When it was announced that the former government of Saint Lucia had appointed a committee to study the pros and cons of economic citizenship, the following came to mind: the SLP is averse to foreigners; they feel threatened by large foreign investments; they do not trust white people; they feel intimidated and threatened by business and classical economics. That SLP mentality persists, in or out of government.
That party’s leader in opposition had threatened to write to foreign investors warning them not to invest in Saint Lucia because it had deemed the day’s corrupt. How does one undo such damage to a country’s image—and by its former prime minister! Should there be a law debarring politicians who make such outrageous statements from contesting parliamentary elections? Should they be treated as the enemy within and charged with sedition? Such would be the consequence in several of the countries the SLP refers to as “our non-traditional friends.” Did the SLP put a curse on the island—and on itself–with that absolutely wicked undertaking?
The SLP has demonstrated a reluctance to share the national pie with other citizens of different political persuasions. As early as 1998, at its first convention (Babonneau) following its 1997 victory at the polls, a resolution was presented that required the new government to give SLP members priority for jobs. That was the party’s version of affirmative action. It did not matter that some citizens have never voted. They, like others who had voted for other than SLP rule, would pay in the worst way. It did not matter how qualified were job applicants; the only qualification that seemed to matter to the writers of the resolution was a demonstrated determination to keep the red flag flying high. It did seem to matter than in 1997 hundreds of UWP’s had decided to vote Labour.
An interesting outcome of that 1998 resolution was the strong objection by George Odlum. His opposition marked the second withdrawal of the Big Brother from the SLP. Has anything changed since that unfortunate resolution? Some people are today convinced that time has only made the SLP worse. The party is now more akin to a private company whose shareholders are known only to its highest ranks. Worse, it is clear that the hierarchy is made up of shameless pathological prevaricators, utterly remorseless despite their repeated betrayals of the people’s trust.
Another matter came to mind when the Vaughan Lewis committee to study citizenship by investment was announced. It was believed that such a study should fall within the purview of Invest Saint Lucia. If there was a perceived foreign relations dimension to economic citizenship, then why not simply invite Lewis to sit on that committee, some persons opined? And why wasn’t the same expertise brought to bear on the oil exploration agreement between the Labour government of 2000 and Grynberg?
It is past high time that Saint Lucian politicians learned that investors are very careful people. No investor comes to Saint Lucia without first carrying out his or her own research. The most important consideration for most investors is whether the country is stable and whether its leadership is trustworthy. Can a leader deliver what he promises? Will he act by whim and vamps, allowing partisan politics the last say?
Investors in search of new investment opportunities will hardly be impressed with the SLP’s sales pitch. They are more likely to consult with other investors in the country before committing their millions to a local project. Trust, confidence, respect and fair play are important imperatives to investors.
A case in point is the Sandals Group’s desire to further develop the Sandals Grande hotel and why they were frustrated by the SLP. The question is whether persons at the top of the SLP can be depended upon to transact citizenship and foreign investment matters for Saint Lucia. Recent history answers that question. For many citizens, job creation should be agenda item number one for their government. Foreign direct investments are therefore crucial.
Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has famously given the thumbs down to the notion of economic citizenship. Gonsalves stands for the promotion of an indigenous Caribbean economy and development agenda—whatever that means.
Economic citizenship is a reality for many Western countries, including those of the OECS. Concerns over Homeland and Security in the US should ensure terrorists do not access Caribbean citizenship. How economic citizenship laws are framed and implemented is therefore crucial. Hopefully, the Lewis report on economic citizenship will be publicly discussed in the interest of we the people.