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Commentary: Sell or lease St Lucia's Vigie airport? You joking? Part 5
Published on July 9, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Mark Laporte

St Lucia: A Transit Point

Let’s have a look at the maps; a regional, hemispheric and world map. Superimpose on these, regional and international traffic maps. How can we develop St Lucia as a major transit point for passengers, goods, and other tangibles that would necessitate the use of George F.L Charles airport? Could we consider, design and implement the idea so that our island becomes a major regional and international transshipment point? Could our Grenadine islands use our transit services? What about airfare? Could we discuss the structure of airfares with regional and international airlines so that Vigie becomes a welcome transit point? Our locally owned hotels would welcome in-transit passengers, especially if we combine that in-transit initiative with some sort of festival… a welcome to St Lucia party! We may well consider those and other ideas …we have nothing to lose.

St Lucian Owned Hotels

An important question that needs answering is: What is the future of tourism and our tourist industry? This question needs to be answered. The trend to come shows that tourists will be leaving and that tourist arrivals to our shores will decline markedly as the crisis becomes worse. Worse by what means? If the US, for example, cannot pay its debts, or if it borrows so much that it becomes difficult tor it to service even the interest on its humongous debt, then that creates a problem. Worse when you consider that we in the Caribbean have invested in US Treasuries… in other words they borrow from us to maintain their lifestyle and now they may not be able to pay us back. We better find out from the ECCB what are the potential effects of such a development (Development? Can this be called a development?). What effect would that have on our tourist industry?

Most of the tourists that visit our shores come from North America, England, Europe and those are the very nations that are in the centre of, as well as the generators of the economic problems. It would be foolhardy indeed to continue to listen to the pronouncements that they make that their economies are looking up. What is likely going on is that they are running around looking for ideas to bolster their economies in order to avoid collapse.

This is what fuels the second scramble for Africa. They look at their history, realize that their economies were built by means of fleecing Africa of its human and natural resources; therefore, bankrupt of ideas as they are, they are repeating the same things. The seeds were sown long ago. Those past activities relative to slavery, etc. had and still have long range economic consequences.

Recall the amount of our ancestors who died or were thrown overboard for insurance purposes on that infamous trans-Atlantic crossing. Literally millions of our people. Review the millions who died horribly on the islands’ plantations, and a view of the inexorable working of what is called karma can be seen and appreciated. (And what is written here is a miniscule amount of what we suffered.)

Since we know those things, it behooves us to act in such a way so that we do not continue to carry the results of their errors. The fact remains that there is a shortage of tourists from North America and Europe. We must begin now to search for new tourist markets, and the people who will travel are the people whose economies support their travel.

Our St Lucia hotel owners have worked hard, invested much money by means of loans, etc. to do their share for themselves and our country. We must read the very obvious writing on the wall. We must not attempt to flog a dying horse by remaining with a system that is obviously failing and decidedly not for us, whether we realize that fact or not. The trouble is will we listen? They are not encouraging us to hold on to tourism because they are our friends; our current prime minister has already warned us of our near friendless state internationally. They encourage us because of what they anticipate to get in return, and Vigie may be one thing they hope to take from us.

It is noticed here in Puerto Rico, where this opinion is being prepared, that there are increasing numbers of visitors from India and China. Many of them stay in the small locally owned hotels and hostels here in Puerto Rico. It is envisaged that this trend will continue and indeed increase. Surely we can explore that potential market and Vigie airport can be a vital link in this effort.

It was Keynes who said that the best way to subvert a country is to debauch its currency. The actual quote is as follows: “...there is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.” [emphasis mine].

Two of the ways to break a currency would be to encourage low productivity via television, credit, etc. leading to debt that leads to a devaluation of currency over time. Prior to this statement, he quoted the Soviet leader, Lenin as follows: “...By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of its citizens… By this method… the process while it impoverishes many, it actually enriches some… Lenin was certainly right.” Ibid

That philosophy is being used by the so called economic powers to impoverish small nations like ours. We need to consider that as we discuss the economic situation regarding Vigie airport.

Tributo A Hugo Chavez Frias

As this article was being prepared, a newspaper headline read Mar A Lágrimmas… meaning rivers of tears. Rivers of tears ran in Venezuela for Chavez. This article is edited by the writer to extend condolences to the government and people of Venezuela on the death of their leader Hugo Chavez. It was under his leadership that we in St Lucia are afforded some relief from the rising oil prices by means of the allowances within the Petrocaribe agreement. That is of great benefit to us. While we should stay away from and ought to remain uninvolved, and unmoved regarding international conflicts and opinions regarding nations and their religions and the politics, Chavez showed us friendship. We have very few friends in the international community, but Hugo reached out to us in our difficulties. No oil-rich nation, be it nations in Africa, the Middle East or elsewhere helped us as he did. We should remember him as far as this is concerned and honour him accordingly. He certainly has the respect, gratitude and honour of this writer.

The Main Idea

The St Lucian economy must be remade, so that we exert control over it. We need to carry out a serious audit of our country’s economic financial and economic position and exercise control over our spending, and encourage saving what little we have, as well as finding ways and means to reduce our debt. We cannot borrow our way out of the crisis. The economy must be refashioned so that it is unaffected as much as possible to those outside shocks. The very word exogenous means that, in economic terms, the economy is free from major weakness and that, left on its own, free from outside diseased economic and financial standards or value, it will function.

There must be a core of economic activity that is wholly St Lucian in conception, protection, implementation, functioning, maintenance and outcome. Of course, we can continue to avail ourselves of outside economic opportunities that will benefit us. But if one or all of those potentially ill conceived and badly implemented exogenous opportunities were to become predictably unprofitable for whatever reason, then our economic and financial system will still be able to continue.

We need to keep our methods of economic development secret and sheltered as much as possible. We need to have fondness and love for ourselves and our country, our culture everything that’s ours. Let’s cherish and caress ourselves and what’s ours. Let’s stop wasting time highlighting some other nation’s culture, language, accent or what have you. How many local shows are on local TV? Do we have a Derek Walcott, Robert Lee, Peter Josie, Rick Wayne, Kendell Hippolyte, etc. Hour, reading their works on radio and TV? How many of our local writers’ works are committed to film? How often do we listen to our calypsonians; is it only at carnival time? Let’s stop being fresh water whatever it is!

Given our ability to learn from the mistakes of others, we are well placed to judge when an external economic and financial opportunity is becoming unprofitable; this gives us the opportunity to pwen duvant avan duvant pwen ... take the front before the front takes you (that’s a literal transliteration, a little writer’s licence). Consider then the internal or core of economic activity as the food and meat and the external opportunities as the gravy. However, water, milk, juice can always substitute for gravy. Our local arts can be developed so that it becomes a viable, productive part of our local economy and can have residual benefits, similar to royalties, etc.

How can we expect to successfully change our economic and financial circumstances when our thinking, culture, religion, and the god we worship are so westernized, when our thoughts are so saturated with the three basic philosophies of the Abrahamic religions, namely, Christianity, Islam and Judaism? We are worshipping the wrong god. What if we have a change of focus, spending more time in our African based religions, culture, dance, which are allegories and are inclusive of the Creator who gave us those? St Lucia needs to remake its entire outlook!

Previous: Part 4

Next: Crab Economics

Mark Laporte is a St Lucian writer and agriculturist, and a former teacher. He researches and develops topics of interest whether or not he publishes them.
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