The Bad Old Days

As I was doing my rounds of the stores a day or so ago, I was struck by the number of faces that either seemed to be following me around or were, apparently, being followed by me. As Yogi Berra once said, “It was déjà vu all over again.” But perhaps not for the reasons you might think. There was, of course, an initial recognition and shy smile at repeatedly meeting the same persons, which gradually turned into a welcoming grin as we congregated in the same aisles over and over again, but there was more to it than that: we were all looking for the same things. It was then that I realized what was happening. The clock has been turned back. Shopping in St Lucia has been stealthily transformed from what was becoming a pretty satisfactory experience into what it was twenty, thirty years ago when it was the norm to spend a whole day traipsing from store to store to find what you wanted. A quarter of a century of improvement in the retail sector has been wiped out in the past 10 months. The shelves are empty; goods that were regularly available have disappeared; people go out in a morning to do their shopping not knowing when they will return or with what. To paraphrase Yogi, “Shopping ain’t over ’til it’s over” – and even then, it ain’t over, cos it ain’t there! Promises of better times to come sound more and more hollow as each shopping days passes, and we have not even begun to imagine how much the cost of living will shoot up once we have to pay VAT on everything (and I am a VAT supporter). But in any case, who pays attention to Prime Minister Anthony’s predictions and promises any more; he certainly seems not to. Dr Anthony is obviously an avid enthusiast of Yogi’s aphorisms; his favourite way out of avoiding responsibility for his unfulfilled promises seems to be, as Yogi said, “I didn’t really say everything I said.” Recently, our prime minister was on the “tele” bemoaning the fact that he could not find any letter or memorandum confirming the establishment of diplomatic relations between St Lucia and Taiwan, as if that would change anything. If our leader spends his days rummaging after letters, possibly unsigned, then he should take heed of yet another Yogi maxim, “Never answer an anonymous letter” and move on. But rummaging in old records is not the only thing that occupies our prime minister’s time; he also travels. In fact, he cannot resist any opportunity to get away from St Lucia and appear, even if it is only in a bit part, on the international stage, just as he did the other week when he was supposedly in South Africa at the invitation of the Socialist International Congress to give a keynote speech as “Prime Minister of St Lucia”. Well, there are no records of any speech, as yet no sign of such an invitation, and our Kenny is merely listed as an “observer” to the meeting as a representative of the St Lucia Labour Party. As Yogi said, “You can observe a lot by watching.” Obviously, or so it seems, when DrAnthony was at the crossroads of the Indian Ocean in Mauritius, he could not resist taking the road less taken, or as Yogi again put it, “When you come to a fork in the road … take it!” The prime minister, when speaking of the successes to come, has predicted that in six months or so the tourism sector will have bounced back on the crest of a revived world economy and St Lucia will again be able to enjoy the rewards that come from surplus cash that translates into Caribbean holidays galore for Europeans and Yanks alike. It is now the end of September and Dr Anthony has been in office for just about 10 months. Thus far, he has not delivered on his promise of better times to come. Perhaps, as far as the tourism sector goes, he will soon be compelled to fall back on one of Yogi’s more poignant quotes, namely, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” If I recall rightly, our presnt prime minister severely criticized the then fresh, inexperienced ministers in King’s cabinet for their excessive travels, but has any single group of ministers ever traveled more than this lot? There’s never anyone at home. If they were taking a course in country management they would all flunk it because they failed to be present for the minimum time required. And if they are on home soil, they cannot do a thing without the ever-absent, big guy’s say-so. Sometimes it seems they are asleep at the wheel and the country is careening along regardless. To paraphrase Yogi, “They usually take a two hour nap from one to four.” On Dr Anthony’s recent trip to Mauritius, he was accompanied by at least his wife, his speechwriter and the Minister of Education. What did St Lucia gain from this escapade to a conference of, as Yogi put it, the “overwhelming underdogs” of the outdated Commonwealth? And I have not even mentioned the trip to the Olympics or the jaunt up to New York to rally St Lucian ex-pats. When asked what time it was, Yogi replied, “You mean now?” Dr Anthony seems to have an equally vague plan for the next step, or even the first step, in this island’s recovery. When his team lost the 1960 series to Pittsburgh, Yogi gave the ultimate explanation for failure, “We made too many wrong mistakes.” How many wrong mistakes are St Lucians willing to allow the leader of the present government. It is easy to blame failure on others; the world is experiencing massive problems, but blaming others will not solve our own problems. As Yogi said, “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

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