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EDITORIAL: No time for honeymoon, Mr Chastanet


EDITORIAL: No time for honeymoon, Mr Chastanet

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IT IS JUST OVER A WEEK since the United Workers’ Party (UWP) in St Lucia led by Allen Chastanet won general elections there. While we congratulate the new prime minister, we also warn him that he will have no honeymoon.

The people of that CARICOM nation eagerly await fulfilment of the promises made, particularly in relation to the provision of jobs.

We recognise that the Chastanet administration will be taken up with fighting crime, promoting alternative energy programmes and dealing with the impact of the Citizen by Investment programmes instituted by other members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Beneficiaries of the citizenship programme automatically become passport holders with entitlement to freemovement across the subregion, and this presentsa range of challenges.

But there are other matters to which the new St Lucian leader must pay immediate attention since they can affect his administration’s ability to deliver on its promises. Chastanet must unequivocally state his government’s position on the regional airline LIAT, and he must also indicate whether St Lucia will seek to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) its final court, replacing the London-based Privy Council.

The new St Lucian administration is pinning its hopes for economic growth on the expansion of the tourism sector, and this means air links, both direct and connecting flights, will be a critical factor. Chastanet may find that having an effective open skies policy and sidelining LIAT, despite its glaring inefficiencies, may not be an easy task.

He should be wary of looking to Caribbean Airlines for a solution since the prevailing economic circumstances in Trinidad will preclude any such expansionist ambitions, especially if they do not encompass all of the OECS and Barbados.

Chastanet should seriously consider embracing LIAT, with the goal of demanding reforms that will ensure it operates with greater efficiency and not as if it is a state agency. At the same time, however, he should be aware that air transportation in the intra-Caribbean market has built-in limits, given both small volumes in both passengers and cargo. He will have to take a realistic position on air transportation – and quickly.

The decision on whether to make the CCJ St Lucia’s final court in all jurisdictions cannot be continually avoided. It is only a matter of time before the other countries within the subregion follow Dominica and sign on to thecourt, especially at a time when an increasing number of businesses – and, more importantly, individuals – want judicial review of court decisions that impact them. Pursuing anagreement with the United Kingdom, along with an amendment to the island’s constitution, should facilitate the necessary shift.

These issues should be high on the new UWP’s to-do list as Chastanet pushes his programme of change. He will also find that the razzmatazz of the political platform is distinctly different from the practicalities of being the administration.