Submitted by Looking Glass
Election promises in a commercial/services economy lead one to wonder about the island’s development. Among other things the BLP promised to reduce the cost of living, cheaper electricity, fuel, tax relief and put money in the people pocket. Government does not own and cannot control the private sector. Are you going to take over the electric company or set up another one to make electricity cheaper? The country is terribly short of job generating industry, in tremendous debt and importing everything. Do tell the people exactly how you will reduce the cost of living and put money which you cannot print in the people pockets. You are the first political party anywhere to openly make such promises.
Development means to “expand or realize the potentials; to bring to a fuller or better state” and is both quantitative and qualitative. Growth means to increase naturally in size and is quantitative. Growth in crime, debt, foreign population and the loss or take over of profitable assets does not constitute development but amounts to progressive retrogression.
National Development incorporates the entire system. In part it involves certain socio-psychological intangibles and a culture that recognizes the limits to growth. Externally determined and financed “development” is contingent upon problematic and subjective circumstances over which we have no control. Tourism is a case in point. Where the marginal cost to government is very high the loss of real and human capital obtains. National Development is unlikely to occur even if the debt burden is substantially alleviated which is unlikely.
Consider the following: absence of job generating industry, the sale of profitable assets sky high debt and social deficits, increasing unemployment and crime and the implications of demographic change, diminishing returns from perennially overstated tourism, deteriorating civility and the implications of increasing unemployment and population. We have no powerful additions to fuel development, no defining force or culture for the future or industrial accomplishments to meaningfully facilitate our national development. There is little to suggest alleviation for the people especially those intent on living beyond their means.
We are no longer the Sceptred Isle. In a couple of decades we have managed to undo what it took generations to accomplish. Mega millions in debt and accumulated debt interest left us in an ocean of red ink and without the where-with-all. Having set our deck chairs on the Titanic of our own making, given population and unemployment increase we linger in the shadow of socio-economic death.
Economic prosperity involves quantitative and qualitative factors. Yes successful upgrading will increase employment and productivity. It requires a vibrant domestic market and some access to external markets. It also depends on the resources we have, pattern employed and the capacity of industry etc. to upgrade itself. We are hopelessly short of natural resources and without comparative advantage in anything. To attract the latter we need to create industry and produce products at competitive prices. Failure to do so will result in slow per capita income growth. All we have is land, sea and sun. Stop selling the land. Use it to grow vegetables some of which can be exported and food. It will reduce the import bill, provide employment and income, improve health and reduce health cost. It was suggested in 1981 to catch live Flying-fish, Dolphins, Sharks etc, set them in our waters and leave them to grow and multiply. It fell on death ears, but it is not too late.