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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06BRIDGETOWN654
2006-04-19 14:01:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Bridgetown
Cable title:  

ST. KITTS SUGAR TRANSITION - JOBS AVAILABLE,

Tags:   EAGR  ELAB  ECON  PREL  PGOV  KPAO  SC  XL 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO7875
PP RUEHGR
DE RUEHWN #0654/01 1091401
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191401Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2299
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRIDGETOWN 000654 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ELAB ECON PREL PGOV KPAO SC XL
SUBJECT: ST. KITTS SUGAR TRANSITION - JOBS AVAILABLE,
WORKERS AVAILABLE, WHAT'S THE CATCH?

REF: A. 05 BRIDGETOWN 2490

B. 05 BRIDGETOWN 785

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRIDGETOWN 000654

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ELAB ECON PREL PGOV KPAO SC XL
SUBJECT: ST. KITTS SUGAR TRANSITION - JOBS AVAILABLE,
WORKERS AVAILABLE, WHAT'S THE CATCH?

REF: A. 05 BRIDGETOWN 2490

B. 05 BRIDGETOWN 785


1. (SBU) Summary: According to the St. Kitts Sugar
Transition Team, there are around 700 former sugar workers
still unemployed and about 600 available hotel jobs. (Note:
St. Kitts ended its centuries-old sugar industry in 2005,
after decades of financial losses at the state-run sugar
company. End Note.) Most of the sugar workers, however,
lack the qualifications and interpersonal skills to work in
the tourism sector. The workers want to preserve their rural
lifestyle and the Transition Team may be overindulging them
by trying to create agricultural jobs instead of retraining
the workers for available hotel positions. Tourism, not
agriculture, drives the St. Kitts economy and creates most
new jobs. The Transition Team may have to take a harder line
with the sugar workers and make it clear what they can
(hospitality training) and cannot (secure agricultural
employment) offer. End Summary.


2. (U) Embassy's PAO invited Cornell University Professor
Gary Fields, a renowned Labor and Development Economist, to
Barbados to give a lecture and share his expertise with
various groups. As part of his visit, Dr. Fields
participated in a March 22 conference call with members of
the St. Kitts Sugar Transition Team and other interested
parties in St. Kitts. The two-hour discussion focused on the
problems with retraining sugar workers for tourism jobs. The
Kittitian participants did not think such retraining would be
possible, while Dr. Fields, drawing on his experience in
other developing countries, encouraged the Kittitians to give
it a try. PAO, Pol/Econ, FCS, and USAID all participated on
the USG side of the call.

--------------
Who Still Needs a Job?
--------------


3. (U) Gordon Alert, head of the Sugar Transition Team, led

the discussion on the St. Kitts side. He said that of the
original 1500 sugar workers, 300 were from Guyana and the
Dominican Republic and had since returned to their home
countries. Of the remaining 1200, 200 retired and 230 have
found new jobs, leaving 770 or so still unemployed. Alert
said the sugar factory workers and office staff had the
easiest time finding new jobs while the agricultural workers
had more difficulty.

--------------
Where Are the Jobs?
--------------


4. (U) The Sugar Transition Team conducted a thorough study
of the available jobs in St. Kitts in the tourism sector,
coming up with a list of around 600 jobs. In response to Dr.
Fields's question on what jobs are available, Alert read the
detailed list to the group during the conference call. The
vast majority of the jobs were "front of the house" jobs such
as waiters/waitresses and desk clerks, meaning that the
employee would interact face-to-face with hotel customers.
Only a small number of jobs were "back of the house," such as
cooks, cleaners, and landscapers. (Note: What the
Transition Team failed to mention is that several new hotels
and resorts are under construction, and the former sugar
workers may be well-suited to jobs on those building sites.
End Note.)

--------------
Labor Mismatch
--------------


5. (U) The St. Kitts participants in the call repeatedly
characterized Dr. Fields's assertion that the sugar workers
should be retrained for hotel jobs as "simplistic." They
offered reasons such as the sugar workers' lack of education
and poor aptitude for service jobs, their desire to stay in
agricultural work, inadequate public transport between the
hotels and villages, opposition to working shifts or late at
night, and lack of adequate day care for working mothers.
Dr. Fields pointed out that most of these problems (except
for a low aptitude for service industry jobs) could be
overcome. He also argued that it would be easier to work
through these issues than to create new agricultual
enterprises and turn all the former sugar workers, who have
been employees their entire lives, into entrepreneurs.

--------------
Transition Team's Plan
--------------


6. (U) The Transition Team intends to take jobs to the

BRIDGETOWN 00000654 002 OF 002


workers instead of workers to the jobs. This means creating
agricultural employment instead of retraining workers to fill
existing hotel jobs. The Team plans to parcel out small
plots of former cane fields for the sugar workers to grow
food crops. The workers will then, in theory, sell this food
to hotels and cruise ships. While an excellent idea, no
organization exists to market and distribute the locally
grown food. In addition, the Team proposes to keep growing
some cane to help retain topsoil. This cane will be used to
make ethanol for local use and possibly for export. (Note:
The high cost of sugar production could lead to prohibitively
expensive ethanol. St. Kitts also does not have the
economies of scale to compete with sugar giants like Brazil
in making ethanol. End Note.)

--------------
Comment
--------------


7. (SBU) St. Kitts' "bring jobs to the workers" approach may
run into problems. The present and future of St. Kitts is in
tourism and services. The faster the labor force adapts to
that reality, the stronger and more resilient the local
economy will become. That said, the Kittitians have a point
that it is difficult to turn an uneducated, introverted,
sugar worker into a bright, cheery, presentable resort
employee up to a world-class standard of service. The
workers, however, may have no other choice but to try for
service industry jobs once their severance pay runs out. As
Professor Fields observed during the call, "Economic
desperation can be a powerful motivator."

GILROY