Is Allen Chas­tanet Plain Crazy? Or Just . . .

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

Can the prime min­is­ter sum­mon up the courage to pre­scribe cu­ra­tives for what ails St. Lu­cia even at the risk of sac­ri­fic­ing his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer?

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the pes­simist and the op­ti­mist is amus­ing, wrote the Amer­i­can poet McLand­burgh Wil­son. “The op­ti­mist sees the dough­nut but the pes­simist sees the hole.” An­other source more pro­saic de­scribed the op­ti­mist as “a crazy or fool­ish per­son,” and sug­gested pes­simists are of­ten more re­al­is­tic “be­cause they are more likely to con­sider risks.” From still an­other fount: “Al­though it is bet­ter to find a bal­ance be­tween the two, op­ti­mism is bet­ter for lead­er­ship.”

What­ever pe­jo­ra­tives have been tossed at this na­tion’s prime min­is­ter—and who would deny the num­ber is close to count­less!—not even his worst de­trac­tors would la­bel him a pes­simist. For Allen Chas­tanet, even in the dark­est hours the sun shines. Who else but a supreme op­ti­mist would imag­ine him­self, ir­re­spec­tive of the quan­tity of in­her­ited salt in his genes, ca­pa­ble in five years of res­cu­ing the good ship He­len when al­most ev­ery­one else, if only se­cretly, is con­vinced it will take a mir­a­cle at least di­men­sion­ally equal to that of the loaves and the fishes to save her from Davy Jones’ locker?

Upon hon­est re­flec­tion ours

turns out to be a sad, sad story. For as long as any­one alive can re­mem­ber Saint Lu­cia has stayed afloat thanks in great mea­sure to the gen­eros­ity of strangers. If we must con­tinue to trust the ear­li­est recorders of our island’s his­tory, when civ­i­liza­tion’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives first came a-knock­ing they dis­cov­ered our an­ces­tors naked and at one an­other’s jugu­lars, which might ex­plain our con­tin­u­ing propen­sity for self-de­struc­tion . . . but I am ahead of my­self. The un­in­vited vis­i­tors quickly cot­toned on that what­ever seed fell to the ground soon blos­somed into food-laden trees and vines. Ev­ery­where there were song­birds, birds of count­less va­ri­eties and col­ors, while the wa­ters, sea and rivers, teemed with eas­ily reached fish. Wildlife was abun­dant. But some would in­sist on im­prov­ing even heaven. In time more vis­i­tors in­tro­duced items for­eign to this land, in­clud­ing an­i­mals large and small and yes, cer­tain dis­eases that took their toll on our un­sus­pect­ing fore­bears, on the young na­tive girls in par­tic­u­lar.

Con­ceiv­ably the ear­li­est Looshans saw in the strangers more good than evil. Or so the holy drunks sold it to our an­ces­tors over co­conut shells full of in­tox­i­cat­ing strange brews. We learned to de­pend on ad­ven­tur­ers who wrote in their jour­nals about our nat­u­ral dis­in­cli­na­tion to work. Henry Breen, for one; the French cler­gy­man and botanist Pere La­bat, for an­other. In later years we con­tin­ued to cadge off their off­spring for our needs, real and imag­ined, re­gard­less of con­di­tions. We still had not yet learned there is no such thing as a free lunch. The vis­i­tors from places only a few of us had heard of el­e­vated them­selves with our tacit per­mis­sion to po­si­tions too lofty for the na­tive born. And so we pro­gressed from naked sav­ages, to shack­led slaves, to slav­ery by other names, un­til there wasn’t much left to hold the at­ten­tion of our bene­fac­tors. Grad­u­ally they dis­en­tan­gled them­selves from what­ever had tied them to us. Then came the day we found our­selves on our own— in­de­pen­dent, yet more than ever ad­dicted to the pre­sumed gen­eros­ity of strangers.

The ev­i­dence sug­gests we were also ad­dicted to ac­quired tastes not syn­ony­mous with life on a sea rock. We per­mit­ted with­out ques­tion more ad­ven­tur­ers from over­seas to se­duce us into re­shap­ing our psy­ches to re­sem­ble theirs. Un­der their bale­ful in­flu­ence our nat­u­ral island am­bi­ence be­gan to meta­mor­phose: our beaches were cleansed of fruit trees—sea grapes, fat poke—-to make room for va­ca­tion re­sorts de­signed to make big-city dwellers feel at home, whether at the im­ports-loaded din­ner ta­ble or in their air-con­di­tioned suites. We ad­justed our to­pog­ra­phy, in some cases at great cost to our en­vi­ron­ment: avian and other an­i­mal species dis­ap­peared— some never to re­turn—as did sev­eral beaches.

Much of our most fer­tile lands were mind­lessly sac­ri­ficed to the min­ing of “green gold,” with the lion’s share go­ing to for­eign banks. Yes, there were small up­ris­ings along the way but the more things changed the more massa re­mained the same. The dream of run­ning our own af­fairs, pack­aged so ir­re­sistibly in the late 70s, re­mained just that: a dream.

Gov­ern­ment af­ter elected gov­ern­ment took the easy way out of every nur­tured prob­lem, ex­ac­er­bat­ing the orig­i­nal. And then came this, from a re­port by Dr. Vaughan Lewis and oth­ers: “Al­though tourism re­placed agri­cul­ture in the early 1990s as the coun­try’s lead­ing eco­nomic sec­tor, it has not been able to have as trans­for­ma­tive and wide­spread an ef­fect as the banana in­dus­try did, due to the very na­ture of tourism with its greater im­port leak­ages and rel­a­tively ten­u­ous link­ages with do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion . . . The world has ob­vi­ously changed and Saint Lu­cia is now faced with the harsh re­al­ity of hav­ing to man­age its de­vel­op­ment in the con­text of al­most dried up aid flows, an in­creas­ing trend to­ward full rec­i­proc­ity in in­ter­na­tional trade agree­ments and mar­ket-based in­ter­est rates for de­vel­op­ment fi­nanc­ing. All this, with a con­sid­er­able slow­down in eco­nomic growth since the global eco­nomic re­ces­sion in 2008, widen­ing fis­cal deficits, low na­tional sav­ings and in­vest­ment lev­els and un­sus­tain­able debt to GDP and debt ser­vice to cur­rent ra­tios.

“Saint Lu­cia has now to earn its way to pros­per­ity and that re­quires vi­sion, in­no­va­tive pur­pose­ful pol­icy for­mu­la­tion, and a skill­fully ex­e­cuted na­tional de­vel­op­ment agenda. Saint Lu­cia’s two most im­por­tant at­tributes are its nat­u­ral beauty, warmth and friend­li­ness of its peo­ple. Those two at­tributes create a nat­u­ral al­lure that un­der­pin the of­fer­ings and prom­ise of this island state.” (But to what avail that “nat­u­ral al­lure” if Lewis was say­ing tourism was not quite the panacea suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments had claimed? Leaks re­main leaks un­til plugged. So why haven’t they been stopped?)

Lewis’ quoted lines amounted to the sugar on a pill to be known as “The Global Res­i­dence and Cit­i­zen­ship In­dus­try”—a Pan­dora’s Box, as it has turned out, cre­ated by our in­sa­tiable ad­dic­tion to the os­ten­si­ble gen­eros­ity of strangers—our way out of the hole that we’ve been dig­ging for our­selves go­ing back gen­er­a­tions.

To bor­row yet again from Lewis, “the world has changed” since he and his team of fel­low in­tel­lec­tu­als handed their ear­lier men­tioned do-or-die re­port to then prime min­is­ter Kenny An­thony. For one, the U.S. is now in the fa­mously tiny hands of Don­ald Trump, not es­pe­cially noted for his gen­eros­ity to peo­ple born out­side Amer­ica’s borders. Then there is his let them eat cake at­ti­tude to per­ceived tax havens that al­ready is hav­ing neg­a­tive im­pacts on Amer­i­can in­vest­ment abroad. Yes, so who in his right mind would want to shoul­der the im­me­di­ate fu­ture of a coun­try poor as ours, not to say as threat­ened by every imag­in­able night­mare?

Allen Chas­tanet did just that, hav­ing won an elec­tion on his prom­ise it would no longer be busi­ness as usual. But can he even be­gin to take the first steps to­ward de­liv­er­ing on his prom­ise when at every turn he is re­quired by at least half the vot­ing pop­u­la­tion, wit­tingly and oth­er­wise, to stick to the same failed reme­dies re­spon­si­ble for our sorry sit­u­a­tion?

Is he man enough to risk turn­ing out to be a one-term or less prime min­is­ter be­cause he pre­scribed the cor­rect cu­ra­tives, how­ever bit­ter? One year af­ter tak­ing of­fice the signs are fuzzy. Allen Chas­tanet still has not de­manded from his im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor an­swers to sev­eral dis­turb­ing Gryn­berg ques­tions. Some 83 mil­lion acres of seabed re­main un­der the con­trol of the Colorado oil spec­u­la­tor, some 17 years af­ter sign­ing a se­cret agree­ment with then prime min­is­ter Kenny An­thony. There is no end in sight to the IMPACS fi­asco—even as crime threat­ens at every other cor­ner.

Can Allen Chas­tanet sum­mon up the courage to come clean with his sup­port­ers about what he is up against? Will he re­mind them, as he did so many times on the cam­paign trail, that with­out their un­shak­able loy­alty, their pa­tience, their un­der­stand­ing, it’ll be Davy Jones’ locker for all aboard the good ship He­len? Time is not on the prime min­is­ter’s side.

Nei­ther on ours!

Will Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet screw his courage to the stick­ing place and de­liver his prom­ises to the na­tion, even if it means putting his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer on the line?

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