THE economic climate in Saint Lucia appears to be changing very rapidly of late. The heat is definitely on as persons scramble to make a living or at least to make it through the day. The spirit of entrepreneurship has certainly filled the city of Castries as you can find self employed retailers on foot on every major street selling anything from water and peanuts to clothes and fashion jewellery. Business is not lucrative but persons aspire nonetheless to make at least one sale before sundown. Even children too can be found on the ‘hustle’ (not the criminal kind) as they eagerly strive to sell their mothers’ provisions.
We have heard representatives from financial institutions talk time and time again about supporting entrepreneurs. But the ‘street hustle’ (again, not the criminal kind) is not the kind of entrepreneurship that they talk about. By what practical means can the street vendor be elevated from his or her common stage of survival to that of the respected entrepreneur? When he or she is on the street trying to make a living, that vendor is not attending the conferences of those institutions who vow to support the aspiring entrepreneur. Take a walk through downtown Castries and you will notice that the only support the street vendors seem to get is from the occasional passer by. It is no secret that most major financial institutions are supporting only the entrepreneurs from whom they can secure profitable gains.
For some of us, it’s about business, and it’s about making profits to expand in order to make more profit. For the rest of us… it’s just about survival; nothing more, nothing less. If we can survive on $15 a day, then it will suffice to make $15 a day. The harsh truth is that many people have silently lost hope in the pursuit to elevate their standard of living, and have chosen to accept life the way it is. Others choose to remain in a 9-5 job in which their salaries are secure rather than risk it to start a business venture of their own.
With Saint Lucia’s high rate of unemployment, in addition to the low income rate of the masses upon which the struggling entrepreneur and the street vendor are hoping to make a fortune or a living, we must commend ourselves for the resilience we display in pressing on in our fight for survival. Slavery teaches us a very valuable lesson in this regard which we must never forget. The perspiration of the Caribbean people has supported the economies of Europe for hundreds of years. This is an indication that the perseverance of our people will outlast the economic realities of any time. If we managed to support Europe at one point, then we can certainly build a self sustainable economy in which we can support ourselves ten times over. That is a fact.
May our government therefore take a real interest in the economic growth of our people and put the people’s money where their mouth is. The Saint Lucian man and woman can work, and they can make something, anything, out of nothing. May the Government see the value of this and find ways to invest more in the people than they ever have before.