To get this economy going again, we need capital—lots of it. It should be long-term, well priced, and deployed in coordinated investment programs, monitored by joint private/public watchdogs.
Applying this logic, Jamaica has finally achieved growth after decades of degradation. The model comes highly recommended. Most important, our government needs to engage the local private sector: it is time for a serious tête-à-tête. Kiss and make up, boys; the days of détente are over.
Government is not the anointed messiah. It’s a wonderful role if you can pull it off, but the evidence suggests that you can’t. Also imperative is a shared understanding of just how and why economies work, and what a hemorrhaging private sector needs to heal and get moving again. More inflationary taxes in a recessionary environment is just about the worst combination of economic circumstances imaginable, and unfortunately, a very current definition of VAT.
The private sector also needs to critically refashion its role as development partner with government and civil society. If we merely focus on what we want, then we bring nothing new to the table. Eyeing each with suspicion is not going to get us anywhere. Attitudes like winner-take-all and devil-take-the-hindmost will not work. We are deep in this thing together, but if we can agree that growth, productivity, innovation, investment, and diversification are common goals, then it’s a simple matter of drawing one roadmap that we all can follow.
Government must resume its prime responsibility as facilitator, catalyst, and guardian of the public trust. Too many side agendas are polluting the development debate, so that even well-intentioned governments have become obstructionist without knowing how, when or why.
Now that the goody bag is empty perhaps government will stop posing as the grand benefactor; the ultimate Santa Claus deciding who’s being naughty or nice. Civil society must also now be embraced and dissenters allowed their voice. Communities should be given back their local government rights and responsibilities, and made to feel more like partners. Citizens need to be cast less like perpetual takers, mendicants, and askers for more. Based on information supplied by the Government of St. Lucia, the IMF insists: Structural reforms remain critical to remove obstacles to long-term growth. So, perhaps the late Sir Dwight Venner was right: The problem is not merely money. It’s leadership. Not only on the political front, but across the entire spectrum of our small interdependent societies.
We have had enough talk about how best to share a shrinking pie: at the end of that story, we all starve. Right now, our economy must grow by a minimum of 5% per annum, just to begin tackling poverty, ignorance, crime and hunger. To do that, we need all our resources consistently and coherently deployed.
Our prime minister presumably sits at the top of the food chain, surrounded by all manner of counsellors and carnivores. His role is to know the difference and to take the lead in shaping the future; not out of adversarial politics or civil controversy, but out of a new and necessary consensus. If he believes in his own leadership and legitimacy, the best thing he can do now is to bring all players into the arena— civil society, chieftains of industry, cabinet colleagues, political cronies and opponents— all, kicking and screaming if necessary.
Adrian Augier is a development economist and St. Lucia’s 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year. A former Economic Assistant at the World Bank and Chief Economist in St. Lucia’s Ministry of Finance & Planning, he also served as Economic Policy Advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister and established the Office of Private Sector Relations and St. Lucia’s first Private Sector Development Strategy. For more information on this writer and his work visit adrianaugier.blogspot.com