Ed Harris @ Large!!!

The days of uncertainty and anxiety are with us. So much is happening around us that I decided to be at large! There is a war in Iraq about to be concluded with a victory for the USA and its Willing Allies. Then there are rumours of war. Where is it all heading? At the local level, weeks of speculation have ended, we now have a Budget for the fiscal year April, 2003 to March, 2004.

The Budget:
Budget 2002-2003 was debated and the estimates passed in Parliament. The Budget is now behind us. However, the debate continues among citizens who in a democratic country are free to exercise such right. The most discussed aspect of the budget continues to be the 100% increased levy on Driver’s Licence. Many feel that the increase is too harsh. No reason was given for the increase, but does it have anything to do with the improvement and maintenance of our roads? If this is the reason, I say no more. I am all for it.

When it comes to dealing with statistics, people are always demanding more and over the years, there has been the call to justify the numbers. Some people are asking for comparative figures to be presented in more detail.

In spite of the uncertainties and anxieties being experienced in many parts of the world, especially in the USA, the Budget is one of optimism. The Government has promised to energise the economy with an aggressive road building programme, maintenance and renovation of existing schools and building of new ones. The construction sector is booming and will continue to make a substantial contribution to the economy. Both Agriculture and Tourism will continue to receive support to ensure that they continue to contribute to national good. Manufacturing and Services are expected to gain momentum.

The productive sectors are being encouraged by the Government and supported by many International Agencies, especially the European Development Fund. We are encouraged to improve our competitiveness so as to be able to demand our place in a global, liberalized market. There are some encouraging signs and my prediction is that once we get beyond July and there is no further disruption, the rest of the going should be smooth. However, my gut feeling is that difficult times are ahead and we must do whatever is necessary now to create an economic environment that can withstand any future disruption.

I have one disappointment this year like previous years is the fact that we fail to mobilize our overseas based citizens and friends of St. Lucia promote St. Lucia as a destination for business and pleasure. Such a policy statement as a boost to promoting Investments and Tourism is vital. Once again I call for Agency to promote the appointment of Trade and Investment Representatives around the world. This group of esteemed professionals and business persons will keep St. Lucia before the eyes of the world and supplement the efforts of our Overseas Missions, Tourist Board, National Development Corporation (NDC), Private Sector Association and NGOs. Interestingly, the local administrative Committee and those involved would be offering their services for FREE! With such a body, we can be represented in many more places than we are today. It is not too late for us to incorporate such an approach. After all our most important foreign affairs activity is to promote friendly relationships with nations and their citizens around the world.

War with Iraq:
At the time of preparing this article, the war with Iraq is in its 25 th day and is about to conclude. America and the Coalition of the Willing will be victorious. I have always predicted right in matters concerning President Bush. Sometimes the criticisms against him are so deafening that I ponder as to whether I should ever refer to him in my articles. But the more he evolves, the more he continues to surprise his critics. One thing has to be said of President Bush is that he is not afraid to venture out. Political risks are all a part of the game. In the Caribbean, many of our leaders will rather be safe than sorry. They want to be always politically correct. Don’t rock the boat. President Bush’s popularity was at an all time low when the war started, heading for the low 50s, now it is heading for mid 70s. Are we to credit his miraculous performance to his advisors? He is definitely surrounded by experienced men and women, especially the BLACK members of his team. I would not give them credit for winning the war but definitely for being the chief strategists. Do you feel a sense of pride, that finally Blacks are making a contribution at the highest level they can reach at this time? Did I hear someone suggest that America will have a Black President sometime soon? No, not in this century.

Regional and International Alliances:
Moving forward, I sincerely hope that Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) will come into effect before FTAA and not lag behind that both FTAA and WTO will come into effect before CSME. Unless we can unite our efforts at the OECS and Caricom levels, we will never get the respect that is due to us. We will be seen as a fragmented group that could be easily manipulated. I can’t wait for that special moment in time when we in Caricom will celebrate the free movement of people, labour and investments.

The Wireless War:
Everybody is talking! The horses have now jumped out of the starting gate and it is Cable and Wireless under pressure from Digicel with AT&T far behind, almost making a false start. As an old fashioned Sales and Marketing professional graduated from the school of hard knocks I continue to have a good laugh at the mistakes that are being made by the marketing arm of the companies. C & W is engaged in the most eratic marketing campaign I have ever witnessed to the frustration of all the other players. Digicel took the fight to the people and now to the courts, keeping the heat on C & W demanding their space. I have always figured that the fight for the low end would be between C & W and Digicel and AT&T would be the high end player. It played out that way. Unfortunately, I feel that they should have never introduced any phones offered by the two other competitors at their launch. If they did the only challenge would have been to issue free phones. The low end phones should have come in phase two within days of the initial launch if a price tag was to be put on them. I will continue to watch as the battle continues for the hearts and minds of the St. Lucian consumers. I have much more to say on the matter of marketing in St. Lucia, especially in the telecommunications sector. I wonder what Mr. Roger Sutherland thinks about the strategy applied by the cellar companies. I strongly suggest that they approach him to do a course for their employees on Integrity Selling.

Happy Easter:
This Easter should have a special meaning for many, both near and far. It is the time of year when the Christian world celebrates the life, death and resurrection of Yahshua. It is a reassuring thought that believers will rise again. It is the hope of believers that they will get together with their loved ones when the Messiah puts in his appearance. He lives!!! It is because he lives that many get the courage to face another day. Let us take some time to reflect on the life of the Messiah and see in what ways, we can be like him. That is the challenge for all believers.

Keep the Faith! In all things give thanks!!!