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Global issue 20

In Focus Saint Lucia “When the government of Venezuela decides to make available US$7.2 million to build bridges, they must be satisfied that the bridges we build will stand the test of time. Don’t believe in quick fixes and mediocrity. We have done what is right for the future security of our country and our people. It has cost us more but there is the added assurance that it will stand the test of time.” A former academic, Kenny Anthony has been Prime Minister for 13 of Saint Lucia’s 36 years of independence. Having started out as a schoolteacher, he went back to university to study law. He became head of the law department at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, after completing a doctorate at the University of Birmingham in the UK. Anthony won the 1997 election as leader of the Labour Party on a ticket of boosting the economy, reducing crime and improving prospects for the island’s young people. Under his leadership, unemployment was reduced from 22 per cent to 14 per cent – though it has slid back up in recent years – and the economy has grown. Jobs have been created under the Constituency Development Programme, particularly in construction and health care, with a major hospital and ten clinics having been refurbished. Tourism has led the economic recovery with arrivals up six per cent in 2014 thanks to increases in the numbers of visitors coming from the UK, USA and Canada in particular. The government has also committed to undertake an island-wide wi-fi project, which will not only be a draw for tourists, but will also be used by schools. On a less positive note, the Anthony government has battled with rising crime rates. In January 2015 a British tourist was killed and his wife injured when armed robbers entered their yacht at Vieux Fort, which followed the robbery of a group of cruise ship passengers on an excursion in 2014. In 2012 an elderly Canadian tourist died from his injuries after being robbed and beaten. In another high-profile killing, Curriculum Vitae British hotelier Oliver Gobat, who lived on the island, was murdered. The UK police offered help with the investigation, but only on the condition that the death penalty be waived in the event of a conviction. Anthony did not welcome the constitutional interference, but, nevertheless, admits that the country does have a problem with organised crime. The Prime Ministers’s real focus, however, is on the economy. He points out that Saint Lucia was still recovering from a huge knock caused by Hurricane Tomas in 2010 – to the tune of 43 per cent of the country’s GDP – when the Christmas Eve storm hit the island a year ago. “The economic impact of this most recent devastating event is estimated to represent another seven per cent dent in our GDP,” he says. “This is coming at a time when Saint Lucia is dealing with a very challenging fiscal situation, which is severely undermining our ability to address the developmental agenda of the country and the needs of our people. The situation is further compounded by low foreign direct investment flows and high, pervasive unemployment. Once again, poverty and indigence, once thought to be receding, are increasing at alarming rates. 1985 MA in law from the University of the West Indies 1951 Born in Laborie, Saint Lucia 1978 Tutor at Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies, Trinidad 1980 Minister of Education “It is a vicious cycle. I think that we have all agreed that we can only emerge from this vortex by restoring growth to our economies. The question is simple: how do we do this?” One national initiative aims to challenge the traditionally laid back Caribbean attitude, with an attempt to make citizens more productive and help Saint Lucian companies become more competitive on the international stage. In October 2014 the country’s National Competitiveness and Productivity Council hosted a Productivity Awareness Week, the theme of which was ‘enhancing productivity is our responsibility’. The Prime Minister is a big supporter of the idea of enhancing productivity, citing the decline of the banana trade as an indication that the country’s farming sector is not competitive enough internationally. “The drive for increased productivity means that we are committing ourselves to excellence in our efforts, undertakings and workplaces, whatever our station may be. To do so individually and collectively would be a paradigm shift of major proportion,” he says. “Do we take responsibility for the tasks assigned to us and do them with integrity, honesty and on time? With the advent of social media, do we spend time on our phones or on Facebook? Does the level of work produced justify the wages that are paid?” he asks, adding that these questions apply not only to employees, but also to business owners, and even ministers and civil servants. With the next elections just a year away, tackling crime and growing the economy are a priority for Anthony’s Labour Party. These two elements are not unconnected: with tourism at the heart of the island’s recovery, prospective visitors need to be assured of their safety, so that the violent crimes against tourists of the last few years come to be seen as an uncharacteristic blip. As it is, travel websites are starting to ask the question: is Saint Lucia worth the risk? 1997 Prime Minister of Saint Lucia 1995 Elected leader of the Labour Party 2011 Elected Prime Minister again 2006 Loses election to United Workers Party, becomes Leader of the Opposition 1976 BA in history from the University of the West Indies; takes up teaching posts in primary and secondary schools 1989 Head of law at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados 1988 PhD in law from the University of Birmingham, UK www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 75


Global issue 20
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