STEP is the kuduro of employment in Saint Lucia and I may have to take that statement back, not because it is false but because it may be a bit misleading and grossly understating. Kuduro is authentic and rooted (when I think of it in the African context) and I do not think that is what I intended to convey in my analogy. So let’s try that again.
STEP is the Dennery Segment of employment in Saint Lucia. But wait. Dennery Segment is inventive, creative, defies the odds and out of the box in the use of our indigenous language; not what I am trying to say either. Well these days Lucian Kuduro aka Dennery Segment, (though I like Valley Music best), is being touted as the best thing since slice bread to have happened to Saint Lucia. I think not.
I have never been impressed with STEP. While it was bailed as a short-gap measure to deal with a depressed economy, I think the administration that implemented it was a bit uninventive and lacked vision. The sad thing is that this short term employment programme has become too long term and it does not look like it is going away soon. An even more inept administration?
Cutting grass is not all STEP is about. I went into the STEP office very early, when it was first implemented. The office was upstairs Blue Coral and I was not impressed. It resembled an employment agency and I have maintained that government should never sought to be an employment agency. Government has to be the driver of policies that facilitate private sector buoyancy. They have to look to drive innovation and entrepreneurship.
A culture of dependency has been created by government and that can never work well for the development of any country. The UWP is without shame. They blasted the STEP while they were in opposition and has done little as an alternative. They have continued the programme and have used it as a tool to further divided a country. STEP is used as a tool for rewarding party supporters.
About a week or two weeks ago a new batch of STEP workers were dispatched. What did I observe? People have accepted as a normal the use of the programme to reward party loyalty, as if is one set of people’s mouths that are made for eating bread. Our people are proud in receiving kaka dan.It’s like they esteem to nothing higher and I guess that is where my kuduro analogy comes in.
We have gone from a legacy of having on a pedestal, great intellectuals like Sir Arthur Lewis and Hon Derek Walcott to hoisting the Dennery Segment as our flagship. Then you have the issues of efficiency and productivity. Is that the best use of taxpayer dollars? Give a job that one man with a weed cutter and a cutlass can do to 20 people with cutlasses.
It gets better. All these 20 people are gather in one square inch that one person can handle. Some come on the job, pull out a blade of grass and get paid a full day’s wage.