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Commentary: St Lucia needs a renaissance - Part 3
Published on August 28, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Melanius Alphonse

Saint Lucia’s foreign policy dilemma

Saint Lucia is today more divided than during the events of the 70s and 80s. In this new reality, political gridlock, economic inequality, absence of foreign policy, the lack of governance, safety and security, and Leahy law sanctions are just some of the mounting challenges.

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Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality. He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and NewsNow Global analysis. He can be reached at melanius@newsnowglobal.com
Believe it or not, huge corporate giveaways to fast track privatization and boosted authoritarian expansion has resulted in budget constraints and the cancellation of social programs to the detriment of the socio-economic well-being of the poor and marginalized.

In terms of national security, draconian budget cuts have drastically decreased capability, the use of toolkits and templates in many factors influencing Saint Lucian society.

This also coincides with the validity of foreign policy relative to trade, economic growth and a strategic measures to support long term development goals.

Equally integral are broader issues of frustrations expressed by active and veteran diplomats in relation to inaction on advice rendered to the government of Saint Lucia on the need for a dynamic and purposeful agenda for the present diplomatic corps, training and development programs for the next generation of fresh talent in the service.

These are very important to remedy, given that the inadequacies of the government of Saint Lucia are deeper than originally reported and point to political and socio-economic ‘governance’ that has reached critical mass or, perhaps more accurately, ‘critical mess’.

The European Union has their share of lobbying issues and limitations to assisting Saint Lucia, given the Leahy Law sanctions that affect technical assistance, funding cutbacks and development assistance.

And considering the active cooperation of the State Department and USAID this is akin to treasure taken away, at a time when investment and support for international, regional and civic associations are paramount for the development of civil society.

According to the agency’s communication “the second rewrite of USAID’s mission and vision statements in less than four years” is expected to take a corporate look at respective missions and visions of success.

“As the US government's principal leader, coordinator, and provider of international development and humanitarian assistance, USAID advances national security and economic prosperity, while demonstrating American values and goodwill abroad. Our investments save lives, foster inclusive economic growth, reduce poverty, and strengthen democratic governance while helping other countries progress beyond needing our assistance.”

The new “vision of success” reads: “We anticipate, mitigate, and respond to global challenges, standing together with people affected by poverty and disaster. The people we help achieve their own peace and prosperity and create stable institutions that respond to their needs. We are recognized as the world's premier development agency. We are highly effective, efficient, accountable, and agile.”

Thus, is this another opportunity to reform Saint Lucia’s foreign policy? Yes, indeed, and more importantly, to usher a new awakening with leadership that is better and stronger.

In fact, this is long overdue in spite of the ‘Review of the External Relations Policy of St Lucia’ and the current foreign policy ideology that isn’t working, on a path to advance and defend national interest, lead, inspire and heal deep-seated predicaments.

This is evident through the socio-economic agenda to engage foreign governments and the inability to resolve Leahy Law sanctions, never mind election promises and politically arduous situations.

Moreover, in keeping with recent travels by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, it is questionable as to what necessitates the need to transfer the Leahy Law dilemma to an external lobbyist/ law firm in the US at tremendous cost to taxpayers.

This is furthermore contradictory to remarks by the prime minister that “the country is broke” and that the “economy is not generating enough revenue to adequately support the provision of basic services such as roads, schools and healthcare. Saint Lucia has been running a deficit for the past 20 years, which has resulted in the diminished quality of roads, schools, healthcare and national security.”

In like manner, the attempted solutions sought by the Saint Lucia Labour (SLP) in relation to Grynberg that is still an ongoing situation was cited by the United Workers Party (UWP) in the FY 2017/18 debate as cost prohibitive.

In any case, there are pivotal proposals, recommendations and alternative approaches that have not been undertaken, that are US-centric and for the sake of a reliable partnership, both economic and political, with regard to reversing the Leahy Law sanctions.

But, however, when conspirators of a passé era seek to influence a serving Saint Lucian diplomat in his neophyte capacity, to take an adverse position on matters related to CARICOM and Venezuela affairs and likewise towards an illustrious CARICOM ambassador with tremendous experience, valued and respected worldwide, one can understand the preposterous adversity Saint Lucia and the region is engulfed in.

To wit, nationalism has been the common obstacle to regional economic and political integration that has languished for years and efforts seemingly to topple past governments are interesting for historians.

History does not lie. This zero sum strategy was prone to the pursuit of self-interest of the 70s and 80s mistrust and distrust era and is axiomatic to the lack of progress in Saint Lucia’s foreign policy at taxpayers’ expense.

Thus, domestic leadership and international diplomacy to develop close ties, strategic alliance and open new markets in the Caribbean, US, UK, and Asia towards economic and development agenda is increasingly ineffective.

The theory and structure of Saint Lucia’s foreign policy are problematic and should not be left in abeyance and pending further inquiries, according to the prime minister: “So I’ve done everything I can do. I feel that we are along the way. I’m not going to sit here and cry; we’ll continue to do what we have to do and hopefully the US at the right point will say, okay Saint Lucia has moved off in the right direction.”

If this is the strategy, it is ill-defined and at odds with itself.

In many instances, there is the need for an economic development council, national security council and senior aides to shape and execute matters on economic development, finance, national security, healthcare and take up other fundamental issues of national importance, including foreign policy decisions.

For instance, this collaboration would have defused the shabby proposal by the prime minister to visa requirements on Venezuela. Instead of losing robustness, locally and internationally, the visible importance of the Venezuela crisis should have helped frame policy, and formulate smart strategic decisions that find the right balance between knowledge and imagination to gain future competitive advantages.

The only constant in life is change, albeit moving forward requires making a plan, reducing surprises, managing risk and not making poor choices that invite unintended consequences. To understand the challenge it is imperative to leverage the best knowledge available in relation to apparent events and trends that influence each other. But that has not happened.

However, to understand the recklessness sold in the bill of goods on June 6, 2016, the political ideology for change has yet to organise multilateral initiatives and lead effectively, at a time that requires innovative thinkers committed to shaping the future for generations to come.

Now translate this to the political realism. The pattern tells us of a further widening of uncertainty and more vulnerability to making old mistakes affected by socio-economic instability and security challenges. It is no secret why Saint Lucia is teetering.

In this period of transformation, the cruel reality of the government of Saint Lucia reveals the crisis of ineffective management, the inability to adapt to new situations and incorporate diverse perspective.

The implications of this are not favourable to get “win-win” socio-economic partnerships and achieve equitable solutions within international systems of commerce, trade and security.

The facts are that geopolitical issues and a volatile investment climate that have many wary, warrant an entire revision of Saint Lucia’s foreign policy. Otherwise, interests will remain isolated in trickle-down bilateral relationships that are uniquely unstable and dangerous.

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat; and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures
, ~ from Julius Caesar

Part 1: Intelligence and the modern triangle
Part 2: The art of the bluff and polarization in Saint Lucia
 
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