Several persons are puzzled by the travel pattern of Caribbean leaders and the impact of this travel on the country they represent. In the past, it was common to expect that when a leader travels, he would return with substantial benefits and ideas for the transformation of the nation that he represents.
This does not seem to be the case anymore. Indeed there are times when the details of a trip are hardly forthcoming. One Grenadian Minister was seen recently in the company of some Hollywood stars in a photo op discussing movies and that is all we know of that story.
We are also aware that another Minister toured Europe, flogging our citizenship and passports to would-be buyers at large, probably we should be provided with a back to office sales report.
Even before the advent of the industrial revolution, leaders would travel to other countries and return home to emulate and implement the best practices observed during their travel.
We are told that the transformation of modern Russia was accelerated by the building of the city of St. Petersburg the then capital of Russia in 1703 and remained the capital until 1917.
We are also told that this remarkable transformation of Russia from what was then referred to as the dark ages to modern efficiency, military efficacy and effective governance was influenced by Peter the Great’s visit to Western Europe in 1697 and 1698.
Peter the Great returned from his trip fortified, excited and energised to implement reform in the areas of education, engineering, science, navigation medicine and Mathematics.
Jumping forward several hundred years to 1979, and coming closer to home, when the then Prime Minister of Grenada, Maurice Bishop travelled to Cuba and returned with ninety seven pieces of equipment and several hundred skilled men to commence the construction of what is now the Maurice Bishop International Airport.
This effort established what was referred to as our gateway to freedom, and still remains one of the greatest transformational projects Grenada has ever witnessed.
Our leaders met with the President of the United States in Panama more than a year ago and to this day we are unaware of a single transformational project arising from that meeting that has been implemented on our island.
The question is – what do our leaders do when they travel? What ground shattering announcement do they make upon their return to home?
Our leaders must remember that, as they ride home after every trip, we are like spoiled little children anxiously awaiting our parents return from overseas with goodies.
A trip to nearby Trinidad will show our leaders how to construct and operate a farmer’s market, keep a mall open and how to run a modern postal service. By the way, they can also have one of their smart friends send them a How-to You-Tube video.
Thirty years after our agro industries were destroyed, Trinidad’s effort continues to flourish. The last thing they took from us was our production of Coke leaving a question mark over our Carib Beer facility. Probably one more strike will do the trick.
During that same period our agricultural trade with Trinidad has diminished as that country boosted its agricultural production.
As Jamaica emerges from yet another foray with the IMF, a distinct difference with its current effort has been its willingness to boost production. Recently, Red Stripe beer undertook to use locally grown cassava for its production process creating a boost in cassava production in the country.
All over Europe, the United States and Canada, efforts by Jamaica to produce and export its products can be found. These efforts range from Blue Mountain Coffee to farm bred Tilapia.
There are issues that we are attempting to wrap our brains around that have been solved in several of the countries that we visit when travelling. Jamaica, for example, has contracted with WRB Enterprises for the construction of solar and wind energy farms in that country.
In Grenada, we are struggling with that same company to reach an alternative energy agreement and to pass the enabling legislation.
Our leaders travel to countries where there are parking meters placed at strategic points to allow persons to do business within a specified time in the city but they prefer to indiscriminately impose no-parking signs all over the place without regard to the effect on their citizens.
At the Ministerial Complex, the authorities prefer to store derelict cars in prime spots rather than allow customers to park to do business with the ministries.
So we traverse the world with our eyes wide shut. Probably only looking for opportunities of a certain nature without set criteria. It was Mohammed Ali who observed persons who had the ability to “walk through a hurricane and don’t get wet”.
There ought to be legislation passed to make joy riding a criminal offence.