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Sunday, April 28, 2013


Was Hon Lorne Theophilus (the Rep) during his contribution to the recent debate on the Estimates of Expenditure 2013/14 “impressive” or was he “trying to impress” is a moot point. Was he, in the pursuit of his political survival, trying to do both is also a moot point. Whatever the case may be, I'm inclined to believe it is more a case of the latter than the former.

Click play to watch:
The Rep - in his obvious attempt to diffuse misconceptions about himself and his performance as the Minister for Tourism - had to be impressive especially in the eyes of those who perceived him to be a young, "uninitiated" minister trying to get his feet wet in his new position. And, at the same time, he might also have tried hard to impress his constituents that he still has something left in his heart for them. But were those enough to win the reprieve he purportedly sought? And can he muster an adequate measure of “believability” to enable him to subsequently retrieve victory from the eyes of the defeat staring at him?

Whatever the answer, we must concede that he scored some points during the Appropriations Bill debate, especially when he gave an account of his stewardship of the Ministry of Tourism. He seemed like a man in charge and on top of things!

In this discussion, I will attempt to provide a snapshot dissection of the Minister’s contribution to the debate on the Estimates of Expenditure and some perspectives thereon. I will wind up by sharing some of my perceptions with you. Please be guided that this article is hardly scientific and may entertain some perspectives that are hardly objective.

Energy levels vs substance
There is an apparent consensus that the Rep’s contribution was filled with energy, aggression and histrionics (HEA) and because of those, he made small dents (especially among the faithful) in his quest for damage control in Choiseul/Saltibus; but I’m not sure that the HEA which characterized his presentation was matched in equal degree by substance, depth and organization to earn the appeal of the more sophisticated intellectual elite among us.

Statement made by Rep on Facebook last year 
In the confessional box
Interestingly, the Rep began his contribution to the debate in a virtual “confessional box” and in a commendably sombre mood. Like the debate of 2012/13, he again opened his "batting" with an apology, a confession to his constituents for his neglect and “sacrifice” of a constituency seemingly under siege. He attributed the loss of his mother (and I deeply empathise with him) and the performance of his broader ministerial duties as contributing factors. It is noteworthy that he has claimed time and time again to have been invariably, unavoidably and frequently displaced from the state to pursue ministerial duties abroad - a rationalisation which he also proffered during the previous Budget debate to justify his absenteeism from the Choiseul/Saltibus constituency.

But did he need to go that far? And more importantly was he “guilty” of misleading himself when he confessed that in the pursuit of his ministerial mandate he was sacrificing “his people” of the Choiseul/Saltibus constituency? Perhaps he was - for the logic to me is quite simple: If you as a politician are guilty of neglecting your constituency, then are you sacrificing yourself or your constituents? To me, the argument of equating neglect of your people with their sacrifice is upside down and non sequitur, especially in political circumstances! 

Although constituents may be perceived as “victims” of absentee representation, they will in the end be the winners. And just as the logic is simple, so is the answer, to wit: In a democracy, the people are the masters and their representatives are only their servants - and it is the masters that can make servants sacrificial lambs and not the reverse.

Re-affirmation of commitment
After the confession, the Rep with an apparent sense of compunction went on to re-affirm his commitment to the constituency and pledged “to turn over a new leaf”. That was a sublime and welcomed disclosure; but will the constituents take that disclosure seriously and accept his promissory note, especially in the context of a similar earlier pronouncements which he did not keep? Only time will tell!

Dynamites and bombs
The sublime confession and offer of the olive branch were brief and didn't seem to last the “suppliance of a minute”. The Rep had hardly got out the political confessional box - and had hardly finished recited his act of contrition - when plunged headlong into a wave of apparently pre-meditated political attacks directed at the Leader of Opposition and former Tourism Minister. That sudden gestalt switch from “melancholy” to “red” effervescent sanguinity was misplaced, and evidently the lousy ‘transition management’ compromised the desired sombre effect of his contrition.

If I were to advise him, I would have told him that it was ill-advised to blast King on issues of the “Olive Branches with thorns” and “SUV Fortunas” in the House; and especially to do so in the context of the subject of hypocrisy! As the old saying goes, "If you live in a glasshouse, don't throw stones."

If the Rep threw stones at King, then he must have thrown a neutron bomb at Chastenet! The Tourism Minister blasted his predecessor for intellectual dishonesty and management failures, claiming that despite Chastenet’s legacy of failures to the industry, that he still had the audacity to dishonestly take ownership of recent successes. Among other things, the Rep cited the $7.2-million guarantee to AA which was not honoured as a major cost-prohibitive failure which took a big bite from last year’s allocations.

The Rep must be commended for his perspectives on the “Boxing in Paradise” experiment. I agree with him that it could have been better reconfigured as promo tool. There was apparently no known coherent, sustainable follow-up plan to market St. Lucia in Latin America after the event.

Highs and lows
The Rep also spoke about strengthening legislation to protect tourist from harassment. That was indeed an excellent policy position!

He needs to do some work with his "flow" and bring it up to speed with it's dynamism and charisma. It looked like that he tended to lose "it" intermittently and sometimes he was nakedly non sequitur; but his fire made up for those incidental errors.

He revealed that his ministry received an allocation of $45 million; and he interpreted that allocation as a vote of confidence in his stewardship of the ministry by the PM. He also reported growth in arrivals ranging from 6-13%. Those figures are commendable, especially in the context of the prevailing economic environment.

One thing was clear throughout his contribution: despite his frontal aggression, he seemed generally to be a happy man! He was probably happy because of his achievements as the Minister for Tourism and the attainment a level of comfort and mastery of his various portfolios; I'm sure he would have been happier if he didn't have to apologise to his constituency for poor and/or absentee representation.

Constituency interventions
Throughout his "brilliant" discourse on Tourism, he made no mention of the conceptualization of a single tourism experiment in his constituency. Like Ferdinand Magellan, he proverbially went round the world and (region) and back but never seemed to “set foot” in Choiseul Village during his presentation. So, we continue to remain as far away as possible from the direct participation in tourism. There was no specific mention of the local craft industry. No plan or programme for his family in Cafeiere, or his hardcore support base in Mongouge, or even the fate of the La Fargue Handicraft Centre which over the years have produced so many award-winning creative artists like Irena Alphonse, Francis Josephat and George Gerald. Neither did he make a singular reference to the young budding generation of young artists and craftsmen from Morne Sion and all over Choiseul!

The Rep was also silent on plans for the Choiseul Fisheries, PROUD in Park Estate and Piaye; and planned interventions in poverty-stricken areas like Park Estate and Derriere Morne.

Last year, he promised the construction of a “band stand” at Sabwisha but this year we heard nothing about it. We hope and pray this will not be the same barometer for the measurement of the vague pronouncements on road rehabilitation projects in Fiette, Balca and Park Estate. There are also a number of other outstanding critical issues he did not mention like the mini-stadium at La Fargue, management and accountability of monies due to the constituency etc.

In short, we expected the Rep to put on the table at least one “brain-child” constituency-specific programme or project that would potentially provide a bond between him and Choiseul/Saltibus. The NICE, STEP, SMILES, YEP and other SSDF/BNTF projects he took credit for are largely national programmes and doing well without his hands-on intervention. He must give consideration to conceptualizing his own legacy for Choiseul/Saltibus. I’m sure the constituency manifesto blueprint can assist him in that regard. 

Winding up: My perceptions
Our rep is confronted with a mountain of challenges at the constituency level and I’m afraid that time may be running out for him. He's probably thinking that he has lots of time left; in politics, the time left may be crucial and may or may not make a difference; but the time elapsed is equally critical. If he devoted a mere 5% of his time and used only 5% of the energy he demonstrated in the House yesterday to represent his constituency, then I'm sure he would be in the winners circle. Despite his claim of effective “ground organization”, many constituents claim that he has been invisible since he won the elections on November 2011. If this is the case, then it is a stunning indictment; and, in that context, it may well be appropriate for Choiseulians to draw from the American Revolution slogan that “Taxation without Representation is Tyranny” and to stamp their own interpretations on it.

No doubt, the Rep’s contribution to the Debate has in my view had a qualitative impact. But my concern is that impact will perhaps be as transient as his commitment to his constituency.

During the campaign, he made a ground-breaking promise that if he became half as much as negligent as his predecessor, then after two years of service, he would voluntarily demit office. Perhaps, it may be the right time to begin to weigh himself against that promise.

Most importantly, it's time for him to get out of confessional box and to get down to the business of the people of Choiseul/Saltibus. I’m sure he's not too young to understand that representation by proxy does not work in this part of the world.

If he conceives a trip overseas as an opportunity to serve his country, then how does he reconcile that with the opportunity to serve his constituency? A good Rep should not only be concerned with the trappings of power; he should make time to be with the people he serves.

 [q1]Check this out

Thursday, April 25, 2013


The intention of this article is not to "diss" our capital city - no way! Rather, the intention is to raise the level of national consciousness about some disturbing aspects about our once-upon-a-time great city that produced Greats like Derek Walcott, Arthur Lewis and Dunstan Omer.

Castries is located in what is referred to as a "flood gut" and largely on reclaimed land. It is home to the seat of government and the head offices of many foreign and local businesses. Like many of the world’s metropolitan centres, the design of the city is modelled on a grid pattern. Castries has a world-class sheltered harbour which receives large cruise ships, transshipment cargo vessels and ferry boats. It is also blessed with top quality, world class duty free shopping facilities in Point Seraphine and La Place Carenage.

By the end of the 17th century, Castries became a major coaling station because she was the only port in the Caribbean capable of accommodating the Royal Navy.

Castries has some breath-taking landmarks, too!  The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Derek Walcott Square, the City Library, the Government House, and Morne Fortune’s Fort Charlotte are glowing examples.

Notwithstanding all of the above, there appears to be a growing consensus that Castries city is in a state of degeneration; its socio-economic geometry may no longer be a relatively good barometer to gauge St. Lucian standards and values. In fact, it may no longer be a true microcosm of the St. Lucia psyche for many reasons; they include, firstly, a runaway crime rate; secondly, a rapidly growing perception that it may well be the “homicide” capital of St. Lucia and arguably, the entire East Caribbean at large. In fact, there is a view that Castries may well have now become “The Little Kingston” of the Eastern Caribbean where “bad boys”, guns, crimes are fast becoming a way of life for the many gangs that dominate the cityscape.

And when we thought Castries had reached a crescendo of negativity, the showers of blessing - which we were longing for - came and stripped the city even more naked than it ever was – exposing another ugly aspect of its buttocks for all to see.

Over the years, we have known and spoken ad nauseam about the city’s saturation with a perennial rat population problem. But the heavy showers revealed an even more stunning nasty urban discovery: a cesspool of cockroaches and other bugs and pests, including centipedes emerging out of the underground network of drains, manholes, crevices, cracks and soakaways that apparently provided a safe haven for those nasty invasive creatures to procreate in unprecedented numbers. If we add the invasion of mosquitoes, stray dogs, vagrants and the ever growing population of criminals to the equation, then we get a pretty good picture of the extent of decadence facing a city which has been rebuilt many times following major fires in 1796 and 1813, and 1948.

The question is: does Castries need to be rebuilt again and whose responsibility is it? Is it central government, the private sector or the Castries Constituency Council who own the city?

But Castries city is not alone in its woes; Vieux Fort town has its own fair share of problems too; the Bacadere is a major health and environmental hazard; only that, it's not so much a biological threat from an unwanted invasion of species (as is the case for Castries) as it is a threat arising from the recklessness of human beings who dispose their plethora of waste into the Bacadere Main Drain (BMD).

About 7 years or so ago, a CDB technical mission ranked the BMD as a major health and environmental hazard and advised the BNTF to commission an EIA and subsequently to designed a project proposal to tackle the problem with urgency; however, reports suggest that the project was checkmated by the last gov't and it got lost somewhere in the 'merger' of BNTF and PRF into SSDF.

Previously, BNTF had undertaken an infrastructure sub-project in Bruce Ville which gave the community a much needed facelift; but that was only a small pebble in a pool of problems. Today, Bruce Ville continues to have its unique psychosocial and socio-economic challenges; and although its garrison-type behaviour has diminished significantly, it remains an area that we may wish to advise visitors who may have a propensity to explore, to tread carefully, especially after dark! 

But in spite of the cases cited above, Vieux Fort has major advantages over the Capital City! Among other things, it has the “spatial latitude” to expand; indeed, because of that luxury, the commercial centre of the town is gradually shifting towards the periphery of Beanefield where the townscape is far more attractive, receptive and comfortable whilst the Old Town seems to be approaching an irreversibly moribund state.

As the epicentre of the town irreversibly tends northward, one feels that it will in the long term attract significant business and industrial activity which could put it in direct competition with Castries for capital city. Already, Vieux Fort is the home of the Hewanorra International Airport and also a budding seaport which puts it in contention. Once the Bar de l’Isle barrier is broken and the appropriate horizontal and vertical road alignments are completed, VF should be just a stone throw away from the north.

Soufriere town – the original capital of St. Lucia – is not without its own issues too; but it seemed to have done fairly well, both in terms of its development paradigm and the management of its limited usable space. The recent townscape improvements have given Soufriere a new look; and although considerable restoration work is still needed to complete the new Soufriere configuration, St. Lucia's "third town" may well, in the medium to long term, become a good experiment in integrated urban development worthy of replication. The development configuration along the Waterfront and Bridge Street is a stunning example.

Notwithstanding the recently unfortunate incident involving the contingent group of tourists from the Celebrity cruise ship, Soufriere maintains a major safety and security advantage. She is generally a user-friendly destination where visitors can walk the streets at all hours of the night in relative safety but there’s still work to be done!

We have often referenced Singapore (which is the same size with St. Lucia) as a possible model for us; but that may well be an impossible dream. Our geographic configuration is a major constraint; secondly, we may well have passed the critical point of no return.

Yes! We may have the semblance of an intellectual superstructure. We can contend that our Nobel laureate are just the “tip of the berg”; but can we convert the “intellectual superstructure” to “development infrastructure” which is the main yardstick by which “progress” is measured. Singapore tried the experiment and it was a resounding success; so far in St. Lucia, we have not got beyond the “hypothesis stage” – we are still cooking hypotheses!

We probably need an intellectual bang start again!

Will the "national vision strategy" help give us that bang start and help us find our orientation again or will it help us find a new orientation - an orientation for better aesthetics, for a deeper sense of pride and patriotism, for greater productivity, for a more profound commitment to better entrepreneurship, for a better sense of civic and social responsibility, for less crime and criminality?

Perhaps, until we find that orientation, we will continue to be subject to the plague of rats, of coach roaches, of crimes and criminality.