TWO weeks ago at the last Sitting of the House of Assembly, I was intrigued by the former Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony’s criticism of the modus operandi of institutions such as the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the European Union (EU) when it comes to the rate of provision of loans and resources for projects they have implemented or agreed to fund.
I will begin by prefacing this disagreement with the former Prime Minister’s argument by saying that I am extremely happy whenever any politician criticises the practices of blocs like the EU and banks like the CDB — particularly central banks.
Therefore, I take no issue with the criticism itself, but with its premise — and that is, that the CDB and the EU must be made to change their ways and deliver whatever promises they’ve made in a timely manner.
I was also intrigued by the tack used by Dr Anthony in his rebuttal in the House of Assembly.
His observation that “the Caribbean Development Bank is doing a disservice to the island and the region” came across more as advice from the former leader of Government to the current one, rather than as a partisan shot that we often see being fired across the political aisle. And his perspective in that regard is extremely valuable.
Thus we know that Dr Anthony wasn’t talking without any basis in reality, because he was in the position Allen Chastanet currently holds, and so, partisan politics aside, I felt that he was genuinely giving what he believes to be good advice. I could be wrong, but that was the impression I got.
However, his given solution to the problems he outlined allows us to peer into one of the core issues with governance, not only in St. Lucia but in the wider Caribbean — and that is the over-reliance on not only foreign aid, but foreign initiatives.
The critical points Dr. Anthony made came in stages.
First, he pointed out that the EU’s rate of implementation of projects in the Caribbean “is abysmally low.”
Secondly, he pointed out that “whenever you tackle the European Union, they always tell you that it has to do with the lack of capacity in the various governments.”
Although the EU’s above-referenced assertion may be unfair as Dr. Anthony pointed out, the fact is, they are in the geopolitical position to be unfair and mere contestation is not going to change that fact; and because it won’t change anything, it won’t resolve the issues he has brought up.
Thirdly, the former Prime Minister pointed out that the problem with our lack of project implementation does not lie with our technocrats, but with the likes of the CDB and the EU — “with the institutions that have responsibility to make those loans or resources available to you.”
But while one may argue that the CDB has this “responsibility”, that is, this obligation (although I personally disagree with this notion, given what all banks are; and that they all have a primary loyalty not to the countries or regions in which they happen to operate, but to their bottom line; see Scotiabank’s recent action as evidence of this point) the EU definitely does not have any responsibility to anyone outside of its borders, far less to us here in the Eastern Caribbean, no matter what verbal, or documented agreement it may or may not have entered in with us.
The fact is, it’s the EU’s money and it is in the position of superiority — and dare I say at the risk of giving offense — it is in the position of mastery over us, that is, over we, who, for all intents and purposes, are still mired in a post-colonial state of mind that has in effect extended our colonial status.
Finally, Dr. Anthony argued that “Unless we understand that and force those institutions to change their ways we are going to be stuck in mud all over again.”
That was his posited solution to problems he rightly pointed out, to force a major power and a regional bank, to operate according to our terms.
However, he is stating something that is not viable, at least not in the case of the EU. We cannot, as the beggar state – which, unfortunately, we are, due to the bad mismanagement of funds by successive administrations — dictate to the EU the terms with which it gives or lends its gifts. Indeed, beggars cannot be choosers.
A far more practical approach would be to wean the country off of its over-reliance on the EU and the CDB, because they are never going to change out of the kindness of their hearts, for the sole purpose of the Caribbean’s greater good — and more specifically, the St. Lucian populace.
It’s just not going to happen. And we have no means of coercing them to do so. Just ask Haiti how long it’s awaited its reparations from European powers. It will wait until the end of time because they’re just not going to be given.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like any of our leaders are seriously considering freeing St. Lucia from an overreliance on loans from banks and from (the many strings-attached) grants by organisations like the EU and USAID.
Much is being made about our 40th Independence Anniversary, with this sentiment oftentimes being expressed: that this means that we are no longer a child.
To this I say that it isn’t that we are not ‘a child’, but in fact we are still ‘a slave’ as a nation: and we are still eating the scraps from the table of our colonial masters — except now we’ve actually deluded ourselves into thinking that a generic declaration of independence makes us independent.