An Immigrant’s Tale

Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.

 

Let me tell you something that will sound as boastful as it gets: I work harder, longer and more effectively than anyone else I have ever met. There, I’ve said it! This does not mean that nobody works longer hours than I do, or that nobody takes longer over a job than I do, or even that nobody is as effective as I am; it’s the combination of all three that counts.

Some of you reading this might get upset, might think I am being unfair to St Lucians, but I’m not – at least, in my opinion, I am not. I have met people in St Lucia who work very, very hard at what they do without achieving a tenth of the value their hard labour deserves (and I am not talking about financial rewards). The trouble is often a lack of purpose, no clear route, no direction, no system.

Take, for example, the process leading to the acquirement of any permit or license. Have any of you ever applied for something – driver’s license, passport, citizenship, etc. – without being told to come back time and again with additional documents that were never mentioned in the first place? When I applied for a St Lucian passport I was turned back several times by lower-ranking functionaries despite the fact that I had all the documents the application form required. Finally, when I got to meet a senior official I was told that the application forms were those used in Britain – and indeed they were – and did not really cover St Lucia, which had additional documentary requirement. Hard work indeed!

And as for taking a long time over a relatively simple matter, well, need I explain? At any time, in any circumstance, it will take a St Lucian an inordinate time to peruse any document. And as for decision-making, well, decisions are one thing, implementing them is another. People I know have applied for jobs, attended interviews and then waited, and waited, and waited weeks, months and in one case even a year before they heard anything, and then the employer’s representative has expressed surprise and irritation that the applicant did not have the “servile” decency to wait until the authorities chose to make their decision known.

In order to be effective, you need a clear picture of what you wish to achieve, what you need in order to get the job done, and the time required to complete the task. Sometimes, almost always, I spend hours, days, weeks, months, perhaps years, preparing for a project before I make the decision to implement it. This is not a matter of indecision; it’s planning, preparation and forethought. Once the decision is made public, it’s all systems go!

Sadly, in St Lucia, things do not always work like that. Take VAT for example; a life changing reform for many a business in St Lucia. Politicians dithered and bickered for years before they got around to introducing the new tax, and even then they postponed its introduction, and once it was in effect, they discovered a multitude of unanticipated problems, which, according to reports, have led to many companies not receiving their legitimate reimbursements.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in VAT. It is probably one of the fairest means of taxing a population there is, but it is – and I know I am going to get into trouble for saying this – a First World form of taxation that can only be transferred to the Third World with great difficulty. The VAT office here did a remarkably good job of trying to prepare an unresponsive business community for the reform. The general populace was, as always, a flock of sheep to slaughter, and had no say in the matter, or at least chose not to make their voices heard.

What the government now needs to do is make known the advantages of VAT, how the money collected has been used, how things have improved, how we are all in a better place – but that, of course, may be Mission Impossible!

Whoops! I seem to have lost the thread of this musing and let myself be led astray; not a good sign at all!

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