Dominic Fedee, the United Workers Party election candidate for the Anse La Raye/Canaries constituency, took his seat as the newest member of the Senate on 14th January, replacing former MP Ezechiel Joseph. His first knock was aimed at recent amendments to VAT, for which he was jeered by SLP senator Jimmy Fletcher for his “rookie mistakes”. Fedee dismissed the comments as “loaded with flaws”.
This week the STAR met with the Senate’s latest addition for a short sit-down interview. I asked Fedee what he expected to bring to the Senate table. “Well, quite a lot,” he replied, “but perhaps my most important contributions will be in the areas of integrity, commitment, and a passionate determination to bring about fundamental changes in the way we think and live.”
He volunteered that he has been working in tourism over the last fifteen years, during which time he has acquired an understanding of the sector that his senate colleagues may not have. Consequently he believes he is “in a better position than most to generate fruitful discussion of the retarding problems confronting the industry.” “I also have an acute understanding of the tourism sector at the highest level, not just here in Saint Lucia but in the Caribbean, and this really would put me in good stead to make a contribution towards the development of the country,” Fedee said.
Fedee, who helped develop the Sandals cricket academy, is also passionate about sports, youth and education and wants to “see these sectors develop and contribute to the holistic transformation of the Saint Lucian character.” Asked to rate his performance at his first Senate appearance, he replied: “I thought it went well enough to put Senator Fletcher on the defensive. I’ll also say I was a bit disappointed that he allowed politics to interfere with what might otherwise have been a useful exchange on the amendments to the Value Added Tax. I made the point that when VAT was implemented, the GDP was just over 70% and two years after VAT we see that the GDP is increasing and instead of taking the extra revenues from the tax to pay down on the debt to GDP situation, which is a very important economic indicator, we have seen that the government has done the absolute reverse.”
Fedee revealed that the opposition party had been mulling over ways to deal with the VAT issue and how to revise it if elected to government: “We have taken note of the suppressive nature of VAT. It has certainly affected consumer confidence; people feel insecure, their spending has become weaker while the cost of living, inflation, have gone up. If I give you credit, I have 30 days to pay the VAT on that invoice, but you can take 90 days to pay me. And that by itself hampers the cash flow of businesses and hinders economic activity, which further impacts business. We’re looking closely at all of these aspects.”
As for the people he hopes to represent in parliament: “The people of Anse la Raye/Canaries feel that they have been exploited by the ballot process over the years. They say politicians make promises, then forget them after general elections. We have got to get back to serving the people.” He noted that “several roads in the constituency are in disrepair; unemployment continues to rise. The current representative has failed to bring about any improvement in the lives of the people of Anse la Raye and Canaries. The people deserve better.”
Stating that the constituency has immense potential he says there are opportunities for linkages between tourism and agriculture. “Take for example the Millet farming belt. With the thirst there is within the tourism industry for agricultural produce, about ten million dollars can be realized annually just by beefing up the farming industry; just by being strategic with a linkage programme with the implementation of a marketing system so that farmers know what the hotels are buying and hotels know the capacity of farmers.”
Fedee also sees potential within the constituency for village tourism and the development of the chic hotel sector. “Anse La Raye/Canaries can become the new frontier as we look to expand the tourism sector. But as we go forward there must be a deliberate effort not to exclude citizens but place as much emphasis on local involvement and investment in condos and villas as we do foreign investment,” he said.
As a final note Fedee expressed: “Government must be deliberate in its policy to place ownership into the hands of Saint Lucians, not just where tourism is concerned but in every aspect of our economy and society as we seek to rebuild this country as a strong, proud nation.”