WITH both major political parties here debating as to whether the economy really is on the rebound, one gets the impression that the basketball match of words between the two might go on well into overtime. Whether it’s two-pointers or three pointers they’re shooting at each other, the game seems a really dread one for those of us who have to really keep fingers crossed and hope that some referee magically appears and turns the game in our favour.
Let’s face it, things are really dread these days, especially if you’re the kind of Saint Lucian hoping against long-spent hope that things will do get better. Walking around Castries these days, one can readily surmise that “things not running” without even asking those who readily confess that they used to run things previously.
The feeling is everywhere in Saint Lucia, it seems, especially if you’re a reporter trying to get feedback from people in the various constituencies. The feeling is stifling, too.
With the national unemployment figure now at a staggering 20-something percent, many might feel little or no comfort in the Prime Minister’s recent declaration that the island’s economic performance is on the rebound, thanks to outstanding performances in the tourism industry thus far for the year and the construction sector set to build on some tangible gains. But as much as one hopes, one must also be practical.
As it stands, the most the two major political parties can point to are past performances and what they can offer should they be reelected soon. Moreover, the incumbent can continue to be positive and adamant that what it’s doing is its absolute best despite the trying times and unrelenting criticism from the opposition.
But despite the best brains in this country, many Saint Lucians still complain that what really needs to be done here would never be because either the electorate is too soft on the elected or the elected thinks the electorate is illiterate.
Take, for instance, the $150 million road improvement project government has earmarked for the Choc/Gros Islet Highway. Cited by the government as a key spoke in the construction recovery wheel, the project is expected to provide employment for a still-undisclosed number of Saint Lucians. All this is being done as government is being forced to cut back on expenditure and curb its nearly $3 billion debt. Progress comes at a price, though, right?
The question is: Couldn’t that amount of money go into stimulating other sectors of the economy? Or increasing funding for real-world education of our schoolchildren? Or even making agriculture and manufacturing vivacious and productive sectors once again? Or how about modernizing the city once and for all?
Notwithstanding many citizens’ concerns against the multi-million project, government has decided to go ahead with it, deeming a necessity. Governments always know best, anyway. So true is that fact that the previous government continues to receive some well-deserved tongue-lashing from both its successor and fellow Saint Lucians for some questionable decisions it made while in office. Things for which Saint Lucians are still paying – financially and otherwise. They, too, knew best.
But give the current government some credit for trying, though. It’s better to do something than do nothing and just complain about Saint Lucians being too lazy to get up and create jobs for themselves. Or continue to remind us that donor agencies are reducing grants to us because we’re too cheap to pay our own fair share of taxes.
That’s why it’s so important now more than ever to safeguard the job you have and not think that you’re entitled to one as the Constitution Reform Committee’s report suggests. With all the proclaimed efforts by government at creating jobs for Saint Lucians, the key thing on politicians’ minds these days might well be securing theirs in the next year or so. We have had five-year cycles of promises – some kept, thankfully – aimed at bettering our socio-economic situation. But always remember that governments are not God – they can only do what they are humanly able to do and what we allow them to get away with.
If you asked me, if the economy is truly on the rebound, then I thank God that I’m around to see that game play out for the better. Despite the 11-6 mismatch in the team structures, I sincerely wish both teams the best as they attempt their personal best to put that basketball – I really meant to say “bread” – in our baskets. I’d prefer seeing less fouls and tackling each other, though – just give me a great game where no one is greasing the referee’s hand. That way, if I’m asked to vote for the Most Valuable Players after a few months of play, I would be making a wise decision and not one that I would spend five years regretting.