“Towards a Kinder, Gentler, More Humane Society:
A New Direction for Hope And Social Renewal”
2003 New Years’ Day Message By the Hon. Prime Minister of Saint Lucia
Dr. Kenny D. Anthony
(January 7th 2003)
My Fellow Saint Lucians,
Once again a new year opens before us, and as our elders often said “tan ka pase
vite”. The passage of every year provides us with the opportunity to reflect on
how we weathered the challenges that life brought, to resolve for the collective
renewal of our common aspirations, and to brace ourselves for the new
difficulties that lie ahead. A frank analysis of the international situation
cannot allow us the luxury of optimism because inspite of our accomplishments in
the face of adversity and our efforts to turn difficulty into opportunity, we,
like other vulnerable developing countries, are fighting forces often beyond our
2002: A Challenging and Difficult Year
The year 2002 proved to be a most challenging and difficult year for St. Lucia.
The events of September 11th 2001 was the first major signal of impending
challenge and their impact on our tourism industry was immediate as it was deep.
The chilling fear instilled by these attacks immediately meant that tourists
from our main source markets, who were the principal targets of terrorist
activity refused to venture from home and to utilize air travel. The logical
consequence was serious shortfalls in tourism arrivals and reduced occupancy at
most of the hotel plants on the island.
The results of these events are by now familiar to all of us. A number of the
leading hotels on the island experienced closure, and there was widespread
layoff and dislocation in the hotel sector. Happily, the situation has now been
In addition to the immediate impact on the hotel sector, the retaliation against
the attack and the threat to extend the war on terrorism resulted in an increase
in petroleum prices. This had an impact on our manufacturing sector, which was
already severely constrained by the deepening of the process of trade
liberalization and the growing institutionalization of the new rules of world
trade spearheaded by the WTO and other forces of neo-liberalism. The sharp
increase in petroleum prices was felt by all of us, as Government was forced to
increase the price of petroleum in the 2002 budget, in order to prevent any
further shortfalls in revenue.
At the heels of these man-made crises, Tropical Storm Lili hit us late in the
hurricane season of 2002 and struck a blow to the efforts of our committed
banana farmers, who were just beginning to climb out of the difficulties imposed
by the drought of 2001.
Tribute to A Resilient People
But despite the many challenges of 2002, we were able to weather the storms and
to survive and overcome the odds.
We must thank our banana farmers who returned to the farms as soon as the winds
of Lili had abated and set themselves the task of rehabilitating their damaged
fields in order to ensure minimum disruption to banana production. During a tour
of the East Coast following Tropical Storm Lili, I had the privilege of
witnessing first hand the determination of our farmers, who were busy clearing
their fields of debris and damaged plants. This is an image that will remain
with me for a very long time and it is an image that to me, epitomizes the
spirit, not only of our farmers, but our people as a whole. It also encourages
me to stand firm in my resolve that Government will continue its assistance to
our banana farmers and the industry as a whole.
We must also pay tribute to the leaders and members of the Labour Movement for
the remarkable discipline and understanding which they demonstrated over the
past year. There has been no other sector which has shown a greater
understanding of the requirements of the time than our public sector unions. Our
unions have shown a remarkable maturity and a heightened sense of national
commitment through their decision to allow the country to recover from the
economic shocks of the previous year.
The labour movement has also shown tremendous maturity in the manner in which it
has participated in the major economic debates of 2002. In particular, it must
be commended for its ready and active participation in the National Economic
Council and for its mature approach to the debate on the Labour Code which
occupied national attention during the year 2002.
The Role of Government
As we faced and survived the challenges of 2002, Government too has played its
part. Like the other social partners, Government has understood the imperatives
of the day and as private sector investment declined, Government sought to play
a far greater role in investment through its public sector development programme.
The results of this investment are now clear for all to see, and in 2003, we
hope to formally commission for use a number of projects which have all been
aimed at improving the social conditions of the targeted communities. Among the
projects which we hope to formally declare open in 2003 are the following:
1. The Bordelais Correctional Facility
2. The Union Primary School
3. The Ciceron Secondary Technical School
4. Fire Stations in Dennery and Gros-Islet; and
5. The Vieux Fort Police Station
At the same time, work continues on the new Vieux Fort/Soufriere Highway.
We also hope to begin construction of the New Psychiatric Hospital later this
year. Indeed, in the next two weeks, the government will formally sign a
Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of the People’s Republic of
China in this regard. Meanwhile, work continues on the design of the new General
In addition to this investment, Government also ensured that Private Sector
Investment continued apace, despite the challenges of the external environment.
This was most clearly seen in the tourism sector where we witnessed the
re-opening of several hotels that had been closed due to the challenges facing
the industry. Our efforts in the establishment of the Sandals Grande and in the
continuing operation of the plant formally housing Club Med in Vieux Fort, is a
clear indication that there continues to be strong confidence by foreign and
regional investors in the work of the Government in creating a stable healthy
climate for wealth creation in this country.
Better Prospects in 2003
The prospects for 2003 are mixed. At a domestic level, some confidence can be
expressed that many initiatives are expected to bear fruit and result in
increased economic activity. We can for example, look forward to the re-opening
of what was formerly Club Med, and also to the establishment of a new Beaches
Hotel, both in the South of the island.
Indications from the recent IMF mission to Saint Lucia suggest that in 2003, St.
Lucia will enjoy a positive growth rate over the 2002 figure. This is
encouraging insofar as it proves the point that we have often made – that
despite the rigors of the challenges that we face, the management decisions of
this Government and the policies pursued have enabled us to fare far better than
we otherwise would.
War In the Middle East
As I indicated, the outlook for 2003 will be mixed. Nothwithstanding the efforts
made by Government to stimulate the economy and to increase both public and
private investment, there are factors beyond our control that threaten the early
successes of these efforts.
Most critical to our economic fortunes will be the decision by the United States
and its allies regarding a war on Iraq. If such a war is unleashed, we will be
immediately faced with a repeat of many of the difficulties which followed the
September 2001 terrorist attack on the United States. There will be a reduction
in travel by US citizens and the citizens of allied countries, there will be
continued fear of retaliation from pro-Islam quarters, the economies of the
major production centers already in deep recession, may suffer setbacks as a
result of a war, and most critically, there will be an increase in the price of
fuel, with all its attendant consequences.
So while we look forward to a year of improved economic performance, we must all
pray that a war is not unleashed against Iraq, as the consequences of such war
will be a tremendous blow to the economic recovery of Saint Lucia and the
Caribbean region as a whole.
While we support the need for a world free from attacks against civilian
populations and while we support the need to contain the spread of weapons of
mass destruction, we must at all times seek to advance the cause of our region
and our people and to make our voices heard amid the din of international power
politics. Our economic recovery is too fragile to allow it to be eroded on the
basis of a war that the international community continues to question.
Overcoming Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour
Another challenge that we face at the domestic level, which must be decisively
fought is the war on crime. I must state honestly that we have tried many
measures and several approaches that have brought limited success but not
achieved what the majority of patriotic St. Lucians want to see accomplished.
Government is acutely aware that the people of our country want to see results
in the war against crime and want to see an unyielding battle fought to retain
the civility of our country.
I will offer no excuses neither will I recite the many initiatives that have
been undertaken by Government to curb the increased crime and violence in our
streets. Every murder that occurs is one murder too many. Every theft is one
theft too many.
We know that a more resolute and different approach will have to be defined and
this we are prepared to do. It is important however for all St. Lucians to
understand that the war on crime is not the sole responsibility of the
Government. Every citizen must rise from the slumber of indifference to play
their role in containing crime in our communities. As citizens it is not enough
to make demands of government, it is necessary to also personally demonstrate
respect for law and order in our day to day relations with our neighbours, in
our conduct in traffic, in our workplace and everywhere we interact socially.
2003: Year of the Child
We must also begin working towards improving our attitudes towards the children
who dwell among us. It is indeed sad to see that they have been among the
principal victims of our society’s embrace of crime and indecent behavior during
In order to deepen our consciousness of the attitudes that we must adopt towards
the treatment of children and in order to begin the process of developing more
healthy social attitudes towards our children, I propose to invite Her
Excellency the Governor General, in her Annual Throne Speech, to designate the
year 2003, as the Year of the Child. At that time, Government will announce a
calendar of activities to mark the recognition of the Year of the Child.
Parliament will also enact a number of measures it hopes will improve and
protect the lives of the children in our community.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the business community to
begin the process of identifying ways in which it can participate meaningfully
in the celebration of the Year of the Child. As I drive around Saint Lucia, I am
immediately struck by the absence of parks and other recreational facilities
where our children can meet, play, and have fun with their peers, closely
supervised by their parents. Perhaps the business community may wish to rectify
this by embarking upon a park sponsorship drive, in which our business houses
may undertake to construct and equip a number of recreational parks for children
throughout Saint Lucia. This will be a tangible and meaningful way of
contributing to the betterment of the lives of the children of Saint Lucia.
The New Year will, as usual, invite us to welcome and greet many to our
country’s shores. We start on a very distinguished note.
The Government of St. Lucia is pleased to announce that the honourable William
Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the Unites States of America will be
visiting St. Lucia on Saturday January 18th 2003. During his stay in St. Lucia
President Clinton will be a guest of honor at a dinner to be hosted by the
Government at which he will address and take questions from the gathering of two
hundred public and private sector leaders in St. Lucia. This will be President
Bill Clinton’s first visit to St. Lucia and we look forward to welcoming him to
our shores and to fruitful discussions with him.
In closing, let me thank all the people and institutions who worked alongside
the government as we battled against the challenges of 2002. I wish to thank you
for the love of country, which you have exhibited. I wish to thank all Saint
Lucians and citizens of St. Lucia for the patience and endurance that you showed
throughout the past year.
As the year 2003 opens, let us all resolve to make Saint Lucia a better,
happier, more tolerant and peace loving place than we saw in 2002. Let us pray
that the forces of global war recede and that Saint Lucia, along with our
Caribbean neighbours will be able to achieve once again, an opportunity for
economic growth and prosperity. Let us also resolve to become a more tolerant
people, so that Saint Lucia can truly be the paradise that we all expect it be.
It is now only left to me to wish each and every one of you a Happy, and
Prosperous New Year.
I thank You.