Published On: Tue, Nov 5th, 2013

OIL for food – a crisis of confidence

Melanius AlphonseViewing the president of the Saint Lucia Manufacturers Association, Paula Calderon, on the television program Mr Chairman on October 17, 2013, was informative and judicious on the situation with industry in Saint Lucia.

But, as many have come to realize, some of the unwilling choices facing Saint Lucia is the actualization that institutions like Invest St Lucia and the National Development Corporation (NDC) may be relevant in name only.

For the simple fact that there you have a manufacturing industry with so much to offer to the GDP of Saint Lucia, yet the thrust that is needed to capitalize on this opportunity is stuck in the political insanity of policymakers.

The development of industry in Saint Lucia from one administration to the other continues to struggle from government bureaucracy and inflexibility to matters such as tax policy, infrastructure, labour and capital.

And whereas the concept of a Productivity and Competitive Council is a viable proposition; the lead and formulation by government is just another bugbear. “We wish you the best but….”

Far too many decisions by the government of Saint Lucia are more about the optics of ideology than business development and growth, which is of no surprise - as they have recently appeared to have contaminated PetroCaribe oil, with the expansion of “cocktail ambassadors” at the expense of trade and industry.

How much more can government differ from the reality of the day with fatally flawed concepts and policy?

This is a recurring decimal that continues to plague the government of Saint Lucia and its inability to come to the realization that political ideology must make business sense towards economic prosperity for future generations.

Recent shortages of the 53 items that make up Venezuela’s basic food basket have given rise to compulsive buying in Venezuela. But, with Saint Lucia’s membership of ALBA, has the government developed a plan for the production and export of goods and services to help out a fellow friend?

A service that may help improve the economic health of Venezuela; and one that may eventually lead to a reduction of interest payments on the PetroCaribe oil program should the economic situation improve in Venezuela.

Surely, some of the items in short supply are manufactured in the industrial belt in Vieux-Fort, such as toilet paper, condiments, coconut oil, and soap, while agricultural goods are produced throughout Saint Lucia.

All of these products could easily access the 23,000 distribution centers -- supermarkets, little stores, open air markets that make food and other commodities available to the people of Venezuela.

Oil for food! Oil for toilet paper! Oil for soap! Oil for bananas! To add to “Simply Beautiful”

Therefore, on the next visit to the Americas, it would be preferable that a trade mission headed by the Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturers Association should lead the negotiations and make a deal.

In any event, two publications by Donald Trump come to mind: Art of the Deal and the other, Think Big – Make It Happen in Business and Life.

“I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big,” Trump on Trump.

The argument is that, with the continuing lack of leadership in government, including the art of making a deal, and a genuine one at that, it is not the job of novice, but hardcore thinkers with the right mindset and business acumen.

And no, I am not thinking in terms of the quadrant blue print that has expired and, certainly, no amount of secret visits to Russia in the hope of procuring business tycoons to the island will suffice.

 

There is a rule of thumb, you can’t negotiate what you don’t have – “the ability to negotiate and get business done.”

And even if the government of Saint Lucia pursues and carries out its constitutional obligations to the coming high-level appointment of comptroller of Customs and Excise; and the permanent secretary and director of agriculture in the ministry of agriculture; and to top it off with the comptroller of Inland Revenue; the latter which may surprise many – including a few high level appointments at the water and sewage company (WASCO).

The question is will all of these changes give reason to believe that a step forward is forthcoming to re-engineer government? That remains to be seen.

However, the best option to date lies in a significant structural recovery effort to retrieve the current lack of confidence, rather than the staged electioneering participation for political collateral.

If these theatrical processes continue, the public sector will continue to de-growth and suck out life to dismal levels.

The push should be towards expansion of the private sector for growth with the right macro environment for business to prosper.

And not market participation for political dividends. What’s going on!

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) www.lpmstlucia.com critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at malphonse@rogers.com

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