Politics is often a messy game overrun with individuals who are more concerned about what they extract for themselves than what is best for the individuals responsible for electing them to office. There are always shining stars to remind us that good does exist. Philip J. Pierre, a St. Lucian politician is one of those good men. A Management Consultant by trade, Pierre made his way into politics because he believed that the system lacked honesty, effectiveness, and above all a sense of fair treatment for the average Saint Lucian. Although he is now well-established in the country’s ruling St. Lucian Labour Party, Pierre was once a strange choice to join the island’ s Labour Party.
If you ask Pierre himself, he will admit that his role in the Labour Party is at odds with his upbringing. The son of a head-mistress and a police officer in St. Lucia, Pier regrew up in a conservative household. Pierre described the conflict between his upbringing and entrance into politics to Kreol Magazine as follows: “I was going against the norms, I am from a very conservative background, my mother was a head-mistress, my father was a cop; that background was not labour like… The labour-like background is basically a socialist background. I joined the labour party. I had to convince my parents that I should be involved in politics”.
Life before Politics
Before Pierre ever convinced his parents that his future lay in politics rather than another career, he followed in the footsteps of his siblings. All of them attended school in England, and at the age of 18 he headed overseas to study. The majority of his studies were in the Social Sciences but he would eventually graduate with a degree in Economics, a decision that would position him appropriately for his future political aspirations. Upon completing his degree in Economics at the University of the West Indies (U.W.I), Pierre began work on a Master’ s level degree. After a few years of studying, he completed a Master in Business Administration (MBA). Pierre spent his initial time teaching at St. Mary’ s College and after leaving University worked in the private sector. Pierre’s first professional experience included working in the financial sector as an Audit Clerk and Financial Controller before moving into positions of greater authority. From 1985 to 1994 he served as the Director of the National Research and Development Corporation before beginning his own financial services group. He was the Chief Executive of Philip J. Pier re Business Services Limited from 1990 to 1997 before launching a full time career in politics.
Launching a Political Career
Before Pierre was done in the professional field, he felt the calling of politics. Believing that the political system needed more honest, effective leaders, he joined the St. Lucia Labour Party in 1985 and by 1987 was ready to work in his first campaign. He described his early experience to Kreol Magazine: “My first election campaign as a candidate was in 1992, first time speaking to the public for myself in politics. I never thought I would have been so deep. My initial challenge was my parents then my campaigns. I didn’t win the first elections, I was not ready but I was not disgraced. I knew that if I did what I was supposed to do I would win. But then I started to place a structure and then I ran in 1997 under the leadership of Dr. Kenny D Anthony, a friend of mine. In 1997, I was ready and I won and I got the most votes in St. Lucia. I got 4000 votes in the elections which no one has ever got previously. My early political training was under Julian R. Hunte and I must credit him for his service, knowledge and inspiration to me and the party”.
When Pierre won his first publicly elected office in 1997, he was the right man arriving in the right role at the right time in St. Lucia ’s history. The office that Pierre won was the position of Minister of Tourism. In the late 1990s, St. Lucia ’s economy and society were undergoing a big transition from a closed economy reliant upon agriculture to an economy interested in competing on the global stage and shifting towards services, mainly tourism.
Although he will not take credit for the whole of St. Lucia ’s transition, under his guidance, tourism became a contributor to the St. Lucian economy. A key element of Pierre’s vision for the economic transition for St. Lucia was to make the tourism work for everyone, not just outside investors. Pierre envisioned a tourism industry that provided the most benefit to the most people. One based on a philosophy of “The benefits of tourism must accrue to as many people as possible”.
During his tenure as Minister of Tourism, St. Lucia saw expansive growth in this industry, and which included the improvement and integration of rural villages and roads, opening them for the exploration of tourists; changes that transformed the taxi transport around the island without having a negative financial impact on locals; and of course the embracing of local culture. He also presided over the largest increase in investment in a tourism hotel plant on the island.
Of particular pride, Pierre was happy to see the wonderful role of Jazz music in St. Lucia come to the forefront. Pierre had the following remarks regarding the island’s iconic jazz festival: “That philosophical approach was one of my greatest achievement. We brought the concept of village Jazz to the people and a vision to make the nation a big musical island which would bring many things, bring visitors and also permit the local communities the time to participate in the Jazz festivities as vendors and craft people…”.
Not Slowing Down
After more than fifteen years in public office serving the people of St. Lucia, Pierre shows no signs of leaving the political spotlight or giving up on the people who elected him. He has won a parliamentary seat in the general elections of 2001, 2006 and 2011, representing the people of the Castries East constituency. In early December 2011, Pierre was sworn in as the Deputy Prime Minister of the island as well as the Minister f or Infrastructure, Port Services, and Transportation. Among the greatest accomplishments of his tenure in Government was the Labour Party’s moves to improve education on the island. Rather than attend half-day school, elementary and primary school students now have enough schools and teachers to attend full-day classes. Additionally, the government provides universal secondary school education, guaranteed loans for higher education and, in some cases, free university training. He credits Mario Michel the then Minister of Education for his role in that education revolution and the leadership of Dr. Kenny D. Anthony for that achievement.
As St. Lucia moves forward to recover from the global recession that has reverberated in the island, Pierre will put his experience and dedication to work ensuring that St. Lucia is prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Above all else, Pierre hopes to continue directly impacting on the lives of his fellow St. Lucians. As he told Kreol Magazine, “What I enjoy the most is making a change in peoples’ lives. I would like to tell them to become global citizens, to respect your Kreol culture and heritage, to be able to compete globally and be able to be meet International standards”.