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Address Delivered by the Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony on the Occasion of an Official Dinner Hosted by the Prime Minister of Mala...

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Address Delivered by the Hon. Kenny D. Anthony

On the Occasion of an Official Dinner

Hosted by the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Hon. Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad

During an Official Visit to Malaysia

(Thursday 10th May, 2001)

Distinguished Prime Minister of Malaysia,

Distinguished Members of Cabinet,

Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Malaysia,

Mr. Prime Minister, since my arrival here, a question which has pre-occupied my attention for sometime has been given new focus and direction. How does a country manage economic transition and what determines the success or failure of this process?

Much of what I have seen in your country has convinced me that Malaysia has found an answer to this question. A clearly defined set of development objectives appear to have been formulated and articulated, and more importantly, every major actor and agency of government seems committed to its realisation.

I am fascinated by this because whilst it appears to have been achieved successfully in Malaysia, such a unified sense of purpose and direction continues to elude us in St. Lucia and the Caribbean.

Mr. Prime Minister, our visit to Malaysia affords us the opportunity to learn from your example. The end of the Cold War and the new dominance in the developed world of economics over conscience have made it imperative that we, the countries of the South, move quickly to reconfigure our economic and political relations. Indeed, we ought not to have waited until we became overwhelmed by historical circumstances, before creating the conditions that would allow us to benefit from each other’s experiences.

It is in this spirit that we must recommit ourselves to the common bonds that our two countries share. I stress the word "recommit" because I am aware that diplomatic relations between our two countries were established in 1992, and that this was followed by a visit to your country by the then Prime Minister of St. Lucia.

It is no accident that 1992 was such a pivotal year for Malaysia-St. Lucia relations. That year heralded the formation of the Single European Market which profoundly affected our economic relationship with Europe. 1992 also marked the final collapse of geopolitical structures which characterised the Cold War. It is against this background that previous governments sought to widen the foreign relations of St. Lucia and to establish ties with friendly countries, all facing the similar circumstance and challenge of development. We are anxious to deepen and strengthen those ties.

Mr. Prime Minister, our ties with Malaysia go beyond a shared relationship with colonial powers and institutions. St. Lucia is here to learn from the present-day successes of Malaysia and to incorporate its lessons into our own development experience. We are particularly impressed with your transformation and modernisation of the Malaysian economy especially given the economic difficulties that South East Asia has faced in recent times. We are also heartened by your willingness to invite the rest of the developing world to study the Malaysian experience. As you quite rightly pointed out earlier, your country’s memory of poverty and underdevelopment is still vivid and so you cannot ignore the difficult circumstances of the South. We are also encouraged by your insistence that other countries can accomplish what Malaysia has achieved.

Mr. Prime Minister, as in the case of Malaysia several years ago, St. Lucia has been faced with the overwhelming challenge of repositioning its economy so as not to be left behind by the brave new world of science and technology, globalisation and economic liberalisation. Our visit to your country comes at a particularly crucial time in our economic development. St. Lucia is going through a delicate economic transition as we move from a total dependence on banana exports and agriculture to greater involvement in tourism and services. Our manufacturing sector has suffered from global trade liberalisation and faces the threat of extinction as cheaper foreign products now have direct access to the St. Lucian market. Our manufacturers simply cannot compete with more established or more cost effective players in the global market.

The reconfiguration of the St. Lucian economy has involved the intensification of investment in the services sector. The full liberalisation of the telecommunications sector commenced as of April 1st of this year and we are now seeking to attract investment in telemarketing and call centers. Since 1999, we have established an offshore financial sector that offers the full range of services, and boasts the first online registry in the world. Our belated entry into this sector has proven an invaluable advantage to us, as we have had the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of our neighbours. Ours is a jurisdiction that jealously guards its integrity and sovereignty.

I have no doubt that this visit to your beautiful country will be of great benefit to St. Lucia as we continue to work to redifine our role and place in the global economy. Already we have been very encouraged and energised by what our visit has been able to achieve. We are particularly excited about the prospects of deepened co-operation in science and technology. We are impressed and awed by what we have witnessed in Malaysia and it has dawned on us that the learning curve in St. Lucia will have to be very steep.

The officials in the ministries of education and information in St. Lucia are optimistic that the strides which you have made in communications technology can serve as useful lessons to the St. Lucian experience. We cannot replicate your achievements but we can learn from them. St. Lucia is also looking forward to learning from Malaysia’s advances in Agricultural science research as we move to modernise our agricultural sector.

Mr. Prime Minister, I am therefore heartened and pleased by our renewed resolve to deepen the economic and technical ties between St. Lucia and Malaysia. The present status of Malaysia as a leader in technological research and industry is a loud testimony to your visionary leadership. Everywhere I have visited, you have been unhesitatingly and universally identified as the most important factor behind the new, modern and vibrant Malaysia which we see emerging before our eyes. You have achieved all this while pursuing a fiercely independent but a realistic and enlightened foreign policy, fully respecting the sovereignty of all countries. I have no doubt that your "Vision 2020" project to make Malaysia a developed country by the year 2020 will meet with success. Leadership is a lonely business, sometimes misunderstood by those who need to understand it most. Unquestionably, you have displayed great courage and wisdom. In the process, you have given your country a new sense of destiny and purpose.

I would like therefore to propose a toast to you, Dr. Mahathir, and to the government and people and Malaysia. I also propose a most gracious toast to continued friendship and co-operation between the governments and peoples of Malaysia and St. Lucia, and wish you success in the realisation of your vision for this great country.

I thank you.


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