Last December, while most Saint Lucians were getting ready to celebrate national day on December 13th the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a statement following their discussions (Annual Article IV Consultation) with Saint Lucia’s public and private sector officials, November 27th – Dec 7th 2012.
The IMF report highlighted numerous concerns that are ripe for healthy conversation and a mild repair kit for Saint Lucia’s frail economy. But thus far, most of their concerns seem to have fallen on death ears. Or is it possible that “we’re facing a coalition of the heartless, the clueless and the confused” that Paul Krugman alludes to in his writings?
On February 22nd 2013, Saint Lucia will be celebrating 34 years as an independent nation with the theme “unlock our creativity, transform our world.”
The thought of this will perhaps cause one to shiver in quiet reflection to the current state of affairs in Saint Lucian.
One would recall the transformation from sugar cane to bananas; and now, the heavy reliance on the tourism model that has evolved thus far. Likewise, both administrations (SLP/UWP) have micro-managed state projects and investments that have created monopolies that serve narrow interest, and appear to serve pay-back politics.
In fact, if anyone care to understand how things have operated in Saint Lucia for decades, they will eventually form the conclusion that much of what passes for governance in our country, is nothing more than a carefully crafted system that helps to facilitate and create instant political millionaires.
But thankfully, under the table rewards have no place in modern times to advance true economic revival. Such dealings primarily undermine efforts to revive growth; and disrupt the hard work needed to restore fiscal credibility.
As such, to follow a strategy along the path that associates with bits and pieces of the past will require strategic application. It will require one that leaves old troubles behind and focus on new and increase investments through Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) that is private sector driven.
But, to achieve this in the immediate future, the Saint Lucian marketplace will require an economic environment that makes use of the instruments of capital markets, insurance and hedge funds in alignment with regional and global markets. The other ingredient is the ability to have significant investor confidence, and the ability to satisfy institutional trust in a big way. The strategy for this is simple – It is to foster investment!
This is a big deal! Why?
Global businesses are directing and redirecting their efforts in strategic markets that present growth opportunities.
These strategic markets include Central and Latin America, with available workers and an abundance of attractive resources at their disposal.
This means that it is an opportune moment for Saint Lucia, given its geographical location, to examine growth prospects through significant capital inflows (FDI) to impact its gross domestic product, (GDP).
In return, capital inflow and the private sector would have an opportunity to create joint ventures in Saint Lucia and, where mutually feasible, make capital acquisition that would facilitate trade, particularly with emerging economies like Brazil and Mexico. The desired result is to reduce our huge discretionary outflows (e.g. food import bill and transfers) and capitalize on global business trends to increase economic growth and offer direct access to G8 and G20 markets.
This process is already on the way.
China is Brazil largest trading partner. Their bilateral trade has grown to 40% from 2009. As a result, China’s Industrial and Commercial bank is set to open a branch in Brazil, well ahead of the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games.
Will they play by the rules?
Either way, this sets the stage for increase trade within the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), with the capacity to strengthen the region as an economic bloc, and thus lend support to stabilize the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).
Let’s be clear! Fighting old troubles requires brave exploration, innovation and strategy. As an independent nation it is about time to “unlock our creativity, transform our world.”
It is about time to make smart choices that will permit new strategies to bust open a future to facilitate happiness and the personal well-being of the people of Saint Lucia.
We must find a way in this global marketplace to strengthen our nation economically. And so, now more that ever is a truly unique moment that calls for leadership, with a firm understanding of economics, management and the art of decision making.
This is really not the time to play chicken fiddle or humpty dumpty!
But rather, this is the time to be brave; to get out of the conventional point of view; and to build on the adventure of transformation and self-reliance.
Saint Lucia “Simply Beautiful” cannot afford to wait much longer.
This is overdue!
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) critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at [email protected]