IMF rep to address Independence Day celebrants!

dfgdgsdfsafsafsdfsdfCome next Friday locally based Saint Lucians—from our notoriously aggressive high STEPpers to our ever-so-NICE oracular consultants and other public servants who refuse to “do more with less”—will be sleeping in later than usual. Conceivably the declared official day of rest will allow us ample time properly to observe, privately and otherwise, our great nation’s 34th Independence anniversary.
The especially well regarded will have the coveted honor of enjoying debt-financed evening cocktails and imported shrimp and cheeses with the Grand Poobah himself at his official residence, following the ritual morning parade and youth rally, both at the meticulously manicured Vigie playing field.
To nicely round off the special week there will be “classic cycling” and athletics (not quite up to Olympic standard but what the heck!), the obligatory soca revue (doubtless choreographed by consultants at the Creative Industries Ministry), an “international food fair” that will doubtless prove how successful has been our eat-what-you-grow campaign, an investiture ceremony and what presumably is the week’s hottest ticket—a lecture on “the challenges of Post-Independence Economic Transformation.”
(Might it have been more, er, appropriate at this particular Independence celebration to be treated to congratulatory speeches about the challenges we’d actually overcome over the last fifty or twenty years—and how the experience gained will help us stave off or reduce the incessant acid rain from the current world economic crisis? But then the erudite gentleman lecturer will be addressing what he knows best, so who am I in my humble circumstances to nitpick?)
It turns out that Dr. Hyginus Leon is a non-resident native of Saint Lucia, an economist possibly with as much in common with Nobel Laureate Sir Arthur Lewis as with Dr. Ubaldus Raymond, alas both departed, albeit to different addresses.
As far as I have been able to establish Dr. Leon received his PhD from the University of Southampton. His research interests include “economic modeling and forecasting and risk management”—which generally is what economists do. Indeed, some fellow cynics have referred to them as “weather forecasters” not all that different, say, from Ms Dawn French, save that her specialty is related to anticipated landslides, hurricanes, earthquakes, tropical storms and sundry other acts of God while the other breed concern themselves only with man-made disasters of the economic kind, usually well after the fact, as is the case today.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the earlier cited Saint Lucian-born lecturer has for several years been the International Monetary Fund’s resident representative to Jamaica!
Leon was also one of three contributors to a 1996 book published by the regionally revered University of the West Indies Caribbean Center for Monetary Studies, entitled: “Problems and Challenges in Modeling and Forecasting Caribbean Economies.” Hopefully Dr Leon will provide some sustainable ideas for resurrecting the local economy that largely relies on VAT, not coincidentally an IMF prescription. (Speaking of which: remember when to be remotely associated with this organization was for Caribbean governments a death sentence and indisputable proof of leadership without vision?
Remember when John Compton, fist held high, swore on countless occasions that under his administration Saint Lucia would not lay down with the IMF—for that would be like “two male rats cohabiting in the same rat hole?” Or did he say “two male rats inhabiting the same hole?”
Whatever! The inescapable fact is that we’ve come a long way since John Compton first advocated in the early 90s “the Wilkins Micawber Principle” and warned via repetitive Budget addresses about the consequences of living mindlessly beyond our meager means, incessantly demanding higher salaries for less work, spending like First World millionaires while barely earning Third World wages.
In any event we remain a nation hooked on debt-financed fetes. Not for nothing do we hold the world record when it comes to the number of public holidays listed on our calendar of events. As the perspicacious Christopher Hunte once effectively underscored in a calypso, we even demand time off to recuperate from our holiday exertions.
So it is only to be expected we should look forward to celebrating as auspicious an occasion as our 34th Year of Independence. An admirable disposition, if you ask me.                 But I just can’t help wondering precisely what in this instance we mean by “Independence.” Could it be we’ll be profiting the opportunity to show off our countless achievements since escaping the debilitating talons of colonialism? That alone would be more than enough reason for exuberance, however irrational. Even more laudable, if only we could point to our accomplishments since the Big Breakaway, and how we have ever since been steadily “unlocking our creativity and transforming our world.” By which I presume we refer to a “world” under our transformative exclusive control!
But then I am burdened with this pachydermatous memory that simply won’t permit me to forget the indisputable sad truth that our Independence story begins with a big fat lie. Admitted cynic that local experiences have made me, I can’t help wondering if at all it was ever possible for us “as a people” to imagine ourselves every bit as wonderful and capable and industrious as the people of other nations not much bigger than our own dearly beloved, without first getting all juiced up on the Spirit of Saint Lucia.
The histories of other nations are replete with inspiring chapters of their initial bondage, their sufferings, their frustrations, their sacrifices—and their united and determined efforts that finally lifted off their necks the yokes that had forced them to pursue the most self-demeaning foreign ambitions.
Which is not to say we had never fought for our own independence. But the enemy we fought had always been ourselves. The day’s opposition Labour Party had set out to persuade the British government to postpone indefinitely the removal of its shackles from poor Helen’s bleeding ankles, within days of Premier John Compton’s announced intention to seek independence from
Britain. (An exaggeration, at the very least, for Compton really had no choice in the matter, as later he acknowledged: after years and years of doing for us what we could’ve done for ourselves with a little effort, a no longer waves-ruling Britannia was most eager to offload us!)
It is a pathetic matter of record that representatives of the Compton government and the Labour Party that ex-judge Allan Louisy led (if only on paper) attended UK meetings in their seemingly comical efforts at persuading the UK government to see things their respective way. Of course, the Labour Party’s amazing prayer—if you can believe that, dear reader—was that the British government should retain the status quo, if only a while longer.
When Compton finally declared a 1979 date for Independence, it was as if he had declared war on at least half the population. In the days leading up to the arrival of the queen’s representatives, there were bomb explosions all over Castries, solemn candlelit marches to Government House and rowdy public demonstrations against what was about to take place. A visiting British government official was heckled out of his bed early one morning and threatened by a chanting mob outside his hotel, while George Odlum pounded his war drums to the beat of an attendant BBC-TV crew.
On the night that Saint Lucia officially achieved nationhood at a spectacular outdoor ceremony replete with fireworks, a section of Her Majesty’s Prison went up in flames, telephone wires were cut by would-be saboteurs who imagined they were disrupting the Independence ceremony’s electricity source, and a van loaded with explosives stalled before it arrived at its intended destination. Yes, so reminiscent of Keystone Kops. But the motivation behind this particular comedy of errors couldn’t have been more deadly!
With the 1979 general elections imminent, both the incumbent UWP and the SLP had turned Saint Lucia’s Independence into a convenient campaign issue. While on the one hand Odlum & Company had invented every possible justification for retaining our Associated State status, Compton bragged from his public platforms that Independence would free Saint Lucia from Home Office influence and render the nation (meaning its new prime minister!) the power to do whatever it pleased, including the borrowing of millions of dollars for development projects, and negotiating with the IMF. Yes, the same IMF that he later described as a sexually confused male rat!
So yes, prominent among us as we celebrate our 34th Independence will be the International Monetary Fund in the person of Dr. Hyginus Leon, who, judging by all I’ve read about him, has been advising Caribbean governments especially in the best of economic times.
It remains to be heard what he has to offer this nation that is way over its head in debt, whose government as I write is locked in mortal combat with a seemingly unyielding public service demanding more money in the wake of repeated election promises of “better days” and “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Doubtless Dr Leon will also tell his audience how he had helped Jamaica bring its crime problems under control. Hopefully our government will not only listen but also put into practice the debt-financed IMF representative’s advice.
I have no doubt the CSA membership will also be listening.
And now it remains to wish my fellow Saint Lucians a Happy Independence Day whether en rouge et en jaune!

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