SLP Pol­i­tics and Eco­nomic Cit­i­zen­ship

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

When it was an­nounced that the for­mer gov­ern­ment of Saint Lu­cia had ap­pointed a com­mit­tee to study the pros and cons of eco­nomic cit­i­zen­ship, the fol­low­ing came to mind: the SLP is averse to for­eign­ers; they feel threat­ened by large for­eign in­vest­ments; they do not trust white peo­ple; they feel in­tim­i­dated and threat­ened by busi­ness and clas­si­cal eco­nom­ics. That SLP men­tal­ity per­sists, in or out of gov­ern­ment.

That party’s leader in op­po­si­tion had threat­ened to write to for­eign in­vestors warn­ing them not to in­vest in Saint Lu­cia be­cause it had deemed the day’s ad­min­is­tra­tion cor­rupt. How does one undo such dam­age to a coun­try’s image—and by its for­mer prime min­is­ter! Should there be a law de­bar­ring politi­cians who make such out­ra­geous state­ments from con­test­ing par­lia­men­tary elec­tions? Should they be treated as the en­emy within and charged with sedi­tion? Such would be the con­se­quence in sev­eral of the coun­tries the SLP refers to as “our non-tra­di­tional friends.” Did the SLP put a curse on the is­land—and on it­self– with that ab­so­lutely wicked un­der­tak­ing?

The SLP has demon­strated a re­luc­tance to share the na­tional pie with other ci­ti­zens of dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sions. As early as 1998, at its first con­ven­tion (Babon­neau) fol­low­ing its 1997 vic­tory at the polls, a res­o­lu­tion was pre­sented that re­quired the new gov­ern­ment to give SLP mem­bers pri­or­ity for jobs. That was the party’s ver­sion of af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion. It did not mat­ter that some ci­ti­zens have never voted. They, like oth­ers who had voted for other than SLP rule, would pay in the worst way. It did not mat­ter how qual­i­fied were job ap­pli­cants; the only qual­i­fi­ca­tion that seemed to mat­ter to the writ­ers of the res­o­lu­tion was a demon­strated de­ter­mi­na­tion to keep the red flag fly­ing high. It did seem to mat­ter than in 1997 hun­dreds of UWP sup­port­ers had de­cided to vote Labour.

An in­ter­est­ing out­come of that 1998 res­o­lu­tion was the strong ob­jec­tion by Ge­orge Od­lum. His op­po­si­tion marked the sec­ond with­drawal of the Big Brother from the SLP. Has any­thing changed since that un­for­tu­nate res­o­lu­tion? Some peo­ple are to­day con­vinced that time has only made the SLP worse. The party is now more akin to a pri­vate com­pany whose share­hold­ers are known only to its high­est ranks. Worse, it is clear that the hi­er­ar­chy is made up of shame­less patho­log­i­cal pre­var­i­ca­tors, ut­terly re­morse­less, de­spite their re­peated be­tray­als of the peo­ple’s trust.

An­other mat­ter came to mind when the Vaughan Lewis com­mit­tee to study cit­i­zen­ship by in­vest­ment was an­nounced. It was be­lieved that such a study should fall within the purview of In­vest Saint Lu­cia. If there was a per­ceived for­eign re­la­tions di­men­sion to eco­nomic cit­i­zen­ship, then why not sim­ply in­vite Lewis to sit on that com­mit­tee, some per­sons opined? And why wasn’t the same ex­per­tise brought to bear on the oil ex­plo­ration agree­ment be­tween the Labour gov­ern­ment of 2000 and Gryn­berg?

It is past high time that Saint Lu­cian politi­cians learned that in­vestors are very care­ful peo­ple. No in­vestor comes to Saint Lu­cia with­out first car­ry­ing out his or her own re­search. The most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for most in­vestors is whether the coun­try is sta­ble and whether its lead­er­ship is trust­wor­thy. Can a leader de­liver what he prom­ises? Will he act by whim and vamps, al­low­ing par­ti­san pol­i­tics the last say?

In­vestors in search of new in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties will hardly be im­pressed with the SLP’s sales pitch. They are more likely to con­sult with other in­vestors in the coun­try be­fore com­mit­ting their mil­lions to a lo­cal pro­ject. Trust, con­fi­dence, re­spect and fair play are im­por­tant im­per­a­tives to in­vestors.

A case in point is the Sandals Group’s de­sire to fur­ther de­velop the Sandals Grande re­sort and why they were frus­trated by the SLP. The ques­tion is whether per­sons at the top of the SLP can be de­pended upon to trans­act cit­i­zen­ship and for­eign in­vest­ment mat­ters for Saint Lu­cia. Re­cent his­tory an­swers that ques­tion. For many ci­ti­zens, job cre­ation should be agenda item num­ber one for their gov­ern­ment. For­eign di­rect in­vest­ments are there­fore cru­cial.

Ralph Gon­salves, Prime Min­is­ter of St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines, has fa­mously given the thumbs down to the no­tion of eco­nomic cit­i­zen­ship. Gon­salves stands for the pro­mo­tion of an indige­nous Caribbean econ­omy and devel­op­ment agenda— what­ever that means.

Eco­nomic cit­i­zen­ship is a re­al­ity for many West­ern coun­tries, in­clud­ing those of the OECS. Con­cerns over Home­land Se­cu­rity in the US should en­sure ter­ror­ists do not ac­cess Caribbean cit­i­zen­ship. How eco­nomic cit­i­zen­ship laws are framed and im­ple­mented is there­fore cru­cial. Hope­fully, the Lewis re­port on eco­nomic cit­i­zen­ship will be pub­licly dis­cussed in the in­ter­est of we, the peo­ple.

Dr. Vaughan Lewis was ap­pointed by the SLP gov­ern­ment of Kenny An­thony to head a fea­si­bil­ity study prior to the es­tab­lish­ment of the Global Res­i­dence and Cit­i­zen­ship Pro­gramme.

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