countries like ours in the global context, for their reputations and investments are well known globally and contribute substantially to employment, economic infrastructure and the G.D.P. of the countries in which they invest. As an illustration, persons such as the head of the Hess Oil Corporation the late Leon Hess, or the head of Sandals Corporation Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, are sought after to establish their business ventures in our Caribbean countries, as the latest hotel investment in Barbados illustrated. The Barbadians are over the moon in Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart’s interest in their country which will boost their declining economy. Who brought those major investments to St. Lucia? These gentlemen do not want or need a passport or Economic Citizenship from any small island. As a matter of fact as a gesture of gratitude for the contribution which such enterprises make to the economy of our country, the government of the day would offer as a token of appreciation a national passport with no financial inducements for the substantial investments these gentlemen make in our country which generates hundreds of jobs, and in the case of the Sandals Organization, attract a large number of visitors to our shores because of the high quality and reputation of their hotels, and the valuable foreign exchange they earn for our country.
Not having the capacity or ideas to improve our economy, this government would resort to the fantasy that the sale of passports for Economic Citizenship to questionable characters, as a major initiative for St. Lucia’s economic development. The stench of corruption permeates this repulsive idea which this clueless administration is trying to sell to a largely gullible populace. St. Vincent’s Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonzalves, categorically stated in no uncertain terms, that the citizenship of his country is not for sale. These characters who have been granted St. Kitts and Dominican ‘Citizenship Passports’ have exposed their dubious motives and reputation by presenting themselves as ‘diplomats’ of these respective countries.
We have seen where such a scheme operates as a perversion and manipulation of the democratic process in the recent general elections held in St. Kitts. It was the hand of fate that sabotaged the outcome of the elections in St. Kitts, because the party of the defeated Prime Minister, Denzel Douglas, like his counterpart in a neighbouring island, flush with cash, could bring plane loads of their citizens living and working in the metropolitan countries on a politically paid holiday to subvert the course of an election. Who could refuse this inducement? Extreme weather conditions, the worst in more than century that has been blistering North America and causing havoc in those countries prevented the aircraft from travelling to their Caribbean destination.
One must have noted the conspicuous silence of our Prime Minister over the shameful events that unfolded in the St. Kitts election. We heard the moral voices of Grenada’s Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persuad Bissessar, and the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonzalves, calling on the supervisor of elections to declare the results. They declared ‘The people have voted; let the mandate of the people prevail.’ The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago added her voice by stating, ‘Failure of the Supervisor of Elections to declare the results at the appropriate time creates the impression that there is interference in the democratic process.’ Imagine the Supervisor of Elections in St. Kitts would blatantly try to pervert the course of a general election to serve a political despot, whose arrogant posture and voice, we were privileged to observe and hear in St. Lucia at the Labour Party Conference, has been silent, unheard of since his demise. On the basis of Denzel Douglas’ behaviour in St. Kitts and his close association with our Prime Minister we must be vigilant for our next general elections.
In this fair land of ours, we need to take a good look at our leaders, and ask whether they incorporate within themselves the qualities of goodness and justice or whether they are dictators who would oppress the powerless among us, and impose economic hardships upon our people.
By Jeff Fedee