The greatest challenges that Saint Lucia faces include the social, economic and health care crises and climate change adaptation, so awkward backdoor foreign policy and weak leadership are not viable options.
Questions therefore continue to mount in relation to Saint Lucia’s agenda as expounded at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York:
• What really are Saint Lucia’s foreign policy and development goals?
• What is the status of government efforts to remove the Leahy sanctions, and their effects on the country?
• Is Saint Lucia’s foreign policy squarely off its axis, pegged on an undefined shared responsibility between Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and Sarah Flood Beaubrun, minister with responsibility for external affairs?
Actually, I think it’s an utter disgrace. Both are amateurs, and naturally unable to streamline Saint Lucia’s common, strategic and specific interest beyond privatization and re-colonialization. Then again, this is consistent with political engagement that expends capital, embraces selfishness and the intensity of misguided loyalty.
The overarching concern is the Chastanet-led administration’s inability to restore equilibrium and provide an underlying message to reawaken a strong Saint Lucian identity and reputation on the world stage.
When world leaders laughed at President Donald Trump, boasting of what he described as his “unprecedented accomplishments”, I could not hesitate to reflect on what diplomats and heads of state think of Prime Minister Chastanet.
In and out of Saint Lucia, the soul of the nation burns uncontrollably, national interest has gone nowhere positive to inspire reform and the magnificent workings of innovation and multilateral cooperation.
The level of corruption within the Chastanet-led administration, the amount of money that’s being siphoned through no-bid direct contracts and various undisclosed below the line borrowing and non-disclosure agreements is a disgrace.
Meanwhile, current patterns of destruction towards the preservation of the island’s distinct culture and the rich history of structures is surely counterproductive to restoring international standing, amidst the proposed destruction of democracy (parliament, the courthouse, national printery), notwithstanding that Saint Lucia is signatory to the “Escazú Agreement” – the regional agreement on access to information, public participation and justice in environmental matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.
It is hard to believe that a corrupt administration will divest itself from business transactions under its sole and direct control, except for strategic reasons that camouflage recognition. In effect, the government’s platitudes are disgraceful, hollow charades, symptomatic of the Chastanet-led administration’s penchant for symbolism over substance.
These comprise campaign rhetoric, excessive traveling and photo ops, devoid of inroads on trade, culture, socio-economic advancement.
It’s one in a numbers of reasons why Saint Lucia [“SIDS” and “MICs”, small island developing states and middle-income countries] is under financial restrictions from blacklisting and security sanctions under the Leahy Law.
According to Prime Minister Chastanet’s UNGA address:
“Saint Lucia struggles under the weight of international frameworks that make it difficult to chart an effective path to sustainable development or even take control of its destiny.”
In this sense, the focus is consistent ‘little or nothing changes’ and that almost every action of the Chastanet-led administration essentially leads to looting taxpayers, while others under the aegis of the administration allot valuable portions of the economy to themselves:
“I do not have the luxury to wait for the international system to adjust to the special needs of countries like my own, while natural disasters continue to threaten and erode the gains we make. In preparation for this hurricane season. Saint Lucia has had to spend three times the amount of money than we did last season. In order to meet those costs, we have had to impose new taxes to facilitate this preparedness.
“For example, a water tax to assist with the de-silting of our dam, a gas tax to assist with road rehabilitation and slope stabilization and an airport tax to assist with the development of a new terminal, highway and flood mitigation around the airport. I cannot delay or ignore critical infrastructure projects, therefore have no choice but to increase my debt burden, I cannot leave my country and its citizens exposed, I must find ways to move forward.”
These matters have the administration and their discredited proxies dithering on voodoo economics, dogma and social re-engineering, indifferent to ethical leadership, fairness, respect for justice and humanity.
Meanwhile, the future depends on establishing strategic alliances that can advance prosperity and stability, the ongoing tragedy of misguided loyalty, bad ideas, corruption, suppression and decay imposed on the poor, underprivileged and non-conformist by an ill-defined administration is malicious.
Listening to President Trump’s extraordinary statement:
“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country. America’s – so true. (Laughter) Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay. (Laughter and applause.)”
That moment of comedy was priceless.
On reflection, the bar was set low enough, that Prime Minister Chastanet lived up to expectation that revealed a shallow, self-absorbed and a high-level of hypocrisy.
So, when “little or nothing changes” the usual alternative version of his truth, Alice in Wonderland uttered:
“Saint Lucia has had two straight years of economic growth while increasing its tax revenue and it is on track to attract a record level of foreign investment.”
What concerns most is that Prime Minister Chastanet’s smokescreen at the UNGA is compounded by the administration’s inability to yield a credible platform for change, socio-economic prosperity, while border security and security in general remains vividly adrift.
Consider for a moment Prime Minister Chastanet’s UNGA address that reads:
“Multilateralism is under threat. We have heard the cries from leaders this week. The winds of nationalism that threaten to blow us away from our collective endeavours here at the United Nations are growing. But Saint Lucia believes that it is only within a strong, functioning multilateral system that the guarantees of world peace and security can be provided.”
President Trump, at the UNGA stated:
“We are taking a hard look at US foreign assistance… We will examine what is working, what is not working, and whether the countries who receive our dollars and our protection also have our interests at heart.
“Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends. And we expect other countries to pay their fair share for the cost of their defense.”
Looking around, the lasting impact of the Leahy Law is overwhelming Saint Lucia, inclusive of the country’s vague foreign policy, weak and unprincipled leadership.
Together, these contribute to the concern about Saint Lucia’s future in the pursuit of freedom, prosperity and the dignity of sovereignty, building its own unique vision in this challenging time.
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 News Now Global analysis. He can be reached at [email protected]