By Caribbean News Global
TORONTO, Canada – When it comes to decision-making on matters of trade negotiations, trade policy and consulting in the field of international trade, investment and economic
negotiations, particularly within the World Trade Organization (WTO) and key bilateral trade negotiations like the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that developing countries, especially those of the Caribbean region, the Pacific and Eastern and Southern Africa are engagement with the European Union (EU) Dr Claudius Preville is in his comfort zone.
Secondary to that, Dr Preville provides a platform for communication and exchange with like-minded individuals in the pursuit of long-term, workable solutions to the problems of developing countries, especially their integration into the world economy.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise to the progressive mindset that embodies Dr Preville’s statement:
“In 1997, I was away from Saint Lucia concluding studies for a master’s degree in economics, when the Labour Party, led by Dr Kenny D Anthony dealt the UWP the most lethal political blow to win the general elections 16-1.
My first public demonstration of party affiliation was in 1998 after the sudden death of Kenneth John, who represented the Babonneau constituency.
At the time, Stephenson ‘Steve’ King was the sole presence of the party, occupying an office in the NAPA Building on John Compton Highway.
Still deflated and somewhat demoralized from the defeat in 1997, Steve was nevertheless convinced that the United Workers Party (UWP) should challenge the government at the by-election for the Babonneau seat. I took on the role of campaign manager for Allan Bousquet Jr., and fought the labour party, even if we knew the odds were stacked against us to win the seat, with labour still enjoying its honeymoon from the 16-1 mandate the year before.
Whilst I decided to return to Europe to further my education in 1999, Stephenson King decided to remain in Saint Lucia and build the UWP. Indeed, he was successful. The party became so attractive in 2006 that Sir John Compton decided to return to its helm and led the party to victory against Dr Kenny Anthony in 2006.
Sir John paid the ultimate price of giving his life for Saint Lucia and he decided to pass on the party’s leadership to Steve.
Despite facing an economic and financial crisis in 2008 and hurricane Tomas in 2010, King delivered some of the best economic growth numbers for Saint Lucia in the first decade of this 21st century.
Just about five percent in 2007/8 and 4.5 percent in 2010/11.
King led our economy with a deep understanding of the philosophy of Sir John; he helped the poor; he showed compassion to the needy; he did not hesitate to employ someone who is qualified regardless of their party affiliation.
Stephenson King epitomizes everything good that the UWP stood for from 1964 when it was founded.
That [once great party] built much of the infrastructure of Saint Lucia and created a solid middle class fueled by a banana industry and a tourism industry that grew alongside it, in the 1990’s.
So, when King says today that he does not recognize the UWP, every Saint Lucian needs to pause for a moment and deeply reflect on the profundity of such a statement.
What does he really mean?
First, he means that the philosophy he knew, that powerful vision and imagination that built Saint Lucia for most of the two decades after independence was no longer evident:
- It means that the record numbers on economic growth rates that every Saint Lucian had become so used to were no longer happening;
- It means that the uncontrolled and irresponsible accumulation of debt, a ballooning debt that has no direction, that was taken without productive purpose, is nothing but seeds of ill-conceived maladministration waiting to manifest as a whirlwind of economic squander;
- It means that corruption in high places, to which no one pays any heed or even offers to reprimand the offenders, is wreaking havoc in our Helen of the West;
- It means that our very patrimony is squandered. These results, those spectacular results of failure, are not characteristic of the party that King knew.
They are not characteristic of the results of the party that I knew either. It is not UWP, it cannot be flambeau. That is why, with a very heavy heart, he had to turn away from this oasis of poison and in all good conscience, he simply could not offer himself as a representative of this same party to the people of Saint Lucia in 2021.
Accordingly, I endorse the “Blue Wave” that King is leading for us the people of Saint Lucia at this time. He is not doing this for himself. He is not doing this for money – he already qualifies for a pension at the level of prime minister.
King is seeking to get our nation to look within, to examine conscience, to make a clear determination whether we are doing what is right for our country or whether we need to get off this train before it derails itself irreparably:
- We, all Saint Lucians, must take stock of where we are and where we want to go;
- We cannot, we must not continue to allow political tribalism to make us blind to what will be our common destiny;
- We must take every step to unshackle ourselves from the chains of collective captivity of the current maladministration, led by Allen Chastanet.
Let us look at the macroeconomic performance of Saint Lucia in recent years using data produced by the ministry of finance (Economic & Social Review 2020).
Real GDP for the OECS region grew 3.9 percent in 2018 of which the best performance was from Antigua and Barbuda 7.4 percent and Grenada 4.1 percent.
Saint Lucia’s growth was 2.6 percent and by 2019, real GDP growth was also strong for the region at 3.3 percent, of which the best performance was from Dominica 5.7 percent, Antigua and Barbuda 4.7 percent, and Grenada at 3.1 percent.
Saint Lucia’s growth was 1.7 percent, with COVID-19 growth disappeared altogether – we had a real contraction of -19 percent of GDP.
But one of the main reasons for such deep loss in our GDP was the lack of response to the reality of the global economic environment by the government. We remained in a false euphoria of tourism as the only solution to our economic problem, even when reality told us that normal global travel would not be possible until about 2022.
We could have turned to agriculture, especially short-cycle crops, like Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda did, despite they not having the quality and quantity of arable lands that we have, but we did not.
So, as Saint Lucia goes to the polls on July 26, one thing for sure is that we can ill afford to continue on that pathway of the Chastanet-led rainbow economic policy that has driven this economy for the last five years but continues to elude us.
You cannot afford to borrow money, even ridiculous sums in the hundreds of millions, without ensuring that you are creating productive capacity, so that the money can repay itself and result in economic growth. We have to change the rules of fiscal governance in Saint Lucia.
This great country of ours has produced one of the finest Nobel laureates in economics, and we have several highly educated, experienced and skilled economists who are sons and daughters of this land.
“They have helped to build modern, prospering economies close to home and in far-flung countries all over the world, but they are not welcome in their own birthplace to make a difference in the lives of their people. Saint Lucia can do better, we must do better, or history will judge us harshly.”