THE year is ending on a very somber note for us in St Lucia. The level of economic activity and public spending that we witnessed during Christmas was a clear indication that this country is still struggling to find its feet after the decline of the past few years. In fact, there are lingering fears that things could get worse before they begin to get better.
The general election of June that brought a new government to power can stake its claim to being the event of the year. Not only did the two-term Labour Party government lose office, but the extent of its defeat was a lesson in itself about how the public will in future view failed administrations, especially those that also carry other types of baggage in their style of governance and the way they treat their people.
Crime, domestic women and child abuse grabbed the headlines throughout the year especially in the early to middle months, as did suicides. Apart from the din of public protests and expressions of concern, the fact remains that we have accomplished precious little in finding solutions to these worrying issues that touch so many lives and continue to be repeated over and over and over again.
We are ending 2016 with several of the issues that we opened the year with still unresolved: high unemployment and public debt levels, loads of other economic issues, crime and social decay, a broken justice system, the IMPACS issue to name a few. The government no doubt will want to argue that it has started delivering on its pledges to the electorate especially on economic matters but it knows that much more will have to be done before our people can begin to smile again.
On the horizon for 2017, there are indications of some badly-needed investments especially in the hospitality sector. Of course, all eyes will be on the flagship project, the massive multi billion Desert Star Holdings plan for Vieux Fort. The new year should tell us about the integrity of that initiative when actual construction kicks off. We look forward with great anticipation to the impact of this project to see whether it lives up to the hype.
The government has promised a restructuring of the tax system to ease the burden on both citizens and the private sector. The real hope, however, is that sometime early in the new year, it will begin to define a clear path or vision for the country in both the immediate and long term. One crucial aspect of this plan will have to be the fostering of a new culture and ethic among St Lucians at large to spur productivity in our country and push economic growth. We cannot rely on growth of one or two percent a year when what is needed is five and six percent, at the very least. But such issues need to be articulated in a national plan that will be sold to the people at large.
A number of other ideas have been floated by the government in the six months since coming into office but the time has come for some firm resolutions and the forging of a real partnership involving government, the private sector and the people to map out a rescue plan for our country.
So if 2016 was one of reversal and political change the new year will be one of anticipation about the effectiveness and wisdom of that change.