Saint Lucians - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Despite efforts to promote the development of industry and tourism, Saint Lucia's economy is still primarily dependent on agriculture. The cultivation and export of bananas account for nearly 80 percent of the island's revenue. Saint Lucia is wholly dependent on the banana industry, the future of which is uncertain. Until 1992, when Europe became a single market, Geest, a British-based transshipment corporation, transported, distributed, and retailed all the bananas Saint Lucia produced. The European union resulted in the loss of Saint Lucia's ready-made market because Britain is no longer in a position to give preferential treatment to its former colonies. Saint Lucia's exceedingly low productivity level for the cultivation of bananas was not a concern prior to 1992, but now the island's chief export must compete on the world market. The government has been seeking to diversify the island's agricultural activities.

Tourism, the second-largest earner of foreign exchange, is an enclave industry that is still evolving. Although revenues from tourism have continued to increase, it, too, is a precarious industry. The vast majority of hotels and restaurants are foreign owned. Hurricane Allen caused heavy damage to the tourist infrastructure in 1980.

Ranking third in contribution to the island's economy is the industrial sector. Small in scale, it includes about 200 enterprises that produce furniture, clothing, paper products, electronic appliances, beverages, and textiles.

Industrial Arts. In 1971 the Saint Lucian government established the Craft Centre at Choiseul. Its purpose was to provide jobs for villagers and to preserve such traditional craft skills as pottery making, wood carving, and weaving.

Trade. The chief exports include bananas, cardboard boxes, clothing, and coconut products. Approximately 40 percent of Saint Lucia's exports are to Great Britain, the remainder to neighboring islands and the United States. Food, live animals, and electronic parts are imported.

Division of Labor. The division of labor is based on precepts of reciprocity, interdependency, and cooperation. At the village level, this ethos is best exemplified in the coupde-main, a type of organized work party into which an individual gathers friends and relatives to accomplish a labor-intensive task such as building a house or preparing a baptismal party. All members of the work party are fed by the host in exchange for their labor. At the household level, each member of the family, including children, is expected to work. Men and women toil side by side in the banana fields, but women are responsible for the bulk of domestic and child-care chores.

Land Tenure. The land-tenure system is a legacy of colonialism. Almost 47 percent of Saint Lucia's agricultural holdings, or 13,074 hectares, are owned in estate by seventeen families, whereas about 4,700 smallholders till plots of land that average less than 0.4 hectares. Unless there is a specific arrangement regarding inheritance of land, all offspring are entitled to an equal share. Because there rarely is a prearranged agreement and because multiple offspring often have claim to land, fragmentation of landholdings has occurred.

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