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Saint Lucia – Are We Going Bananas?
I am from the island of Saint Lucia, a former French and British colony (the two colonizers fought 14 times for the island with the British being the final winners). Saint Lucia is approximately 238 square miles, made famous by our twin mountains (Gros and Petite Piton) and two Nobel laureates (Sir Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott); first in the field of Economics and second in literature (the first black recipients in this field).
Our main economic source until recently was the export of bananas. There was a change in trade agreements with Britain which forced the US to pay us less for bananas. Britain had long bought bananas from Saint Lucia at a higher rate as part of an agreement between the island and the former colonizer. When these conditions were changed, Saint Lucia could not compete on the free market and we were now selling to the British for pennies. Farmers who supported their families and our country by selling bananas suddenly faced a severe drop in income. Many people who had jobs dependent on the banana industry found themselves unemployed and for the first time in history, Saint Lucia began to feel an economic spike.
This brings us to our current debate.
For years there have been proponents and detractors of what now seems to have been the naïve choice to depend on a culture for our livelihood. Mono-farming has always been rejected, especially if that plant is hardy in the soil (which was growing bananas).
Given our wealth in agricultural and fisheries resources, it would seem that common sense would have dictated that delving into something else or diversifying all together would have shown foresight on the part of the current governing political party, the Labor Party. United which was the enforcer of banana export. .
Needless to say, Saint Lucia (which, if I do say so myself) is one of the most beautiful islands in the world and probably the most economically stable and prosperous in the Caribbean, is now being forced to depend heavily on tourism.
As a Saint Lucian, I believe I can firmly say this; tourism is not really our cup of tea.
While I think I can say unequivocally that we are some of the most hospitable and generous West Indians you will find; we at the same time do not beg or kiss buttocks well; we are no nonsense people and we will show you quickly.
Now it may be that we have not experienced hunger or despair and are very proud. But the crux of the problem is that we like to create our own conditions and decisions and we don’t like to be backed into a corner. And if history can be our guide, most tourist-driven economies are located in countries that can no longer hold on to self-determination. Their opening price is limited to cash.
So was this negligence foreseeable? Can we reverse this decline? And should we? As in any “developing” country there are serious cases of abuse and corruption. Land and tax breaks are offered to foreign businesses without people’s consent or knowledge. And apparently many deals with the Taiwanese or Chinese governments depending on which political party is in power.
Now, let me make this clear, St. Lucian is very involved in the political process. For example, I have a cousin who has a notorious radio show, ‘Juk Bwois’ who always rubs someone the wrong way because he really cares about the backbone of St. Lucia by discussing tough and tough politics with farmers and providers. of the resources needed to run the country. His radio show is done in Kweyol (also called Patois) which is our dialect and which is unfortunately avoided when spoken. We have two classes of people in Saint Lucia; people who speak Kweyol and people who don’t like people who speak Kweyol. The haters try to oppress us Kweyol speakers, but so far they have failed and only managed to look stupid in the process, since it was Kweyol who freed us from slavery.
But as always, I digress. Due to political activism and some insufferable cases by people like Juk Bwois, local citizens are informed about the events. Local citizens try to be active and vigilant in keeping our politicians (marginally) honest.
That being said, the farmers still don’t have the answer to the puzzle, more and more tourists are coming to Saint Lucia and the island is slowly becoming more commercial and changing to cater to tourists who bring money.
Is this for the worse or for the better?
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