THE two protest marches held on Wednesday proved how divided people remain both along party lines and on the issues of the day. Despite the numbers who turned out that both political parties are bragging about, it really does add up to both sides thinking that each is right and the other is wrong.
Paradoxically, those protesting against the government’s policies – that such policies are heading south and causing many Saint Lucians great unease – held their march in the north while those who feel the government is changing the country’s economic climate upwards, held their march in the south.
While the controversial Desert Star Holdings Limited (DSH), the proposed dolphinarium and other major touristic developments formed the bedrock of both protest marches, another fundamental issue was in the balance: are citizens getting their money’s worth as far as governance is concerned?
Undoubtedly, the government has an uphill battle to face as far as steering the economy towards any sustained path to progress is concerned. Years of economic malaise has virtually stifled the economy to the extent that even projections of economic growth anywhere near 2% per annum would be a dream come true.
However, with the Minister for Finance now in a position to start spending from this year’s financial allocations, it remains to be seen whether or not the fire the nearly-one-year government has had to walk through explaining itself time and again that they know what they are about was worth it.
Nevertheless, while the focus seems to be centred on the abovementioned issues, Saint Lucians need to be mindful that other aspects of the economy are still in tatters. Violent crimes, a high rate of alcohol and drug abuse, sky-high unemployment, vagrancy, businesses closing their doors, high cost of living and bank foreclosures are just a few of the most serious issues facing citizens these days.
While it is admirable that any government would be adamant about providing the economic climate that spurs a buoyant economy, it must understand that there will always remain a slew of concerns that citizens might have should even government’s best efforts succeed. However, citizens must also remember that electing governments also come with certain risks, including government sometimes having to take risks, especially in an increasingly volatile global marketplace that shows no mercies for small states like ours.
That is why there is more rhyme and reason in the call for both main political parties to collectively put rancour, animosity and egos aside – if only this once – and show some measure of bipartisanship as far as charting the nation’s future is concerned.
As it is, too many people are frustrated on both sides of the political divide with neighbours creating deeper rifts over political ideologies. The ruling party and the Opposition must be seen as being respectful of each other even when they differ in opinion on policies. After all, the world must not see us as unwelcoming and disrespectful to each other while we go above and beyond to please external friends.
As the current trend stands, Saint Lucia seems likely to continue borrowing its way out of its problems and burying its need for compromise on issues. However, what needs to be buried is the pride on both sides of the political divide which often changes with the tide of time, anyway.
After nearly a year since a new government was elected, there is still too much unease on the part of citizens who still expect that their previous woes under the last would have begun to be ameliorated. With four more years to go, they expect a better quality of life than the one they have still not become accustomed to.
If the government of the day truly has the magic formula to arrest the economy from its perennial slippage, then now would be the right time to show that it truly can lead the country onto the path to progress again. People need to walk the streets with pride again, not with placards that demand it.