– Of Presidents, Prime Ministers and Servant Leaders
CARICOM’s 2022 Heads of Government Summit was attended by three new Prime Ministers (Bahamas, Grenada and Saint Lucia), each bringing fresh new perspectives to the ongoing efforts by Caribbean leaders to address old and new problems — and the challenges and opportunities they always bring.
At different levels of the age spectrum, each offered different visions of common wishes for regional prosperity: Bahamas reached out to its neighbours down the island chain, Grenada promised redefined hope and aspiration for citizens, and Saint Lucia challenged the regional movement to do more to build a better future for the region.
Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister, Philip J. Pierre, not as new to the regional movement, happens to have a longer period of unbroken public service than many of his colleagues.
His election on July 26, 2021 as the island’s ninth Prime Minister came with his sixth consecutive election as Member of Parliament (MP) for Castries East, the largest constituency in the island’s capital, an electoral feat he shares only with his predecessor, ex-PM, Dr Kenny D. Anthony. Dr Anthony won his Vieux Fort South seat six consecutive times.
Pierre served as Deputy Leader of the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), Deputy Prime Minister, and held key government portfolios, including: tourism, trade, commerce, manufacturing, industry, consumer affairs, offshore banking, international business registration, international financial services, infrastructure, port services, and now national security, finance and the youth economy.
The only CARICOM leader heading a ‘Ministry of the Youth Economy’, he told his colleagues in CARICOM recently: “There can be no CARICOM future” if the region’s youth “continue to wallow in despair, dashed expectations and apathy” and “with crime and gun violence as their most available option.”
Since August 2021, Pierre has made the youth economy “one of the most important pillars” of his administration’s development plan for the country because he sees it “not only as an economic imperative, but a moral one.”
As such, he said, his government is “determined to create a special space for youth entrepreneurship and business growth within the general economic system.”
Pierre said the island’s young entrepreneurs “will be provided with state resources to help them convert hobbies into entrepreneurship and skills into businesses through finance and marketing support, training and mentorship, thus creating sustainable livelihoods and a new cadre of indigenous business people.”
He said Saint Lucia “stands ready to work with CARICOM to see how we can organically link our development of the youth economy within the existing CSME [CARICOM Single Market and Economy], and other economic and social development mechanisms within CARICOM.”
Pierre also extrapolated on his administration’s foreign policy principles saying regional integration “will remain continually weakened if we allow the basic principles which have defined our relations to the outside world to be compromised by the foreign policies of other countries.”
He insisted that “CARICOM is strongest when it holds steadfast to the traditional principles of the right to self-determination of all countries, non-interference into the internal affairs of sovereign nations, safeguarding the Caribbean region as a zone of peace and pursuit of South-South cooperation.”
Other principles he identified included “the freedom and dignity of the Caribbean peoples, respect for the internal sovereignty of our neighbours and its pursuit of a foreign policy framework that allows it to tap into the development potential from regional friends, while avoiding making enemies with our longstanding traditional global allies.”
In that regard, he said “St. Lucia believes that a free, sovereign and economically stable Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti can only mean a free, sovereign and economically stable CARICOM.”
Regarding his “expectations” in office, Pierre recalled that when elected, “I came in on a promise to be transparent, to be a listener, to be democratic — and to practise as much as possible, the principles of Servant Leadership.”
He also added personal principles of “humility, transparency, accountability, inclusiveness and fairness to all and to put the development of people above everything else…”
The Saint Lucia leader said that four to six decades after independence, CARICOM leaders should commit to the principles of “good governance, constitutional reform, transparency and accountability” and to “strive to make this Region the freest, most democratic and best-governed part of the universe, all in the best interest of the people we have been called to serve…”
As a new CARICOM Prime Minister, he dreams of “attainment of genuine togetherness and integration of our foreign and economic policies,” a “flexible and agile CARICOM, serving the day-to-day needs of our people and enhancing their faith in our collective destiny…”, and for “a CARICOM that never forgets that the only reason why we have committed ourselves to public life is to serve the people, and so we must put the people first in all that we do.”
Not known to offer deflective “Smoke and Mirrors” for answers and solutions and free of corruption allegations for 25 years, Pierre, in his Paramaribo Address, will have drawn the attention of host President Chandrikapersad ‘Chan’ Santokhi, the CARICOM leader with responsibility for youth. Pierre’s principles belying his policy of seeing himself as a Servant Leader will also have attracted equal note.
But perhaps his most-remembered statement might be some unsolicited words of wisdom from the common experiences that have faced every newly-elected leader, when he told his colleagues, “You will appreciate why the euphoria of an election victory vanishes quickly upon occupying the seat of the Prime Minister (or President), because the challenges we all face as new leaders, upon sober reflection, are very apparent and in one word: Daunting!”