Letters & Opinion

St. Lucia’s Economy Ticks Over by Sheer Habit

By James Edwin

St. Lucia is an island of 238 sq miles, but despite its size, it suffers from two drawbacks.  There is a tremendous area of undeveloped lands and secondly many of the outer districts are considered distant from the important economic centres.  This drawback has placed these residents at a disadvantage from various aspects.

Only in the last twenty years the road system servicing these pockets were meaningfully addressed, but more importantly, the topography of the land has been responsible for these setbacks, where unlike an island like Barbados which is relatively flat and blessed with a coral rock foundation, St. Lucia is predominantly clay together with various compositions which elevates the cost of home and road construction.  Additionally, based on the mountainous terrain, expensive drainage works must be addressed and when not implemented for whatever reasons the ultimate price is paid when storms and heavy rainfalls occur.

These factors indirectly take a toll on the education system on island coupled with the patois dialogue, which is endorsed by some influential academics, but in reality, patois has been disadvantageous to our educational progress.  The St. Lucia Labour Party, which is supported by some 30 – 40 percent of the voting population has been able over the last 50 years to maintain a strong hold on that percentage in ways which have not been totally beneficial, while on the other hand statistics has shown that the UWP over the last 50 years holds a superior track record on overall development including the construction of schools.

Despite this situation, the St. Lucia Labour Party on the other hand tend to have a base, that supports their party in the worst of times, but more importantly they remain persistent in calling the various talk shows and television stations when the United Workers Party supporters are far more conservative in that kind of approach and therein, lies the major difference between both parties.

This year’s election campaign was not an ordinary one, as the Covid presence presented enormous challenges 18 months prior to Election Day, including much unrest amongst many St. Lucians who lost employment as a result of Covid.  Prior to the election date, Prime Minister Chastanet was extremely concerned and recognized the fact that with the Delta variant on the horizon and a meaningful infection spread was likely to take place and based on his anticipation he contemplated a 90-day extension of the general elections which was constitutionally permissible with the hope of introducing a herd immunity.

These actions could not be fulfilled without the adequate vaccine stock, consequently, he took a decision to fast track the vaccine supply through an individual who was well recommended and whose track record proved reliable enough, but unfortunately India the largest manufacturer of vaccines, became overwhelmed with the Delta variant.  The decision to look elsewhere became more important requiring the former PM to find an alternative source.  The general elections earmarked for mid-October had to be reviewed as the vaccines would not reach St. Lucia in time to create the herd immunity the Prime Minister so desired. This decision created a setback for the administration and permitted the opposition to take advantage of the situation.

The foresight of the former Prime Minister was spot-on as the election took place on July 26th with a deadly virus within the atmosphere. St. Lucia has paid a very high price for the lack of cooperation from the opposition who wanted an election at all cost no matter what the consequences may have been.

Today, St. Lucia has witnessed over 5,000 new cases and in excess of 180 deaths.  The responsibility and decision making of any Prime Minister within small island states is huge but coupled to calling the right date of  general elections in a Covid environment is yet another story.  The current St. Lucia Prime Minister is only two months in office and has not enjoyed the customary honeymoon period and is already at his wits end with one St. Lucian dying every 13 days and an economy ticking over by sheer habit.

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