By : Joel O’Loughlin
Patience is a virtue. We all learnt that from our mothers and fathers. Yet the people of St Kitts and Nevis are right when they tell me that they can’t wait forever for that better day. I know that we all want a brighter day, not just for our children, but also for ourselves. And we’d like that day to be here soon.
However, St Kitts and Nevis knows that in the 21st century world, the worst thing that they could do is to fall for the quick and easy answer to their shared problems. The people of St Kitts and Nevis tell me every day that they want a change that lasts, not some flash-in-the-pan promise that they know will disappear faster than an ice cream in hot sun.
Of course, the snake-oil salesmen are out there ready to offer any promise just to pick up a vote here or there, with no regard to the future of the nation. I hear them talking in the streets every day:
“Tough times at home? Blame the Labour government – but try to forget that I used to profess loyalty to that administration.”
“Worried about your job prospects? Vote for me, I’ve got one just for you, here in my pocket.”
“Anxious about the health of your children? Check out this special six-for-nine oil that will cure every ill.”
Luckily, nobody’s buying it.
At the end of the 1980s, St Kitts and Nevis was just a tiny island state, hanging on by its fingertips to a declining sugar industry, slowly being squeezed to extinction by foreign competitors and plummeting world prices. Today, our income per head is the highest in the OECS and third highest in the Caribbean. Unemployment is down below 10% and falling. Our enormous financial debt to the rest of the world is half what it used to be.
That maybe is why, today, I, as a member of the Diaspora am proud that – little St Kitts and Nevis – has been chosen by the fifty-five nations of the Commonwealth to lead the negotiations with the world’s leading economies on behalf of small states. St Kitts and Nevis has become a small island with a big voice.
That is why I am proud that the IMF has recently said that the economic recovery in St Kitts and Nevis has gathered real momentum reflecting an increase in tourism, expansion in construction from the Citizenship by Investment Programme inflows and the impetus from the People Employment Program (PEP). St Kitts and Nevis is now the only country in the region on target to achieve the ECCU target of debt reduction of 60 per cent of GDP by 2020. That is good news.
True, there is still a lot to do. Times are still difficult for many families even though they work hard every day. Young people can’t be sure that they will get the jobs their effort at school deserves. And the sacrifices that our people have made to recover from the bad old days have left scars that aren’t yet healed. But at least we know that we are on the right path. What we can’t afford is to allow all our people’s sacrifice to be squandered on the altar of personal ambition.
The task before us is a mighty one.
Politics is tough work. It’s not work for flip floppers. And it will take determination and strength to stay the course, whatever the bumps in the road. St Kitts and Nevis needs a leadership that won’t change its mind when things don’t go its way, or when the going gets tough.
In the end, politics is not about individuals. Politics is about the future of all our people. The Government has already made great differences in our nation. There is more to do – and they will do it. And above all we need the politics of patriotism to prevail over the politics of personality.