Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News
Much has taken place in St. Lucia since February 22, 1979 when the country took control of its own destiny.
And most of it has been positive, fueling an upbeat and can-do spirit.
In the 30-plus years of sovereignty child survival has galloped ahead at break-neck speeds as infant mortality rates fell. St. Lucians are living longer than ever before, on average 74 years, outdistancing the life spans of Russians, Pakistanis and Lebanese; and the country is considered one of the easiest places in the world in which to start a business in the 21st century.
Just as important, confidence in its ability to deal with the myriad of challenges is growing by leaps and bounds, say government officials and commentators. Little wonder, then, that St. Lucians are looking forward to even better days now that the economy is beginning to show signs of stirring from its prolonged recession that was triggered by the global economic recession; management missteps by successive governments in Castries, the capital; and the fact that its English-speaking neighbors, from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and St. Vincent to Jamaica and Guyana are all suffering from the same things: the terrible impact of tough economic times in which they are living that are characterized by a mountain of debt, gaping fiscal deficits and high unemployment rates
With a return of many of the North American and British tourists to the tourism dependent country, the 36th anniversary of sovereignty is being celebrated with renewed optimism in song, dance, national debates about the future, national sporting competitions, culinary festivals and cultural exhibitions across the 238 square mile country.
“We believe we have weathered the economic and social storm and the independence celebrations are adding to our positive feelings about our country,” said Renee Charles, a St. Lucian who has been living in New York for more than a decade and who monitors every step taken by the government, the opposition United Workers Party and the private sector. “Five years ago when we had just passed 31 years as a sovereign state we were struggling to get our country back to normal after the floods and other environmental disaster. We have seen many improvements as a result of our own efforts and the assistance of foreign countries and international agencies.”
Although beset with a mountain of debt, a wide fiscal gap between what the government collects in revenue and spends on social services and a worrying crime rate fueled by illegal drugs, the Roman Catholic oriented and English and patois-speaking country of 170,000 souls is heralding its achievements since the advent of independence.
Interestingly, even before the celebrations began earlier this month, Dr. Kenny Anthony, the Prime Minister told a gathering of national and foreign dignitaries attending the recent official launching of a historic cultural site site and “urban enhancement project” in St. Lucia that they were “becoming a more mature” nation eager to recognize the contributions of all St. Lucians, regardless of political affiliations.
“We can take a new path in striving for our own identity,” he said.
Lucians in the Diaspora in New York and the rest of the United States told Carib News in recent conversation that the maturity was evident for some time, a years now, and it was reflected in the way people dealt with economic, environmental and social adversity than ranged from the prolonged recession, environmental damage and social challenges, including crime.
They have set out repairing the damage and putting the country back on its feet without waiting on foreign assistance, they said.