Last week’s announcement that the prime minister had deserted strife-threatened and broke Saint Lucia in favor of a short respite in London disturbed sleeping dogs. He is locally famous for removing himself to cooler climes whenever his own cookhouse becomes over-heated, possibly in the enduring Creole belief that what you can’t see can’t possibly hurt you.
They say ostriches also think like that. Which of course is a bum rap. Ostriches are clever creatures that have good reason to know burying your head in the sand only makes it easier for sandflies to bite your unprotected fat behind!
In tumultuous 1979, when for their own convenience some had packaged him as something of a wunderkind—and handed him responsibility for the nation’s education—he had stealthily sneaked off to less stressful territory, even as his under-privileged brothers and sisters struggled to keep their heads above the flowing sewerage in William Peter Boulevard, for a time (and not without good reason) renamed Plywood City. Conceivably, he had determined it was he who most needed special education.
Last Friday, his office also informed the caring section of the citizenry that the prime minister was hoping to establish while in the UK “a network of business ambassadors” charged with assisting his government “to identify sources of investment” and also to promote Saint Lucia as an ideal location for investment, our recently acquired human rights reputation notwithstanding.
Dear thinking reader, I can almost hear you asking: Isn’t that what the NDC, in whatever clobber, and the SLTB have been doing all these years?
Didn’t the World Bank recently declare Saint Lucia among the best places in the known world to conduct business, despite a certain prime minister’s open declaration while in purgatory that he had felt compelled to steer unsuspecting entrepreneurs away from our shores, so corrupt was the environment?
Last Friday’s press release generously credited the Foreign Policy Review Committee with inspiring the prime minister’s latest brainwave, “modeled on the UK’s Department of Trade and Investment Business Ambassadors Group.”
Pardon me for not being in a position to say anything useful about the latter, a shortcoming I evidently share with the issuers of the aforementioned communiqué.
Ironically, the Foreign Policy Review Committee that had recommended the UK visit was headed by Vaughan Lewis—in an earlier time dismissed by the current prime minister in such terms as had rendered him, in the public mind, a total idiot when it came to knowing what’s best for Saint Lucia.
The proposed network of ambassadors will, according to the prime minister’s office, “involve the appointment of strategically selected honorary consuls and distinguished Saint Lucians both at home and abroad, to work with various missions and embassies,” reminiscent of another time when the current prime minister had strategically selected such distinguished citizens as Michael Chastanet (the day’s lauded NDC chairman) and the former deputy prime minister Mario Michel’s older brother Costello (now a director of Invest Saint Lucia, by which name the NDC is now known), among others.
Which reminds me of not only Einstein, who defined as bonkers the repetition of failed procedures while continuously hoping for successful outcomes, but also of George Santayana’s “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
On the evidence, the last mentioned “investment ambassadors” had failed to deliver. At any rate, nothing that might’ve discouraged the prime minister’s recent public acknowledgment that he had wasted eight years listening to Michael Chastanet’s promises before dismissing the investments ambassador as just another snake oil salesman, a purveyor of pipe dreams, a weaver of fantasies.
It turns out that Vaughan Lewis, who as prime minister had “sank to the lowest common moral and intellectual denominator . . . the worst Compton-made disaster; [whose] wild spending had left the treasury owing individuals, businesses and overseas suppliers in excess of $20 million,” had somehow persuaded his assessor and successor to undertake last week’s treasure hunt.
At Lewis’ direction, the ostensibly cash-strapped prime minister had on June 26 addressed “a meeting of potential investors” in London, at which time he had profited the opportunity “to outline the work being undertaken by Invest Saint Lucia, the reforms being made to the investment facilitation landscape and the projects available for private investment and public-private partnership initiatives.”
He listed some of the areas for “immediate investment,” among them “tourism, property development, creative industries, national infrastructure, medical research and education and renewable energy.”
Why the above-mentioned obviously exciting opportunities had so far failed to attract a single investor since 2011 is difficult to understand. Isn’t the reason we maintain so many “costly” embassies in Europe, Washington and elsewhere related to hunting high and low for investors not of the Grynberg variety?
Did the prime minister have to travel to the UK to deliver personally the good news, perchance to undo the damage he claimed to have done to our island’s business reputation while in opposition?
But then didn’t the government recently announce a highly successful (albeit expensive) meeting with imported investors? Or am I also dreaming?
I am reliably informed that the highlight of the UK visit was the prime minister’s address on Saturday evening at the High Commissioner’s Gala Dinner and Awards. Was he referring to Ernest Hilaire—who with several fellow “mission heads” not so long ago had convened yet another “successful meeting” right here in Saint Lucia? (It was at the recalled gathering we learned how absolutely disrespected is the office of governor general, remember?)
The purpose of the special gala dinner “attended by Saint Lucian nationals, investors, government officials and diplomats (doubtless with a copious supply of lubricants of diplomatic intercourse!) was, so I am assured, to raise funds for a home for the elderly, recently relocated, in the best interests of tourism, from Malgretoute to Vieux Fort.
The awards? The PM’s press bulletin did not name the recipients but I’ll be sure to let you know in due course (as I write, I am informed that the prime minister has returned home and will likely name the potential investors he met in London; also others honored). Hopefully he will reveal the estimated cost of Hilaire’s gala dinner and the amount raised—which I have no doubt will be placed in the Consolidated Fund, if only temporarily!
Meanwhile, Mary Isaac and the other irate leaders of our public unions will be happy to learn Saint Lucia’s UK mission paid for the prime minister’s treasure hunt, not taxpayers. At any rate, according to the office of the prime minister who cannot tell a lie!