By Melanius Alphonse
On Wednesday, March 19, and as a matter of normalcy, the leader of the Saint Lucia parliamentary opposition Dr Gale Rigobert and United Workers Party (UWP) political leader Allen Chastanet pronounced that their recent trip to Barbados on March 10 was a success.
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant. He is an advocate for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality; the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) www.lpmstlucia.com critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at email@example.com
Dr Gale Rigobert and UWP political leader Allen Chastanet alluded to meeting with public and private sector representatives to discuss a number of issues, including meetings that were part of the party's policy development strategy ahead of the next general elections and its possible return to government.
Dr Rigobert said, “The trip to Barbados was very productive. We were able to consult with members of the diplomatic corps, various development agencies, persons in academia, and we had conversations with both in government and opposition. A common sentiment expressed was that Saint Lucia is “in serious economic problems. The topic of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) came up over and over again…. we have really, really arrived at a very bleak position in our economic development, as a significant economic contraction in the Saint Lucian economy, which now has an unemployment rate of 25 percent.”
Dr Rigobert says the discussions also presented an opportunity to exchange ideas on tackling the common economic issues confronting the region, and to come up with prescriptive policies to address them.
Certainly, nothing as reported seems productive on the trip to Barbados that supports the opposition party’s claim that it is ready to assume governance of this country. The real truth to this trip may very well be unmasked in the not too distant future.
My view is that this trip was predicated on intelligence gathering and follow-up on unfinished business.
However, it would have been more productive to get a sense and to engage the Caribbean islands that are reporting growth for themselves and the region if the real reason was economic and policy consideration for growth and development.
Getting acquainted with the economic situations in Caribbean islands and to take precautionary steps to prevent potential economic problems is not a onetime wonder predicated on random meetings and talk shops. In addition to considering these meetings as a part of preparations for Saint Lucia’s upcoming 2014/15 National Budget and policy formulation is in itself a whitewash of things to come.
The achievements that Saint Lucia should emulate are one of growth and development not regressive economics and policies predicated on Cold War theories that the UWP is relentlessly consumed with. A better exercise would be to examine what St Kitts-Nevis is doing to have achiever economic growth of 1.7 percent in 2013, projected to rise to between 2.5 and 3 percent in 2014, albeit the government pressures to debate an opposition motion of no confidence, and calls for the ousting of Prime Minister Denzil Douglas.
On Wednesday, Zhu Min, a Chinese economist and the deputy managing director and acting chair of the International Monetary Fund issued the following statement: “The St Kitts and Nevis authorities have continued to make commendable progress under their home-grown Fund-supported program. Economic activity is picking up after a four-year slump, inflation remains low, the financial sector is stable, and the fiscal and external positions are improving. Significant progress has also been made to strengthen public financial management.”
The secret to economic growth is not magical. Saint Lucia’s policymakers have for decade’s pussyfooted around with the islands natural resources and ability to produce the capital goods and services required for growth and development. As a result the marketplace is saddled with heavy imports and a large balance of payments deficit.
To lessen Saint Lucia’s vulnerabilities and to improve job creation, it has been said repetitively that priority should be given to measures to enhance revenues by promoting growth and development, improve physical infrastructure, and streamline tax administration and public expenditure through civil service reform.
Following the comments of the leader of the opposition Dr Gale Rigobert, it is clear she has exhausted her limited capacity to chart a new course forward that encompasses a diversification of production and functional cooperation, which are some successful areas of cooperation to lift the sufferings of the people of Saint Lucia.
Because of poor planning, poor spending, and a lack of vision for growth and development, the tailspin of dependency and corruption should be shed. There are options available in a 21-point progressive option, both Dr Kenny Anthony’s Labour government and the leader of the opposition Dr Gale Rigobert should borrow:
Keynesians' liberal economic days are gone