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Since the 2008/2009 global economic and financial meltdown that significantly affected Caribbean as well as other economies worldwide, our small, open and highly vulnerable countries have been finding it extremely difficult to grow in a sustained manner. That difficulty speaks directly to several critical factors that include inflexibility in our economies due to lack of adequate economic structures (too heavy a dependence on a single commodity or sector) and inappropriate policy responses by governments arising from the treatment of the fallout from the global recession as a problem that is insurmountable to overcome.
The difficulties for Caribbean countries are compounded by a perceptible unwillingness among policymakers to think outside the box and take bold and fresh actions in order to stimulate real growth and development within our fragile economies. After all, logic should suggest that if the things we are doing to promote economic growth and development are producing the results before us, then, changes are inevitable because failing those changes our economies will simply continue on current trajectory.
For the reasons above, a new approach to economic management is urgently needed in the Caribbean – an approach that has to be rather aggressive in nature and scope. The plain truth is that the economic policies and strategies of the past and present can only lead to outcomes that are undesirable. Our children and grandchildren may not be able to enjoy some of the socioeconomic benefits that we have been blessed with in past decades.
To turn the tide, a change in mindset is needed. This has to start at the level of our leaders, who naturally share a greater amount of responsibilities for the economic reconfiguration of our countries only because of our limited sizes and resources as well as small private sectors. Fortunately, the kind of leadership of which this writer speaks is being displayed by the recently appointed Prime Minister of St Lucia, Allen Chastanet. Chastanet’s aggressive approach to economic management has clearly been reflected in some of his public comments on matters such as LIAT and its performance coupled with his party’s manifesto promises to, inter alia, be the champion for poor and working class families across St Lucia; and encourage private sector led growth, driven by small businesses.
Thus far, Prime Minister Chastanet has adopted a rather pragmatic approach to economic issues that is highly regarded as wise by your humble servant. It seems clear to me that he understands it cannot be business as usual and that unless he breaks with tradition and takes some risks, the probability of success may very well turn out to be extremely low.
My only word of caution to the prime minister is that his government ought to monitor very closely the outcomes of all of its economic policies and strategies and be prepared to make adjustments when necessary. And the reason is simple: every economic policy or strategy has intended and unintended consequences. When statistical evidence confirms that the benefits of such measures are being outstripped by the costs, then, corrective interventions become mandatory.
To pretend and act otherwise would be highly detrimental to the St Lucian economy and the people will suffer as a result! No such eventuality should ever be permitted. Period.