Published On: Thu, Oct 11th, 2012

Build a Saint Lucian brand not a charity economy!

By Melanius Alphonse

The unpredictable nature of the market is a challenge that will persist, as major world economies like China and Japan continue to struggle with positive growth. At the same time, determining a winning strategy is a matter of situation awareness, market positioning and taking advantage of alternative markets to increase living standards and advance the lives of people.

The key to accomplish this is to cultivate relationships that will utilize resources to develop products and services that are unique to market segments.

And whereas financial conditions will be strained with slow growth and the application of more stimuli, to slow down a debilitating global recession, moderate growth forecast is favourable within the range of 2.6 to 3.3 percent for 2012 -2013.

As such, the travel and heritage sector, infrastructure and investment agencies, environmental sustainability, food security, manufacturing, national security and the public-private sector, must collaborate to define a “Saint Lucian brand” in major hubs, cities and regions.

One such example is the Brazil-China relationship and its influence globally; which brings to the forefront the importance of strong bilateral engagement in emerging markets.

In this global environment, Saint Lucia must bring into being new trade and investment agreements, and partnerships that enhance Saint Lucia’s presence in global markets to reflect an acceptable economic performance on the home front.

There are many urgent tasks at hand, but the ability to seize on socio-economic opportunities and to reposition Saint Lucia as a regional and serious global partner, are changes Saint Lucia must adjust to – in order to reap economic benefits.

Thus, it is imperative that Saint Lucia becomes focused, in order to identify and explore potential investment propositions -- but, for any measure of acceptable economic performance to return, the social deterioration must subside, and the fundamentals to income generation and low risk factors must improve.

The violence, corruption and the underground economy that help drive inflation require an unwavering commitment to avoid smoke-and-mirror rhetorical tactics. Bearing in mind that investors need to know in solid terms that Saint Lucia is a stable nation, where agreements are respected, honoured, and held to the highest international standards.

The human struggle for equity, political and economic justice are also growing concerns that require more effective resources to improve environmental conditions, housing, transportation and productivity.

The common sense in all of this is for Saint Lucia to cut out its dependency on international handouts.

And, if the policymakers would overcome tribalism and knee-jerk partisanship, Saint Lucia would have the opportunity to lessen the inducement to meet the needs of others, not solely to exist as a functionary, but rather as a marketplace for capital investment; private equity investment in new ideas; to develop new products, services and methods to move towards a competitive open marketplace.

But here’s the hindrance!

And that is, the expectation to wait passively for better days in a low growth economy and to make cosmetic name changes and personnel at statutory boards is not a strategic position that benefits Saint Lucia as an efficient, reliable and affordable partner that is open for business.

The reliance on such methods falls within the norms of the past, and does not offer any buoyancy to a struggling nation. Therefore, there is need for stronger steps to foster economic growth, reduce social issues and to foster a balancing act that must be present in order to restore stability to a fragile and unbalanced economy.

There must be a practical plan, coupled with the enthusiasm to build an exciting image and brand for Saint Lucia abroad. Making adjustments, and cultivating a serious approach to economic development, is the way forward for a nation badly in need of change.

The contrast must be absolutely clear.

Saint Lucia must prove that it is a country of innovative ideas, which in turn will provide the necessary opportunities to become globally competitive.

The culture of enterprise and business reform must cut the red tape to ease the flow of doing business. Saint Lucia’s accessibility to link emerging markets and world class cities must continuously remain marketable, and focus on opportunities through trade missions, business exchange and exhibitions.

Hence the reason why it is critically important to have the right set of people serving our country abroad, by ensuring that our diplomatic missions are structured to attract investors and global partners, and not simply to house lazy and unproductive political operatives.

The reality of what confronts us is like a mirror to our faces.

The Saint Lucian economy has remained stagnant for too long, and as such, many people now believe that the distorted, desperate and cynical judgment to add, and to expect the value added tax (VAT) will become an omnipotent cash solvent, is certainly a myth.

All of this needs to change to the imperative that new capital ventures must begin to open new doors to develop opportunities for job creation, and to leverage dynamic options in order to reap the long term returns down the road on behalf of the people of Saint Lucia.

There is a small window of opportunity left, but the onus is now upon the government of Saint Lucia, to prove that it truly understands what's at stake, and that running an economy based on the principles of seeking charitable donations around the world will not aid the long struggle of the people of Saint Lucia and their quest for economic advancement.

 

Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant. He is an advocate for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality; the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at malphonse@rogers.com

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