Bracing for Storms Beyond the Horizon

Still fresh in our minds is Saint Lucia’s 44th Independence Anniversary Celebrations, which brought the island one year closer to the 45th, the next milestone along the long march to an end to dependence on things our nation has no control over.

We are no less dependent on international political and economic trends, effects of Climate Change and results of wars we’re neither part of nor benefiting from, but as we tread the path of a growing nation, we are still comparatively young and learning lessons along the way even as we mark our triumphs and other achievements as a nation and a people, and individually making Saint Lucia proud.

This year’s observances were mainly of the same as most, except it was the first major celebration in the post-COVID era that saw everyone who wanted to find themselves in the heat of the activities celebrating the nation‘s 44th anniversary.

The addresses delivered here on February 22 and 23 by the Executive Director of the World Trade Organization and the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) brought fresh and welcome external observations, acknowledgments, and respect for Saint Lucia’s historical achievements on the world stage, from the notable characteristic of having the highest per capita number of Nobel Laureates, to its unique historical role on the leadership of the OECS and its current post-pandemic economic rebound.

Both international figures also laced Saint Lucia with praise for record of rebounds from unfortunate circumstances – from the loss of Green Gold to the post-COVID economic downturn – and expressed optimism that good reports will continue to emerge as the trends continue.

The two international guests also spoke against the background of Saint Lucia’s role in the new international circumstance where small islands and developing economies are increasingly left alone to paddle their canoes out of the global economic turbulence that’s followed the COVID Pandemic and the fighting in Ukraine, which, after one year, is showing no signs of ending soon.

Never mind the welcome good news about the island’s positive economic performance since COVID, we’re still not yet out of the woods, and Saint Lucians will be well advised to brace for more bad weather even while we celebrate our achievements.

Growth projections are positive even as the rest of the Caribbean and the world try to manage the headwinds from inflation and recession to Climate Change, and the widening after-effects of trade and other sanctions that have also seen blowback in Europe.

Our food import bill is growing and needs to be reduced considerably if Saint Lucia is to reach anywhere near achieving a 25% reduction by 2025, in keeping with the related CARICOM thematic goal for ‘25 X 25’.  We will require fundamental changes to what we eat and what we plant, where we buy and how healthy our foods are.

The government will not forever be able to subsidize fuel and cooking gas, flour and sugar and sooner or later we’ll all start feeling the bite harder from food and fuel prices as we continue to count the cost of survival in these new times of The New Normal, when nothing is like the old normal anymore.

And agriculture will have to be made attractive to youth through the Youth Economy.

But all in all, as we start on the road to the 45th independence anniversary, and with major constitutional changes on the near horizon, it’s imperative that Saint Lucians, one and all, also start readying for the necessary psychological, sociological, and personal changes to meet and overcome the challenges ahead.

And the government will also do well to understand that GDP and other economic growth terms will not mean anything to the vast majority of Saint Lucians until it can be felt in their pockets and seen on their tables.

That’s the new reality in the new norm that Saint Lucia and the rest of the world face today and for the foreseeable future.  Let us continue to brace for the storms beyond the horizon!

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