St. Lucia - Sharing and Caring for its Regional Partners!

In an earlier article this year I commented on the fact that never before has St. Lucia hosted so many conferences and the trend was likely to continue for most of 2002.
It has to be a clear indication that the leadership of our country is blazing the trail with respect to bringing the region closer together and proposing some positive initiatives that are being observed by other leaders within the grouping.
The recent Heads of Government meeting held in St. Lucia just a week ago, is testimony to the collaborative mode of our region's leaders.
While there were statements made at the end of the two day conference, the financial experts are still to put the structure together that will go beyond helping Dominica. The proposed Stabilization Fund is very necessary as a first response to countries finding themselves in Dominica's current position.
Again in an earlier article I expressed concern about the lack of engagement of the citizens of Dominica in the economic affairs of the state. I visited that island state about ten months ago and my private sector colleagues were expressing grave concern about the possibility of the country grinding to a halt.
Now that the situation is what it is, what can we do to ensure that the country finds its way out of its present state and begin to sustain itself in the shortest possible time. We must conclude that the present assistance which is being finalised is just a stop gap. It is not likely to be an on going assistance so it is obvious that Dominica will have to help itself along the way.
Dominicans everywhere must play their part to ensure that the economy is normalised in the shortest possible time.
In the meantime, something must be done to establish an international airport. I wonder if Melville Hall could be extended to accommodate small jets as those used by BWIA.
The need for larger passenger planes to operate the Dominica route in the short term to provide a shuttle service from Antigua to Dominica using the type of aircraft that is used by American Eagle. Tourism is the short and long term hope of economic activity on the island. Something must be done immediately to explore every opportunity in this regard.
Mr. Edwin Carrington, Secretary General of Caricom was in St. Lucia for the historic Heads of Government Conference and graced the relaunch of the St. Lucia Council for External Trade on Thursday, 15 August 2002 with his presence. His address was very informative and gave many examples of the dilemma we find ourselves as the negotiations advance towards Trade Liberalization and Globalization.
On every side of the negotiations we are disadvantaged whether it is taking place in Europe, North or Latin America. WTO, ACP, FTAA, or whatever else, we are disadvantaged. Most of all, we cannot afford not to be involved. It is in this regard that the St. Lucia Council on External Trade is most welcomed. It is hoped that the local support groups assisted by a full time secretariat will make a positive contribution to assisting the St. Lucia delegations to the various conferences they are expected to be involved with throughout the remainder of 2002 and beyond.
Honourable Julian R. Hunte, Minister of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation pledged to involve Civil Society, especially the Private Sector comprising of the local Private Sector Council and in particular the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.
Mr. Carrington referred to the double negatives of the exodus of our trained citizens and influx of criminals. He called for governments of the region to demand that the developed countries give back something to assist us to train teachers, nurses and other skilled resources.
He cited the Colombia Trade Agreement that while Caricom Exports increased by 5 million, Colombia's increased by 674 million. He further stated that donor resources diminished significantly. Our traditional donors have shifted focus. However, we have some advantages which can reposition us and he cited the Caribbean Cruise Industry and indicated that the time has come for our people to invest in this sector. The Caribbean has 50-60% of the business and 56% of the market cannot be shifted. Overnight port to port is a special incentive.
We cannot stop the process, we have to adopt to change. We live in a world that is increasingly less inclined to take care of our needs. We must strengthen our negotiating machinery - build alliances with like minded countries. At the domestic level, ensure we equip our people with new skills. We have something here, build on it, use it.
Private Sector involvement is critical and he encouraged the Private Sector to provide skills. There is need for new corporate structures. We can no longer continue to proceed with small family structured businesses.
Mr. Carrington provided the audience with what I consider to be facts of life, straight talk. I listened to him on several occasions but his time I sensed a feeling of urgency in his delivery. Many things we undertake in this region, take too long. I suggest we take a page out of Germany's book.
The world is no longer a place for individual states, this is the era of Trading Blocks.
What can we do in St. Lucia to implement the C.S.M.E.? I believe the time has come for someone to jump start the process, after all it is not about governments, it is about people - Let Freedom Reign.
Keep the Faith - God is in Charge!

August 24, 2002