The annual ritual presentation of St Lucia’s Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, preceded by the governor general’s throne speech, is predictably an exercise in hyperbole—if not an insult to the national intelligence. Last year Dame Pearlette began by imagining a familial relationship between our immediate future and the mythical Helen of Troy. Nuff said about that!
This year the apparently delusional throne speech writer seemed to reach for higher flights of fancy: “We decide what we shall plant, what economy we shall carve, what language we shall speak, what values we shall teach our children, what friends we shall keep and so, if we are to see prosperity for ourselves, we must sow the seeds of opportunity so that our children might grow well in the land.”
Talk about fantasy mongering! Not even the leader of the most powerful nation on earth would be so bombastic as to dare speak such nonsense. I daresay neither would an A-Level student, not if he or she had any knowledgeable of our history, our status in the world at this time especially, the constraints related to our size and our continuing complete dependence on foreign aid by whatever name.
Do the writers of the governor general’s throne speeches review what they have written? Do they take it into account that our governor general is an acclaimed academic and should be spared the embarrassment of reading such amateurish scribblings?
There is little in this or last year’s throne speech that is not contradictory. In truth, there is very little we’ve achieved independently, despite that we are supposedly free to do as we please. Another inconvenient truth: We have never been able to decide for ourselves what we plant: the banana and sugar industries were foisted on our people by our colonial masters. Neither have we ever controlled our economy, vulnerable as we’ve always been to external shocks and influences. We had little to do with the language we speak; it was adopted from our masters, French and English. As for the values we continue to teach our children mainly by example, we should all be embarrassed even to mention them. Our dress, our appetites, the trends we cannot resist, the music we dance to, the technology we attempt to use, well, they speak volumes about us, not much of it flattering.
Our vulnerability on the economic front is undeniable. It seems we can do nothing about the effects of heavy rain on our agriculture and infrastructure; the main contributor to our GDP, tourism, is also subject to weather conditions and the whims of the United
States that by a single advisory could overnight cripple the industry.
Evidently, the governor general’s most recent throne speech represents the sentiments, beliefs and philosophy of this administration that has itself acknowledged its need of a vision, a plan and a strategy. It is such delusions as suggested by the throne speech that affect the thinking of our political directorate, so that he cannot acknowledge reality. How else to explain the constant aping of the forms and behavior of the rich industrialized countries?
Then there is the stubborn maintenance of embassies we cannot afford and ambassadors that cannot show anything for their salaries. Meanwhile, we’re forever begging, whether for financial or technical assistance. There can be no better example of a Rolls Royce mentality in a bicycle economy.
Our manufacturing sector is in dire need of assistance that it seems the government cannot or will not provide. We are mere users of the technical, scientific and knowledge development taking place in the advanced countries. Instead of recognizing our limitations and adopting a different mode of conduct, we continue on our merry way, oblivious to reality, preferring instead to brag about mythical heroes. In the throne speech this administration promises: “From the minds of our people we can bring forth our true creative treasures. This quality we possess. This we must leverage.” Wishful thinking or more evidence of delusion?
Words should be followed by deeds. As the old saying goes, “a man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.” And that’s what this government represents, a garden full of weeds crying out for STEP attention. As a demonstration of its seriousness, this administration should start an in-house cleaning of the cobwebs, for we have academics that are little more than square pegs in round holes, performing every task except those for which they were trained.
It is clear to all who listened to the most recent throne speech and the outline of the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditures that this administration under the leadership of Kenny Anthony has no plan or clear vision of a systematically worked out program for Saint Lucia’s economic development. This is reflected in the mindless proposal to establish a National Vision Commission with the support and involvement of “state actors, including Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition . . .”
The plan for the development of a country’s economy is the primary responsibility of the government in power, its leader in particular. That is why in the democratic
system there are always alternative visions for the electorate to support or discard. Evidently in 2011 the people were persuaded by daydreamer Kenny Anthony’s promises, all of which have turned out to be empty, from his insane promise of jobs-jobs-jobs to that $100 million carrot on a stick.
Are we in St Lucia condemned never again to have a visionary leader like Sir John? Sir John’s vision was always evident in the throne speeches he prepared for the governors general of his day and in his budget presentations, including his last at age 82: remember his dramatic proposals for a “Quadrant” development plan which would dramatically
change the physical landscape of Saint Lucia, in much the same way that he had changed things from what they had been in the plantation days of Dennis Barnard?
Recently ECCB Governor General Sir Dwight Venner alluded to the “Dutch disease” and asserted it is “leadership, not money” which is the problem here. But Holland has emerged from its Dutch disease to become one of the most prosperous countries in Europe. Dutch disease has been eclipsed by the African Disease. Africa is blessed with the most valuable mineral and natural resources on earth, from oil, gold, silver,
diamonds, uranium, plutonium iron ore, to vast forests and agricultural land, yet it remains the basket case of the world, afflicted by unspeakable poverty and disease. Why? Because its leaders plunder its wealth for personal aggrandizement, and encourage discord among their people with irrational tribal and religious divisions, no matter that all are of the same color!
Are we a microcosm of the African Disease? We exhibit the worst characteristics of our African brothers: extravagance, always heading somewhere with their entourages at great expense to the taxpayer, squandering scarce resources on fruitless overseas junkets, on useless embassies and pompous unproductive ambassadors. We should long ago have established joint diplomatic missions; hired professionals in key positions, not party hacks with no discernible talent. Way back in 1994 Sir John warned what would happen unless the public payroll was brought under control. And we
know now how right he was!
When will our puffed-up politicians come down from the imaginary pedestals to tackle the harsh realities that threaten to wipe out their people?