“What the prime min­is­ter needs to do now is for him and his ex­perts to visit the var­i­ous towns and vil­lages and hold town hall meet­ings to fur­ther ex­plain his govern­ment’s vi­sion.”

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

The so­cial and eco­nomic is­sues fac­ing Saint Lu­cia were put in stark terms by the is­land's prime min­is­ter in his Pol­icy State­ment at the May 9th bud­get in the House of Assem­bly. Long be­fore he de­liv­ered what his op­po­nents called 'bit­ter medicine', he had given clear in­di­ca­tion that it would not be busi­ness as usual. He had an­nounced changes to the jazz fes­ti­val and the tourist board, and hinted that his govern­ment could no longer sup­port quasi-state agen­cies that had be­come dark holes into which tax­payer dol­lars dis­ap­peared, with lit­tle to show.

He had there­fore given his crit­ics much to chew on. And they ate to their hearts' con­tent. His in­tended cost-sav­ing mea­sures, par­tic­u­larly at the Na­tional Trust, soon be­came an is­sue for the vent­ing of rage and an­i­mos­ity by failed politi­cians. The prime min­is­ter may have known how an­i­mated his op­po­nents within and with­out the par­lia­ment would be, and he de­lib­er­ately handed them the is­sues on which to gorge them­selves. The sad re­al­ity is that few, if any, of his op­po­nents ques­tioned the need for change.

They may never openly ad­mit it, but they knew in their hearts that the vot­ers made the cor­rect choice on June 6, 2016. His op­po­nents seemed more con­cerned with the man­ner and tim­ing of his de­ci­sions. They grudg­ingly in­ti­mated that they were caught un­awares and would have pre­ferred his hard medicines de­liv­ered with a touch of honey. Their at­ti­tudes have in­ad­ver­tently pointed to the very thing that caused the for­mer min­is­ter of fi­nance – their pu­ta­tive leader - to fail and the coun­try to take a down­ward slide into eco­nomic pur­ga­tory. Some­one had to res­cue the peo­ple from that un­cer­tain pur­ga­tory; that un­savoury place of re­pen­tance. And to be ef­fec­tive, re­pen­tance must be to make it more re­spon­sive to the busi­ness com­mu­nity and cit­i­zens. Num­ber four is im­prov­ing se­cu­rity and jus­tice, and job num­ber five is build­ing ca­pac­ity in re­new­able en­ergy and adapt­ing to cli­mate change.

This was sim­ple and un­com­pli­cated to those whose minds are open to think freely. It re­minds us that those who know of what they speak do so sim­ply, no mat­ter how com­pli­cated the mat­ter at hand. When a per­son can­not ex­plain him­self in sim­ple mono­syl­la­bles, he/she has not fully un­der­stood his/her sub­ject. Nuff said!

By way of in­tro­duc­tion, the prime min­is­ter (PM) had de­scribed the so­cial and eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion of the is­land as he saw it. He said he saw high un­em­ploy­ment, high debt, chron­i­cally low growth and de­vel­op­ment. “Over the past decade the is­land's un­em­ploy­ment rate had risen from 14% in 2007 to around 20% where it has stub­bornly con­tin­ues to worsen, creep­ing up from one year to the next.

Per­haps no state­ment in his en­tire pre­sen­ta­tion put the prob­lem fac­ing the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia more strongly and clearly: “The choices are stark: we ei­ther em­bark on a jour­ney of trans­form­ing our econ­omy or we con­tinue to wal­low in the vi­cious cy­cle of low growth, high debt and high un­em­ploy­ment. My govern­ment has cho­sen a path which will re­store pros­per­ity to our na­tion. It can­not be busi­ness as usual and this new vi­sion will re­quire fun­da­men­tal and struc­tural changes in the econ­omy.”

And the coup de grace, as far as this writer is con­cerned, is the fol­low­ing from the prime min­is­ter. “We want to build a Saint Lu­cia which in­stills pride; a place where busi­nesses can flour­ish; where peo­ple can get jobs, not hand­outs; where peo­ple feel se­cure and care for each other; where ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties and health­care

There is one small de­tail the govern­ment needs to put to­gether. It is a mat­ter I had writ­ten about and sug­gested some years ago. The idea is to choose the three or four vil­lages to host Jounen Kweyol 2017. The planned Pro­gramme for Vil­lage Tourism ought to be launched in th­ese vil­lages. A spe­cial lo­ca­tion within th­ese vil­lages must be found for fu­ture jazz fes­ti­vals. The road in­fras­truc­ture, bridges and large park­ing fa­cil­i­ties for vis­i­tors ought to be prop­erly planned and ex­e­cuted. Th­ese park­ing ar­eas can af­ter­wards be used for recre­ation and as tem­po­rary busi­ness mar­kets.

Fi­nally, the govern­ment must re­mem­ber who voted it into of­fice. It is my prayer that the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia will grasp the vi­sion and wis­dom of Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet's bud­get and take the long road to pros­per­ity or else suf­fo­cate in the quag­mire from which they es­caped in June 2016.

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