IT’S been another celebration of our Nobel Laureates, something we have done annually for the last 22 years. It is an occasion when we salute our two giants of international stature, William Arthur Lewis and Derek Alton Walcott, a time when every true St Lucian should feel a sense of pride and achievement. Indeed we should all feel inspired by these two to the point of examining our individual selves to see where exactly we are on our respective roads to excellence and achievement.
But while we accept excellence as a goal worth pursuing we must be true to ourselves. Is there any evidence that as St Lucians we have individually or collectively worked towards greatness as Lewis and Walcott did?
It is all well and good to brag that we have more Nobel Laureates than any other country our size, but what’s the point if we have not allowed the fame and achievements of the two men to rub off on us?
Look at Lewis whose birth centenary we marked yesterday. He is credited with developing some major concepts about the patterns of capital and wages in developing countries. He particularly became known for his contributions to development economics, devising models that other nations sought to implement. We are told that he also helped draw up Ghana’s first five year development plan and that his ideas and models later even attracted the interest of the Chinese.
What other example of drive and pursuit of excellence do we need to draw on than Lewis’ breaking all barriers, including racial, on his way to the pinnacle of success?
Lewis was available to two of the Caribbean’s foremost institutions, the University of the West Indies and the Caribbean Development Bank. He was a prolific writer who left behind several papers on development economics that ought to have given us in St Lucia and the Caribbean much food for thought in planning our economic development agenda.
So what have we as fellow St. Lucians taken from the Lewis saga? When we look at ourselves and our country today, can we point to anything we have done and say that it has been inspired by him? Has any government in our country paid attention to Lewis by adopting the economic policies that he espoused? Here is man who earned himself the title of “Consultant Physician of the Ailing Economics”. At a time when our economies have been in serious trouble, in fact, in ruins,—and that is over the last 40 years—should we not have sought to even look at a Lewis’ prescription? After all, was it not his research into the economic problems of developing countries that earned him the Nobel Prize?
Instead we find ourselves forever going backwards, wallowing in misery with no vision and no leadership, but putting on a show anyhow while trying in vain to signal that we have what it takes to produce results and that good times are coming. But the truth is that we have no plan for anything. Still, we continue to ignore the valuable pieces of advice from the other professionals and intellectuals in our midst, the miniature Lewises, who have ideas that at least should be given the opportunity to be tested.