After some 13 years in government (two consecutive terms from 1997 to 2006 and now in office from 2011 to 2014), the Saint Lucia Labour Party still doesn’t have a development foreign policy for the island. Has it meant that this government has had no clear foreign perspective for development for the island they have supposedly been governing for the past thirteen years?
There’s an excerpt worth your while from the 2013 delivered throne speech. Thursday, April 25, 2013 – Saint Lucia’s Governor General Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy, has reiterated the importance of a foreign policy for the island’s economic and social development. Does it take a political party in government so long to understand that it has to have a clear foreign policy for governing the country?
What progress has been made in this direction since this governor general’s pronouncement? From all intents and purposes the call has been made sometime before and one was clearly within his right this time around to expect something of a platform upon which some progress could have now been reported to the country. Instead what we got was sheer academic pronouncements.
So, yes, the call has been made before and now it is made again for a development foreign policy for the island. But was the Labour government merely sounding brilliant, though, clueless how to start?
The obvious rehash was to attempt to show the formation of this foreign perspective by having a three-pronged approach. The governor-general, resplendent as ever, first makes the case for her government, mindful perhaps that she was the only one ready to believe what she was saying while labouring to make clear any more than she was willing to admit Labour's own incompetence at managing the affairs of this country.
Making specific reference to the recently tabled report on a review of the Saint Lucia’s external relations policy, the governor general noted that government’s foreign policy and international relations thrusts will centre on three areas. The first area she identified was Saint Lucia’s commitment to sub-regional and regional integration, particularly through the OECS Economic Union and the institutions of CARICOM.
“Secondly, my government will leverage our international relations efforts towards investment promotion and facilitation so as to increase foreign direct investment flows. This notwithstanding, my government continues to be immensely grateful for development assistance from governments all over the world. These include our traditional partners such as the United States, Canada, Cuba, France, the United Kingdom and the European Union.”
Was that it in the who’s who list of foreign partners for which Saint Lucia would be “immensely grateful”? The list, however, would see new partners like “Australia, Brazil, Chile, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Mexico, Morocco and the Republic of China (Taiwan)”. Remember Taiwan and the infamous Mr Tom Chou? Was the governor general truly reading Taiwan from the list of new partners for the now Labour government?
“Thirdly, my government will continue to search out development assistance, particularly from non-traditional partners and through the opportunities of climate change mitigation and adaptation funding. Fourthly, in our foreign policy representation my government will promote the better understanding of the plight of small states so that, globally, there can be acknowledgment and agreement that such states require special treatment and delineation, given their openness and vulnerability.” With all the foreign externalities, the governor general may have already figured three areas would just not cut it and a fourth area was therefore necessary, the delineation or treatment of a foreign policy inclusive of Mainland China.
What her government’s approach may have also glimpsed at are proposed changes in one, if not, in two of its ministries. As she went on to add, “The government of Saint Lucia will align foreign policy initiatives to tourism, trade and export facilitation, consistent with national economic development objectives.” Ending on a further surprising note that “This expansive external affairs agenda will take active cooperation across ministries and the private sector, and will also require the strengthening and re-organization of the ministry of external affairs”.
This was 2013 and, by the look of things, the year 2014 holds no promise of there being better days from any direct foreign investment save more labour woes.