Letters & Opinion

A Common Visa Will Benefit Us All

By  Earl Bousquet
By Earl Bousquet

I’M not one to always want to carbon-copy anything just because it works for somebody else, somewhere else.

This cut-and-paste mentality has become so normal these days that some of us even put other faraway (and very different) people’s tongues in our mouths, just to ‘speak their speak’ and ‘talk their talk’.

Take the guy or gal who called somewhere (I can’t quite remember…) for Saint Lucians to each imagine we are Donald Trump and inviting us to tell him or her which Saint Lucia government minister today we would tell “You’re fired!” Imagine dat!

At a time when Donald Trump no longer wants to even hire anyone, but simply wants to build a wall between the USA and Mexico to insulate white Americans from their original fellow Americans across the border, we still have some of us dreaming of being him – and on a TV show, at that.

Just ahead of the next US Presidential election, an American billionaire still with more money than any of us can count wants to be the next US President, just to kill “illegal immigration” at a time when the immigrant vote is more decisive than ever in US elections. But some over here — who may very well have relatives and friends in the USA who could very well be bundled on a plane and ‘deported’ back home if Trump trumps the other Republican challengers and Hillary Clinton — still dream of being Big Donald – just to fire Government Ministers. Imagine dat!

Yes, flights of fantasy can and do really have us doing some mad and bad things that we probably will never realize. Like the things some of us do with the Internet — and the power at our fingertips.

I pitied my young colleague Rochelle Gonzales in her VOICE Tuesday column (July 14) when I read her deep lament about what some people used the Internet to do with the body of the young lady found dead on rocks in the sea in Soufriere.

I know how she feels. I’ve been there a million times. People do actually use Facebook to ‘Like’ everything — like it was meant to book their faces permanently online, in all ways and for all time.

A young person dies or gets arrested or ends-up in the news for good or bad reasons and if you want to know who? Just get the name and checkout their Facebook page. Persons in relationships thoughtlessly ‘post’ photos of ‘new-found babes’ on their Facebook page. Others out to break-up a new relationships being built by an ex-partner, simply post intimate photos of their past life to ‘the new kid on the block.’ It’s just the way of their world – like a viral germ or hi-tech virus ate their brains!

But all the negativity is miniscule vis-à-vis the immense positive possibilities. I watch the way those (same young people) who are aware of the power at their fingertips use the Internet and their IT skills to create new things.

Not all in our parts have turned out to be a Caribbean Bill Gates, a West Indian Steve Jobs or even an apparent OECS face-book of David Zuckerman. But I watch them navigate their fingertips on their keyboards and consoles when war-gaming, chasing ghosts of fighting wizards — and I imagine how speedily they can solve so many problems if only helped onto the right track, with the right tools and the right objective.

I watch the way the young people in Asia (especially in China and India) develop new Apps to please themselves and help others, and I know they don’t have an ounce more brain than our Caribbean youth of the same age — just that the others either have better access to IT (as in ‘rural’ China) or will walk ten miles to become an inch more tech savvy (as in rural India).

Yet, it’s not only the young in our parts who are positively applying tech-savvy solutions to today’s everyday problems.

I don’t know who came up with the idea of a CARICOM passport or an OECS ID or ‘machine readable’ passports, but these ideas – and the necessary legal adjustments — do certainly make travel easier.

But OECS Director General Didacus Jules’ idea that we have a common OECS tourism visa is one of those good ideas I think we can look to embrace wholeheartedly.

Dr Jules pointed to three African states (Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya) that recently launched a common visa that’s so far working wonders for their tourism. And he asked, if it works for them “Why not the OECS?”

Like I said, I don’t go for these automatic prescriptions of other people’s pills for our homegrown ills. But in this case – and knowing Dr Jules like I think I still do – I think we can support him (and the OECS) wholesale on this one.

I’ve already heard that if (like Dr Jules suggests) the OECS issues a ‘common tourism visa’, it can certainly help bring more visiting tourists to the OECS, “but the islands will end-up fighting among ourselves to see which can get the most.”

That type of selfish nationalist expression reflects lack or misunderstanding of the value of increasing the OECS tourism product.

Besides, increasing the ability of visitors to move from one (OECS) island to the other, without visa hassle, will cause each island to have to do that other necessary thing that Dr Jules pointed to: sharpening the attractiveness of the (tourism) product and (correctly) identifying what it is (for the market).

For the past ten years, I’ve had one big bee in my bonnet: I’d like to see Chinese tourists flood St. Lucia and the OECS.

Every year, while reviewing China’s annual overseas travel tourism statistics, I tell my Chinese friends, “We’re not greedy. All we want is only one percent of the number of Chinese who visit our part of the world (America – North, South and Central) each year. [My challenge to you: Find out and do the Maths, Dear Reader — and blow your mind!]

But each time, those in the know tell me: “Fix your visa problem first!”

They explain that (the likes of) Mexico and the Dominican Republic have so relaxed their visa restrictions that they have either been eliminated or can be purchased at the airport on arrival. (Here too, I think we can look to carbon copy or cut-and-paste…)

The way it works in our parts, it’s easier to see (and it makes more sense, actually for) the OECS adopt ‘a common visa’ than for individual states to watch each other before flexing local law.

Here’s hoping the OECS Tourism Ministers will have seen the wisdom in the Director General’s latest recommendation: that the sub-region takes a common approach to the visa issue.

After all, it’s not only visiting ‘tourists’ who will benefit from the common OECS vis. It will also be for the benefit of all of us who have a passport — and will travel.

1 Comment

  1. comrade I hear you, but first let us take care of us before we take care of them….CSME, a Jamaican artists still cannot freely come to St. Lucia and perform his craft even if in the eyes of some his lyrics is controversial. And could you image your Chines friends, put together a boat load of Gay and Lesbians and decide its the Caribbean for the cruise. So how smart man OECS Jules doing to deal wit that!!! So lets not “speak their speak and talk their talk” we eh ready for that yet.

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