Letters & Opinion

As I See It

Image of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet
By Jeff Fedee

IT is with a degree of trepidation (not fear) that I write this article, for I anticipate that I will be denounced by St. Lucians for expressing my opinion on the course that our country is taking under the leadership of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.

I was faced with the dilemma of one who wrote extensively about the choice facing the electorate in the June 6, 2016 general elections, in which I supported the U.W.P. Leader Allen Chastanet against Dr. Kenny Anthony.

In the first instance, I wish to disclose why I supported Allen Chastanet instead of Stephenson King to be the leader of the U.W.P. I believed that Dr. Kenny Anthony would crush King in any general elections, because Kenny treated King with utter contempt and disdain in the House of Assembly. I, however, believe that currently Minister King is the most competent speaker in the House of Assembly.

Allen Chastanet has taken up the mantle of the country under the banner of the United Workers Party, which is the party that spearheaded the development of the social, economic and infrastructural landscape of St. Lucia, under the visionary Sir John Compton.

It was Sir John who developed St. Lucia way ahead of all the other O.E.C.S. territories. It was widely anticipated that Allen Chastanet would follow the footsteps and legacy of Sir John, and his modus operandi.

Sir John was a modest man who did not indulge in extravagance. Instead, St. Lucians are witnessing the reckless expenditure, and the emphasis on bacchanalia that is being propagated in our country by Allen Chastanet, of a prolonged Summer Festival of music and merriment for six months.

Sir John must be turning in his grave, for he was very caustic of St. Lucians’ tendency to fete, which he derisively described as “way-lay-lay” instead of pursuing personal development through advanced education.

Sir John was a learned man who was a graduate of the world-renowned London School of Economics, where he studied Development Economics and also qualified as a lawyer in England. He was among the group of brilliant and visionary political leaders of the Caribbean in that era, such as Dr. Eric Williams, Forbes Burnham, Grantley Adams, Errol Burrow, Alexander Bustamante, Norman and Michael Manley, James Mitchell, Vere Bird and Eugenia Charles.

Those visionary leaders looked beyond the limitations of their individual territories, large and small, and were the architects of the formation of the smaller islands into firstly the Eastern Caribbean Common Market (E.C.C.M.), the forerunner of the O.E.C.S. These entities were formed so that these small countries could combine their limited financial resources in the establishment of joint external foreign affairs offices, and combined exportation of agricultural products, particularly bananas to the industrialized countries under the banner of W.I.N.B.A.N.

Those visionary leaders of that era recognized that small single entities would be swallowed up in the competitive environment of world trade and joined the more developed territories of Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and Guyana to form CARICOM.
Those historic figures were not concerned about frivolous festivities in which citizens are encouraged into a senseless indulgence of six months of feting, bacchanalia and debauchery, which will precipitate crime, the wastage of citizens’ limited financial resources, and the decay of our society in general. We as patriotic St. Lucians must resist the direction in which our country is being taken.

It is only with discipline and less bacchanalia that we as a society can increase productivity and inculcate discipline in our society, with the emphasis on hard work and industry.

The most brilliant leaders of the advanced countries of the world surround themselves with wise and learned men who can provide sound counsel on the implications of policies contemplated, and of the over-emphasis on festivals, merriment and drinking, to the detriment of a society’s economic, social and moral development.

Under the current circumstances, considering the strong protestant and religious ethos of St. Lucians, I am confident that the people of St. Lucia will return our country to more sensible leadership and a path of sustainable development in the not-too-distant future.

Consider the reckless extravagance of the Prime Minister in hiring a foreign entity, Ernst & Young, to prepare St. Lucia’s 2017/18 budget, a task that has been efficiently accomplished by competent civil servants in Government departments from time immemorial.

The cost to the taxpayer must be phenomenal and has not been disclosed to the public nor to the country’s official Opposition in Parliament. This is the kind of recklessness that would cause the leader of an advanced country in the world to be impeached. No wonder we in “beggar” countries incapable of technological advancement are referred to as Third World.

Yet, in his Budget Address, Allen Chastanet would state, “We have an ageing infrastructure and public assets have deteriorated significantly due to lack of timely, adequate and no maintenance of roads, schools, hospitals, water distribution, government buildings, including police stations, which require urgent attention!”

The evidence is clear that the Prime Minister has not tried to repair any of the infrastructural works that he has highlighted in his budget address. The general population has witnessed the terrible state of schools with gaping holes in their roofs which were never attended to during the long summer vacation while Ministers were travelling across the globe on mindless jaunts.

Therefore, instead of using the exorbitant funds to contract Ernst & Young to prepare our 2017/18 Budget, those finances should have been used to rectify those decaying facilities and infrastructure for which the previous administration was blamed.

The deception of the budget address continued with the statement by the Prime Minister, quote: “It is possible to expand tourism by 2000 rooms over the next four years…We have already witnessed the opening of the Royalton where a minimum of 900 jobs have been created. The Harbor Club is expected to be opened with 117 rooms.”

No credit was given to the Labour Party and in a deceptive way Allen attempted to take full credit for those projects by not mentioning the name of the Labour Party which was responsible for bringing to St. Lucia and negotiating the terms for the establishment of these two hotels in St. Lucia.

What we are witnessing today is that St. Lucia, which was once the beacon as the leading economy in the O.E.C.S. region, has now become the laughing-stock of the O.E.C.S.

Allen Chastanet has not offered an enlightened path for St. Lucia’s future development. Instead, we should study and emulate the course of development of small country states in the world, which have aspired and reached the advanced levels of the large industrialized countries of the world.

It is only with discipline and less bacchanalia can we as a nation increase productivity and build the wealth of a nation in the production of goods and services. Instead, we besiege the Taiwanese for the most rudimentary needs such as community footpaths, gutters, bridges and even agricultural projects at the same time our Prime Minister is predisposed to traipse across the globe with large delegations, with our limited financial resources which could best be used for more productive purposes, such as the repair of schools and many other critical areas which have been woefully neglected.

Singapore and our major benefactor, the Taiwanese, demonstrate to our country St. Lucia and the rest of our English-speaking Caribbean that small countries can achieve scientific and technological advancements that are parallel to the advanced countries of the world.

Singapore was originally smaller than St. Lucia’s land area of 238 sq. miles. But with its engineers, it expanded its land area to 277.6 sq. miles, and has an annual G.D.P. of US$53 billion.

Singapore and Taiwan manufacture and produce computers, electrical machinery, chemicals and many solar-driven components, panels and a multiplicity of advanced products. Singapore also manufactures jumbo jets for some of the leading commercial airlines in the world. These two relatively-small countries are smaller than the larger territories of CARICOM which have not embraced the advanced system of this brave new world in which our region has not emulated the systems and the discipline of our people to the level of the development of the advanced world.

From my perspective, I discern that there are no longer learned technocrats to give wise counsel to the leader of the country as far as important national issues are concerned.

Allen Chastanet has not offered an enlightened path for St. Lucia’s future development. Instead of emphasizing and inculcating the importance of an economically self-sufficient culture for our people, our P.M. is hell-bent on selling our patrimony to foreign individuals.

Instead of giving away 700 acres of our land for a mere pittance of US$1 per acre for a period of 99 years to a Chinese entrepreneur, wouldn’t it be more beneficial for our country to invest in our local farmers and agriculturists to engage in more lucrative pursuits such as aqua-culture endeavours like shrimp and fish farming for local consumption and export and other agricultural pursuits which would dramatically reduce our annual food import bill?

The measly US$700 per year for 700 acres of our limited and valuable land resources is in sharp contrast to genuine investors of the past, such as the philanthropic and benevolent Leon Hess, who bought land in Cul-de-Sac for his oil storage facility at market prices for millions of dollars, employing hundreds of St. Lucians and built numerous secondary schools for our children. They also gave our country financial aid and other resources whenever our country was hit by disaster.

Horse racing is not an enterprise that will stimulate significant economic growth in St.Lucia, for the jobs available to St. Lucians will be menial work, feeding horses and picking up horse dung. The main beneficiaries will be gamblers betting online in Asia, with no oversight from St. Lucia, in addition to an unknown number of St. Lucian passports for sale to Asians in the Pacific Region.

It seems that this administration does not care about the legacy that its great founder, Sir John, established, in which the economy of St. Lucia was built on a tripod of agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. The concentration now is primarily on the tourism sector and music festivals, in which the major beneficiaries are the foreign artistes.

It was announced recently that St. Lucia would singularly engage Taiwan in trade negotiations for the export of products to Taiwan. It is evident that the Ministers in the administration are not advised by experts because any student of Economics could determine that this is a totally flawed initiative, taking into consideration the distance of Taiwan from St. Lucia. The earlier formation of the O.E.C.S. was that only the output of the combined territories can trade profitably in sufficient quantities of products to foreign destinations.

The expectations of our people have not been realized. The concentration of this administration seems to be empty talk, travel and music festivals. No long-term plans for economic growth while a restive people resort to increased crime of an unprecedented 60 murders in 2017, which continues unabated in 2018.

The head of this administration, P.M. Allen Chastanet, directs criticism at various groups in the country, including teachers, women with children, the official opposition, etc. The criticisms that are levelled at these groups will give rise to social resistance against this administration. The clear thinking of Sir John has been abandoned and trampled on the ground.

Instead of encouraging our people in a prolonged period of six months of wanton behaviour and expenditure, we should be inculcating in our people the value of thrift to save for the future. The leader of a country who leads our people on a path to ruin does not have the interests of our people at heart, but that the majority descends into poverty and eventual destitution. The rich will always be more prudent in their expenditure, compared to the “thoughtless and feckless among us.”

7 Comments

  1. Jeff you are totally correct. We need to invest in our farmers and provide the support that is needed to sustain and diversify our crops. I was very fortunate to work with the St. Lucia Banana Growers Association between 1976 and 1980 as the Growers Services Supervisor under the leadership of Samuel Gage and Harry Atkinson. We had bumper crops because of good leadership and sound management. But more importantly we had a staff dedicated to the success of the Banana industry.

  2. Jeff do you want us to consider you as the caterpillar that turned into a butterfly?
    Not in St. Lucia politics. So far no one have come close; Jeff, read your little article
    again then look into the mirror and say to yourself that can’t be the same guy I knew.

  3. Jeff
    You are correct. Agriculture must be given the attention it rightfully deserves.
    St. Lucia is very fortunate to have an abundance of rich fertile soil. Choiseuel, Soufriere, once the Bread Basket, of St. Lucia with its rich volcanic soils can contribute significantly to SELF SUFFICIENCY.
    We have a humongous food import bill, hundreds of millions in dollars. Is it not possible to reduce this by at least 5 % annually? If achieved I guarantee this will impact significantly on the economy of our beloved country and will result in greater benefits to our citizens. Far more significant than the projected earnings or revenues from the Tourism sector.
    Once again Jeff, you are very correct and deserve some recognition for your courage to invite or advice the Authorities to change their current economic developmental policies.

    1. We must develop our agriculture industry rather than wish that the disposable incomes of tourist will continue to grow. People have much less disposable incomes to spend on vacation. If we were hit by a major hurricane like Puerto Rico and lost all our infrastructure, where would we find the money to invest in capital projects. Not to mention how would we repay our outstanding long term debt. Because of limited cash flows our economy would crash. However Banana crops can be revived in 9 months. Other cash crops such as cocoa (note the price of chocolate on the world market) and peanuts could be good supplements to bananas. We cannot provide the hotels with basic necessities such as lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, spinage , green peppers,cauliflower, from our local farms. We have to import these products. Not to mention the tremendous cost of importing these products. We are fooling ourselves into thinking that tourism is the answer. I have lived in the United States for 38 years and i can tell you disposable incomes are not what they used to be.

  4. Great read .As a young person I appreciate when persons realize their mistakes and own up to it.This man ain’t doing nothing good for us and only foolish people will not realize this ..All these festivals and bacchanal ,is that all we’re worth to the PM?

  5. Jeff seems to be, arguably, very proficient, even after all these years, at seemingly having little loyalty except to himself.

    His passive-aggressive approach of seeking empathy at the very beginning of the letter was curious.

    His bitterness over losing a well-paid, plum government job at RSL is seemingly stamped all over his letter. It might read to some that he has an axe to grind since he was seemingly unwilling or unable to keep up with the technological advance in broadcast and social media that rendered those with his skills as unfortunately out-dated media dinosaurs, unable to remain the sole gatekeepers of St. Lucia state-filtered information force-fed to the people, now that information instead travels worldwide at the speed of light, in colour-corrected hi-def, contributed to and read almost instantaneously by billions of wireless devices and supported by a multi-billion dollar satellite backbone.

    Both his assertion that Taiwan and Singapore are our benefactors and his comparison of St. Lucia to Singapore show an astonishing, truly astonishing lack of understanding of economics, geopolitical strategy, culture, and, well, plainly stated, the reality of the big picture.

    And the mere fact that he would think that he could pass off such a comparison on the people of St. Lucia arguably could be read as both arrogance as well as having a certain impression of just how unintelligent he feels that his countrymen to even believe it. Our people are a smart people. Such a comparison is, simply, inappropriately attempting to compare two incomparable entities. What’s next, comparing a mini-moke to a Mercedes?

    It is interesting to note Jeff’s referral to Singapore’s expansion of its land area and the implication made that this benefited their economy. Perhaps this is Jeff’s tacit advocacy of the land reclamation for developments that will be done by DSH. As perhaps a ‘fair weather’ supporter of UWP, perhaps that is not surprising.

    Overall, the letter reads somewhat as a rambling, somewhat repetitive diatribe full of obvious and exceptionally general statements about economic development. The same empty statements have been made by both parties for literally decades. Jeff brings forward nothing new nor value-added in contributing to what should be a collective national discussion of the island’s path forward, presently headed by a government duly elected by a notable majority of St. Lucians.

    Unfortunately, being stuck in the social and economic morass that we have been in for several decades will likely only continue under both parties due to a destructive mix of selfishness, greed, envy, and complacency in groups and individuals simply complaining on evenings while sharing warm Piton and cold chicken, instead of each doing their part in helping in whatever way they each can to incrementally advance our society. Bear in mind that only St. Lucians can do this, not ‘benefators’. Benefactors can assist us in capacity-building, no doubt, but that means nothing if people show no concrete initiative or table concrete ideas with specific step-wise objectives and agreed to, measurable results..

    In conclusion, one can only hope nothing but the best for Jeff and that, if necessary, he is able to wrestle whatever political regrets and related baggage of his past that might exist and to also access whatever help he may require.

    God Bless.

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