Prime Minister's Address at the Carib News Multinational Business Conference - November 7, 1998
"Rediscovering Humanity in a New World Order"
Keynote Address by
Dr. the Honourable Kenny D. Anthony
Prime Minister of St. Lucia
Lucian Hotel - 7 November 1998
This is a very special occasion. It is another instance where we pay homeage to distinguished guests. The last few months have seen an extraordinary period of re-establishing bonds of family. We first hosted a gathering of OECS leaders where we re-affirmed our commitments as immediate brothers and sisters of the people of our sub-region. We hosted a meeting of CARICOM leaders where we celebrated our achievements after twenty-five years as a community. We renewed our vows to advance the dream of living as one family through a single market and economy. We were graced at that gathering by the presence of that indomitable son of Africa, Nelson Mandela. I can tell you his presence left an inspiration, a luminescence that will glow for many, many years.
On this occasion, we are hosting the sons and daughters of North America. In one year, Africa and its heritage have been to our shores. The enormous creative and spiritual potential of so many great black achievers across three continents have joined hands in this small island of ours, our promised land as we sometimes say, in the search for a new humanity.
This search, made more imperative by the rapidly changing global conjuncture, will continue with the expected visit of Rev. Jesse Jackson later this year. How we would have loved him to be here today. But this giant of a black man needs his own space. We simply could not submerge him in this already distinguished gathering.
This Conference would not have been possible without the genius of Karl and Faye Rodney and the Caribnews family. For years we have searched for ways and means to bridge the gap between Afro-America and the peoples of the Caribbean. Sometimes, we politicians are so imcompetent, so lacking in foresight and organisational skill and talent. Today, Caribnews has achieved what seemed impossible. The waters that once divided us have been parted, to allow us to walk together hand in hand.
Creativity and the Currency of Ideas
If history and technology combine to teach us anything, it is that the owners of ideas are also the architects of the future. Apart from the wonders of God and nature, everything we see around us was once just an idea in someone else’s mind. Those architects of the future who are simultaneously inspired, enlightened and empowered are the most fortunate of beings. They live in a world which is likely to see at least a few of their ideas come to life. Our task as leaders is to reproduce that confluence of inspiration, enlightenment, and empowerment and extend it to our respective constituencies.
We have some distinguished architects among us today. But more importantly, black architects. They are warmed by the satisfaction that comes from translating ideas into concepts, communicating those concepts and subsequently, transforming them into tangible output. This after all, is the stuff of successful business, whatever your business may be. The process of creation, in all its human manifestations, is the greatest validation of existence. It is an essential nutrient of the human spirit, and in that spirit the very future of humanity is vested.
It is that spirit which pervades our determination to rediscover humanity in this new world Order. There is no other race that understands the need for humanity more than the black race. We understand the evils of inhumanity. We did not witness it. We were brutalised by it, yet we have survived. It is because of this suffering that we understand its dialectic – humanity – so well.
I am truly proud of this gathering - it is testimony of the potential of black people. I am always comforted when I think of the potential of black people by the knowledge that western civilisation is only a spring which emerged from the reservoir of ideas that were bedded in the horn of Africa. Ask Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras. Today, if western civilisation is devoid of the humanity that must be associated with the spirit of achievement, then it is our historic mission to rediscover that humanity. We know inhumanity. It is that knowledge that makes us understand humanity.
In the course of human events, we recall that a handful of ideas have on occasion, redirected history and changed forever the way the world views itself. Accepting in principle that ideas can be double edged, we recall those dark and heady days when a single despotic mind might have occasioned a world war. We take comfort in the thought that popes and princes no longer conspire to divide the globe in quite the same old ways. At least in western democracies, church and state are presently divorced, and we hope that power and privilege are sufficiently dispersed so as to discourage dictatorship. We praise the exponential growth in information technology and the shrinking of the size of our planet through improved travel.
On deeper reflection however, we ought to also ask whether black people are consciously participating in engineering a more enlightened world. Whether we use information and ideas to manage black families, communities, companies or economies in more enlightened ways. Will our own humanity as black people survive the new world order? We know that we should create environments in which the catalysts of creativity are valued and validated. We know that our own sense of individuality, plurality and diversity should always be with us. These are also critical human nutrients. But if global communication gives us common tools and digital technology gives us universal language, will we ever have the freedom to determine priorities for their deployment in advancing our race, our civilization and the whole of mankind?
Defining a Humane Future
The pursuit of a humane future starts with the reinforcement of the notion that we live on a small and fragile planet, and that we are only one species in a delicate network of eco-systems. We can rest assured that global economics, also driven by technology, is teaching us very much the same lesson: global markets, like eco-systems, are interdependent and fragile. Long-term sustainability is therefore, the real issue of the day.
As leaders of commerce, industry, economics and politics, we must fashion a world in which this reassuring balance is likely to be preserved. Justice and the preservation of civil society must be universally defined and collectively pursued. In unleashing all that is noble and terrifying in human potential, the rights of individuals must be balanced by communal responsibilities of freedom. Unemployment and poverty are not inevitable by-products of progress. They are the result of unsustainable and shortsighted policies. Because we are convinced that the vulnerable and the disenfranchised are also our children, we must be concerned about poverty reduction and disaster mitigation programmes. Those who cannot protect themselves must be protected from unbridled greed and exploitation. This is true in economics as it is in international trade and commerce.
A humane world order requires that all stakeholders acting collectively at various levels must arrive at that complex result which is sustainable. This will be achieved only through enduring processes of dialogue and interaction. Families, communities, corporations and social partners therefore need to ensure that such processes are observed and enshrined, and that they are the subject of constant review, revision and revitalization. The price of freedom is still eternal vigilance but it must also be tempered by respect.
To the extent that the process of convergence can be controlled by the few, it needs to be monitored by the many. To the extent that stakeholders, acting responsibly and with respect, can share a vision of the future they wish to inhabit, they must also share responsibility for creating environments in which ideas and identities peaceably contend. For this reason, the concept of a global community must be cherished and preserved as a wellspring for individual initiative.
As leaders in politics and business, you are creators of new possibilities for black people. Our task of rediscovering humanity must start with a process of identity formation and preservation. Globalization must not to be allowed to mean a seamless synthesis, a faceless convergence, an erasure of individuality and nationhood. But how we survive that challenge is mostly a function of our own ability to generate ideas about ourselves, to communicate intrinsic concepts, and bring them into to light of daily existence. One thing is clear: there has never been humanity without our people. There can be no future humanity without the black race.
Notion of nationhood
Having satisfied identity differentiation, we must consider in this context how small economies and fledgling democracies should approach the new world order. Clearly, it is only with a firm grasp of our own identity, with our own ideals and with a reassuring notion of nationhood that we can prosper on the world stage and turn circumstances to our advantage. Indeed, whether in government or commerce, that advantage has to be identified and defined in order to be achieved.
Accordingly, we need to ask ourselves whether we go onto the world equipped with an identity, a sense of nationhood, and a national business plan, which we think worthy of attention. Or do we simply join the blind march of globalization happily parading ourselves like the king with new clothes? Do we to succumb to the tendency of homogeneity and uniformity that the globalization process seeks to impose? Or do we seek to introduce humanity into a process that has lost its commitment to the tautological needs of mankind? Do we seek to reject a new world order which is morally ill, where notions such as equality, fairness and compassion have lost their depth and dimension?
Free trade and Fair Play
When we speak of rediscovering humanity in the new world order, we speak with the pain of experience; experience gained in the struggle of Caribbean banana producers against the indomitable establishment which controls policy formulation in U.S.A. It is inconceivable that the U.S. position can be justified on moral grounds. It is equally inconceivable that it be defended in human terms. If economics is not imbued with some humanity, then we must conclude that the taxpayers of America are wittingly financing the exportation of human suffering. It is bewildering that the United States should choose bananas to wage its warfare with the European Union, and in the process, knowingly destroy the agricultural economies of St. Lucia and other islands. We are innocent bystanders. This is why you must continue to lend support to our struggle against the same establishment that continues to subjugate the aspirations of Black America. Our cry is only a different tune of the same suffering.
We call therefore, upon our brothers and sisters in the diaspora to join us in the struggle to reintroduce ideals of fair-play into free-trade. We have no illusions about our economic leverage in this brave new world. However, we must believe that stubborn positions can be influenced by enlightened individuals acting jointly and severally in a world of integrated interests.
Black America – A Valuable Resource
The Caribbean is sometimes bewildered by the US political environment. Here we have a vital political resource, our nationals and the Afro-american community, those best able to understand our aspirations, our hopes and our dreams. We are yet to learn how to use this vast political resource. Certainly two things are clear. Firstly, before we speak to white America, we must dialogue with black America. Secondly, we must embrace our nationals, bring them into our trust and allow them to help us shape and promote our policies towards the United States.
Look again, at the issue of bananas. Had we dialogued with the black caucus in greater detail, we might have had a better opportunity to promote our views in the US Congress. When Charlie Rangal, Maxine Walters, Joe Payne and xxxxx and other members of the Black Caucus, walk through the doors of the White House, especially after the just concluded elections, we want to be there with them, in spirit of nothing else.
Prescribing Public Policy
We need to be there because it will always be the role of public policy makers to undo those confining strictures that retard progress and allow for inhumanity. Public policy on education, information, scientific research, and the arts can help immeasurably to shape our future. Translating that policy into tangible resources can liberate energies, and develop capacities within and between economies for solving problems and resolving conflicts in families, in communities, in the new workplaces of the world. It is from these sources that globalization will be imbued with humanity.
These fundamentals remind us that humanity must be the raison d’etre of development. Regretfully, economics has come to be defined by a reckless and relentless movement of speculative capital. As recent examples in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean demonstrate this is not sustainable. Technology also permits instantaneous profit-taking, massive sell-outs and economic meltdowns. When the pickings are plentiful, such capital develops a convenient immunity to macro-economic fundamentals. But when panic eventually sets in, the carnage must be tallied not only in share prices, but measured in human terms: at the end of bread-lines, at family crisis centers and over-crowded, under-funded homeless shelters.
This is why as small economies, we try to develop our own immunities. We must build strong and stable economies, where investment terms are not dictated only by ticker tapes and margin calls, but also in a commitment to human development. We must preserve our democracies and revisit aspects of our constitutions that are oppressive, archaic and irrelevant. We must seek partnerships with responsible corporate partners and act responsibly ourselves in the administration of our institutions, our economies and our societies. Humanity may thrive on many things that are traded. But humanity cannot be traded on the stock exchanges of this world.
The Role of Government
Humanity must be facilitated by good governance. We believe that St. Lucia offers such and that one advantage of our size is the relative solvability of our immediate constraints. For our own part, we are enlightened by the old adage: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way! This Government is moving to radically reposition our country for the next century. We are investing in our human resources by reforming education and vocational training. We are freeing up financial resources by re-balancing public expenditure and withdrawing from economic sectors where public intervention is superfluous.
We are returning to local communities, the franchise that has been denied them for too long. We are reintroducing local elections, empowering village councils and investing in community based organizations and NGO’s. The point is that Governments all over the world are learning that they must reinvent themselves and their thinking. The concentration and centralization of power is as unsustainable as the hoarding of information. In some respects, national economies are like closed circuits, or zero-sum games. Policies that favour one sector at the expense of another are likely to produce no sustainable growth at all.
Given that it is the private sector that creates wealth, and the even distribution of wealth is an objective of responsible government, we are prepared to follow and support the private sector but influence the spread of wealth. To enhance growth and employment prospects we are now finalizing a private sector development strategy. This strategy will be devoted exclusively to creating a more enabling environment for business, and will put at the disposal of the private sector unprecedented resources for corporate and institutional development.
Similarly, we believe that on occasion, government should get out of the way and not frustrate the efforts of entrepreneurs and individuals to grow themselves out of poverty, ill-health and dependency. Accordingly, we are creating new economic space through privatization. We are improving efficiences with parastatal reform and corporatization.
Consistent with these measures, we have recently completed the first phase of a comprehensive review of our taxation system. We are seeking to improve compliance, by reducing tax burdens, widening the net rather than increasing rates. We are seeking to abolish taxes that are now inefficiently administered and which produce disincentives and distortions. We are seeking a tax regime that is more reasonable, more transparent and more humane.
Conclusion : No future Without Inspiring Minds
These and other strategies we recognize as indispensable for growth and development guided by our humanity. However, at the core of all these policy measures is the recognition that the future can best be determined by the inspired, enlightened and empowered minds of which I first spoke. Without their participation, we cannot redefine objectives for the long haul.
Accordingly, we are attempting to adopt not only converging technologies, but also converging interests, which allow social partners to view similar objectives from divergent perspectives. We are motivated by a concept that growth provides opportunity for all, and only in providing for all, can growth be sustainably achieved for any.
In our individuality we are not alone. We are members of a wider regional and international black community. There too, we seek a shared and enlightened humanity, and a collective vision of the future. To realize that vision we need architects and builders, craftsmen and women, the undaunted dreamers, the relentless youth, the inspiration of artists, and the counsel of wise old age. Somewhere in that vision I trust you will find your own reflection and join us in this our noble quest, to rediscover humanity in the new world order. If anyone understands that mission it is our people.
Tomorrow and the day after you leave us, I can only hope that our embrace was warm enough, tight enough, sufficiently loving that you will miss us and, in time, come back to us.
I thank you.
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