Re­store cred­i­bil­ity on strate­gic pil­lars

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By

Me­la­nius Alphonse

the midst of mod­est growth, low oil and gas prices and up­com­ing new rules from global banks and fi­nan­cial ser­vice in­sti­tu­tions in the global econ­omy, there are a few game chang­ers to eye­ball in the clos­ing days of 2014.

The World Bank has just is­sued a re­port called “Mind, So­ci­ety and Be­hav­ior” list­ing many poli­cies that have al­ready been tried and points the way to many more - on how the in­sights of be­hav­ioral eco­nomics can be ap­plied to global de­vel­op­ment and global health.

The real story here is the per­spec­tive on the of­fen­sive strat­egy and mea­sures to counter the new rules of en­gage­ment and the game chang­ing pol­icy needed to get Saint Lu­cia the in­cen­tives needed to im­prove the way for­ward.

To re­store cred­i­bil­ity and trust, the hope and as­pi­ra­tion of the peo­ple must be built on strong struc­tural pil­lars and sound fis­cal pol­icy. Not the de­cep­tion of the 70s and 80s era!

Years of pol­icy di­ver­gence has not led to re­ward and re­cov­ery for the peo­ple and the coun­try. The po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment of the Saint Lu­cia Labour Party (SLP) is try­ing des­per­ate po­lit­i­cal tricks and dis­creet op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­ploit, not solve, ba­sic prob­lems to change the eco­nomic woes. The SLP can’t rule based on its su­per­fi­cial ex­per­tise - best brain phe­nom­e­non - when there is mass un­em­ploy­ment of ap­prox­i­mately 40% of young peo­ple be­tween the ages of 15 and 35 years. And the SLP can­not for­mu­late and ar­tic­u­late pol­icy based on its un­der­stand­ing of what is re­quired. In fact its ide­o­log­i­cal blind­ness to learn from its mis­takes and that of oth­ers is quite vivid by ab­stract mea­sures that are not spe­cific to spur eco­nomic growth in a de­pressed econ­omy.

What’s new is that peo­ple have reached their limit on a spe­cial kind of ar­ro­gance by the SLP that has su­per­fi­cial cred­i­bil­ity! The peo­ple have reached their limit with an SLP gov­ern­ment that does not lis­ten to the peo­ple, thus ig­nor­ing the need to raise the bar on real trans­parency and bet­ter pol­icy de­ci­sions rather than a daily dose of talk­ing points and po­lit­i­cal ploy of di­vi­sion and dis­par­ity in our so­ci­ety.

The po­lar­iza­tion in that re­spect is a deep stress fac­tor, par­tic­u­larly on job cre­ation, ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties, skills de­vel­op­ment and ad­vance­ment for youth and business.

To re­store cred­i­bil­ity, the strate­gic pil­lars must fo­cus pol­icy on the com­bined use of mon­e­tary pol­icy, struc­tural re­form and fis­cal stim­u­lus, and on how to en­able a bet­ter bal­ance be­tween price sta­bil­ity, growth and in­fla­tion in an en­abling macroe­co­nomic en­vi­ron­ment for strong in­vestor con­fi­dence and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a Cen­tre for Pol­icy Al­ter­na­tives; and a Cen­tre for In­no­va­tion to en­hance the pro­mo­tion of skills up­grade in sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, maths (STEM) re­search and de­vel­op­ment (R&D) and to de­velop en­ter­prise in ar­eas of skills de­vel­op­ment along­side agro-com­modi­ties mar­kets, farm and co-oper­a­tive mar­kets and ini­tia­tives to turn from long-term in­equal­ity and per­ma­nently im­pov­er­ished com­mu­ni­ties.

Grand and ab­stract schemes of NICE, STEP and STEP-UP and four lane bridges at ex­trav­a­gant cost on a two lane thor­ough­fare are just that - schemes that un­born St. Lu­cians are in­debted to, rais­ing con­cerns about how to curb a grow­ing pub­lic debt that would be bet­ter spent to en­gage young en­trepreneurs, and on health­care, ex­tended early ed­u­ca­tion and pri­mary care, and op­por­tu­ni­ties for first time em­ploy­ment and in­tern­ship.

Re­newed support for man­u­fac­tur­ers and the agri­cul­ture sec­tor to re­tool plant and equip­ment; pro­vide short-term tax re­lief to curb high raw ma­te­rial cost and the pro­mo­tion of re­new­able en­ergy to pro­duce com­pet­i­tive prod­ucts to re­vive lo­cal de­mand and sat­isfy in­ter­na­tional mar­kets that would in rea­son­able time de­liver a re­turn on in­vest­ment.

Saint Lu­cia would be bet­ter served to build bridges that free the coun­try from so­cial and eco­nomic de­pri­va­tion, es­pe­cially the youth and en­claves of towns, vil­lages and the city of Castries that are staved of eco­nomic de­velop- ment and qual­ity job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

It is de­plorable to ex­pect Saint Lu­cia to de­velop on part­time NICE and STEP po­lit­i­cal nepo­tism called “jobs.” This is a reck­less dis­re­spect that de­means the hu­man soul and serves as a bar­rier to build a fam­ily and plan for the fu­ture.

A bet­ter di­rec­tion is to for­mu­late a plat­form of youth and business to com­bine cre­ative ideas, new in­cen­tives to en­trepreneur­ship via ac­cess to mi­croloans and low in­ter­est loans, low bank charges and credit card fees, for home based start-ups (that cen­tre on the fam­ily - ru­ral and com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment, women and youth) in the ar­eas of agri­cul­ture and agro-business, so­lar en­ergy, and tech­nol­ogy. Pro­mote the de­vel­op­ment of aqua­cul­ture, bio­gas and green­houses, agri­cul­ture and en­ergy agro-business, fish pro­duc­tion, and in the process in­crease farm pro­duc­tiv­ity with the goal to re­duce by 30% the food im­port bill; clos­ing the trade gap im­bal­ance; safe­guard­ing jobs and for­eign ex­change.

Saint Lu­cia would be bet­ter served to en­gage youth and business in the op­por­tu­nity to for­mu­late im­prove­ments and solve real sit­u­a­tions that plague so­ci­ety to­day, and foster prac­ti­cal strate­gies to end de­fla­tion and gen­er­ate growth.

To re­store cred­i­bil­ity will re­quire find­ing a path to fis­cal re­con­struc­tion to re­vive the econ­omy on its enor­mous youth­ful pop­u­la­tion and to grow busi­nesses that foster a higher level of na­tional en­gage­ment and a deeper thought process. Like­wise, the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment, re­gard­less of af­fil­i­a­tion, must trust its young lead­ers suf­fi­ciently to en­gage their cre­ative con­fi­dence.

In set­ting that dy­namic strat­egy, Saint Lu­cia must also change struc­turally to re­as­sure com­pe­tent po­lit­i­cal gov­er­nance and pol­icy sta­bil­ity, to stand a bet­ter chance in a thriv­ing econ­omy - not the po­lit­i­cal mea­sures of so­cial and eco­nomic prom­ises, which is the way the SLP gov­ern­ment of­ten works to block a path to fis­cal re­newal.

Me­la­nius Alphonse is a man­age­ment and de­vel­op­ment con­sul­tant and mem­ber of the Lu­cian Peo­ple’s Move­ment.

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