Some persons may be asking where is our country heading? I do hope that those who are Bible believers are not without answers as they can only see it as a sign of the times. Others may well attribute the times to a world trend in which nations everywhere are caught up in what could be considered an era of crises. The debate is surely on but unfortunately, it is about things that do not get down to the core of the problem. The problem in our country is poverty. We have failed to be our brother's keeper. The level of property has never been greater. Some will argue if there is poverty in America, there can be anywhere else in the world. I say there should not be the level of poverty in America. It all boils down to misplaced priorities. We must put people first. The good book says that the poor will always be with us, but we must take care of the less fortune in our midst. Jesus said feed my sheep. I say give them a hope also.

Poverty stems from neglect. Failing to do the things we should be doing but neglect to do them. It is time that our leaders get together and try to salvage whatever is left. Most of us are prepared to point to the problems that suit us, leaving behind others. There must be a holistic approach to the problem of neglect. We have left undone those things which are ought to have done and have done those things which we ought not to have done and what is the result? Crime, prostitution, lack of self-esteem, hopelessness and much more. We must all take responsibility.

I will be first to admit that this is a global phenomenon where the world for the last three decades or so has seen the poor getting poorer at an unprecedented rate. The end result is that sickness and death is appalling in many underdeveloped and developing countries but our islands do not have the problems of the larger states. Small is manageable but we must apply effective management, neglect has to be replaced by diligence.

I have tried in earlier times to rationalise why is it that St. Lucia was doing so well and a country like Guyana is seeing hell. I came up with the most important reason being the difference of size. In spite of Guyana’s many natural resources, the yield from such resources could never keep apace with the demand for services. Here in St. Lucia regardless of the difficult times, I still feel that St. Lucia has an advantage based on size.

Recent developments within our country is not encouraging as the leaders within the society are caught up with debates that exposes the country to a trend which will not gain the sympathy of our international friends. We must find an alternative approach to such developments. It is very necessary that we shift gears into other matters of priority such as dealing with poverty at all levels. The big issue is how the citizens of our country can put food on the table legitimately without compromising their souls.

Given the benefit of our size, supported by citizens who continue to excel in various professions and businesses both at home and abroad, we should not be bugged down with fuelling discord among those who must concentrate on taking the country forward. There was a statement about bringing together the brightest and the best at the political level. We need the brightest and the best regardless of political affiliation to put heads together to salvage the nation from the many areas of negative engagements that affect progress in our land.

If we are to change our course, we must desist from making comparisons with the world around us to justify our status. Sometimes, we play with statistics that when looked at closely can only be a source of embarrassment. Statistics are like arguments which can be slanted to suit the position taken by each side to the argument.

I keep saying that what needs to be in arresting the ills of society is to create opportunities that will put money in the pockets of our citizens. What can we do to put money in the hands of more people? Can we find sustainable means of productive engagement of our people? How can we move forward? I have a suggestion that we establish a National Forum of Economically Concerned Citizens. Another for Socially Concerned Citizens and yet another for Culturally Concerned Citizens. These organisations must be accessible to the public, not excluding anyone who has a contribution to make.

I believe that the National Economic Council must be more visible and the nation should be kept abreast of the direction it is headed. While I agree that from time to time there will be need for confidentiality of some initiatives, information about this group is not readily available and I take this opportunity to suggest that something be done speedily in engaging civil society. The flow of information between the council and civil society is vital. What if the path selected for action by the NEC is not consistent with developments taking place in the developed world of which its members are unaware but someone or a few people in St. Lucia are aware through their exposure to such matters professionally or otherwise. We do have such experience where hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on developing a project which was subsequently abandoned. We the citizens have a right to know about actions which are supposed to be in the national interest, especially when it has to do with bread and butter issues.

Knowledge and information are no longer exclusive to any group or individual - thanks to the internet. In these difficult times, there is no room for trial and error. It is important that we bring together all persons who can make a contribution. The progress of the world is based on knowledge sharing as we see the announcement in the several journals. When a project is exposed more experts are able to contribute.
A vital area of management is the need to expedite implementation. We take too long to act and many times we reduce the impact due to time lag. Information at the speed of thought, no one can deny the need for doing things together and in time. Time is the essence.. We need to lighten the burden.

The time has come for a Regional Volunteer Service and I suggest that St. Lucia begins the process. Put those retired persons and those who are under utilised to work. Put ideas into the environment. Get the momentum of hope going. Our people in the region need a motivational crusade.

Together, we can do more, we need confidence that will assure us that the many things we dream about are possible. I am often reminded about the song "Nothing to do, nowhere to go" It takes a lot of will power these days to get up and go to face the world - the new day for many is just a nightmare. The result is frustration that leads to negative actions. It is everybody's business to seek to bring about change in the current state of affairs. Our government must do everything in its power to involve the people.

St. Lucians are creative people, we know the problems, I believe solutions can be found but there seems to be a block. Will someone take action to open up this vast untapped reservoir of resources of persons who are willing to help but must first be invited to share. These times demand that all of us to be proactive helping to move the process towards a better life for all - reducing the impact of poverty.

God will do nothing for us if we are not prepared to take the initiative.

Keep the Faith, God is in Charge. Act in consort with His will!!
February 8/03