We have watched for years the deterioration of our economy, a decline that prevents a developing Saint Lucia from developing, and which has prompted many of us to ask, after 43 years as an independent country, why is it that Saint Lucia is not catching up with other small nations that have been where we are but have moved on to developing status within 43 years or less.
Saint Lucia today is caught in many traps. We have a low per capita income level, and our local market is not open enough for foreign direct investments (FDI). It seems that we are not attracting the type of foreign direct investment that could really shift our economic development needle upward.
There is a school of thought that even though small nations like ours do attract FDIs, they are still unsuccessful in climbing out of the traps that keep them from developing.
We posit the theory that bad political institutions and bad political decisions are the main traps that prevent Saint Lucia from moving up the development ladder.
Take for example the political tribalism that exist in the country today where supporters of either political party will pull out all stops to tear each other apart, resorting to outright lies and fabricated stories about each other. Over and over have we seen this scenario played out with no public condemnation of the lies by the leadership of either of the political parties.
Then there are the bad decisions made by the political parties whenever they are in power. One major bad decision which is perennial is the discontinuation of projects started by either party when in power.
Our political and physical landscapes are littered with projects started by a party in power but discontinued when the other party takes over the reins of power, a behaviour which has cost the country millions of dollars; dollars which the country must pay back.
So steep is the political polarization of citizens that those who support the party in power are not motivated at all to speak out against such actions. Neither are the supporters of the party in opposition due to a simple fact, that on entering the halls of political power, they too will do likewise; squandering millions of dollars, effectively creating an albatross around our necks.
A classic case of a discontinued project and loss of money, millions of dollars to be exact, is the St Jude Hospital Redevelopment Project.
Destroyed in 2009 the drive to rebuilt began that same year. However, after 13 years and a change of government three times, that project has yet to be completed, with each incoming administration refusing to follow the project’s blueprint that was followed by the previous administration.
This is a recurring situation that drives Saint Lucia further and further down the under-development road.
Whilst it is understandable that the Saint Lucia Labour Party and the United Workers Party will have different economic policies or different premises on how this country should grow, there should be at least a common understanding between them regarding national projects, meaning projects which have an enduring impact on all citizens of the country. After all, when a disaster strikes it strikes on supporters of both political parties.
This type of behaviour by the two political parties destroys the country from within and the citizens are the losers. Just imagine the two political parties joining heads to build a state-of-the-art hospital in the south of the island after its fiery devastation in 2009. Not only would Saint Lucia have had a hospital to rival the Owen King European Hospital in Castries years ago, the added burden of the loss of over EC$118 million, squandered by both political parties, as each pursues their own designs regarding the hospital, would not be there to be carried by Saint Lucians.
The country is now shouldering a double financial burden where this hospital is concerned: the lost revenue said to be in the tens of millions of dollars and the new revenue that will be sourced to complete what this government considers the best way for completion of the project.
It is not too late for all Saint Lucians to demand of their respective political parties to stop the scrapping or scaling down of projects whenever they take over the reins of power in this country
We reiterate that although each political party has its own signature economic roadmap, each should put, above all their policies, Saint Lucia first.
Never must it be forgotten that while politicians have shelf lives the country does not, therefore engaging in projects that are burdensome to the country will not destroy the country per se but the citizens of the country. The world has enough failed economies due to opposing politicians failing to adhere or put in place a joint blueprint for development of their countries. Surely, we do not want to add to that figure.