It took seven months for the prime minister and minister of finance Allen Chastanet to sort out his administration’s economic ethos and principles.
However, the message is: “The economy is broke, Saint Lucia is in trouble.”
“The government was focusing on three primary areas in terms of building a new Saint Lucia, finance that deficit, the re-engineering of the public service and investment.”
But really, is this factual? How should one grasp this? Meanwhile, the combination of “alternative” and “facts”, trends towards Desert Star Holdings (DSH) and citizenship by investment (CIP).
Historically, the prime minister’s course of action comes at a significant adverse economic cost to taxpayers and governance.
And oftentimes, it is the unguarded posture that gives a true insight into the true nature of imperial designs that are not only outrageous but irresponsible.
Let’s be clear! At the first press conference for the year, the prime minister said: “2017 is to tighten your seat belt and to embrace the change…” but apparently that did not apply to the ministry of finance, and the image of the country, now mired in conflict of values shrouded in secrecy and a broken justice system.
At a press briefing, two weeks later:
“We have seen for ourselves that the country is broke. How do I know that? When the fact is that you are only spending a million dollars on road rehabilitation, on maintenance, a million dollars on maintaining hospitals; a million dollars on training in the civil service – so you have over 12,000 employees, just imagine that , and you are spending a million dollars a year on training them.”
Addressing the UK Diaspora, January 21:
“The government was focusing on three primary areas in terms of building a new Saint Lucia. One was the current financial situation as we continue to run a deficit government and we have been borrowing quite substantially to be able to finance that deficit, the re-engineering of the public service and investment.”
Nevertheless, in a familiar pattern, the prime minister did not offer a road map to “building a new Saint Lucia,” but sounded ill-informed and poorly advised.
The irony is such that Dominic Fedee, minister in the office of the prime minister with responsibility for tourism, information and broadcasting, speaking in relation to Radio St Lucia said: “The country is being robbed… It is ashamed I believe, the political directorate that they would have undertaken quantum abuse of taxpayers’ monies for political purpose,” oblivious that neither he nor the prime minister understand the gravity of their over the moon comments.
Let’s deconstruct the “alternative” and “facts”:
- If “the country is broke”, what’s the basis for this in financial terms and what is the substantial evidence, along with the agenda moving forward?
- If “the country is broke”, the minister of finance and his silo ministry of ministers have failed to proffer fiscal and financial reform to return to stability:
- If “the country is broke”, who is bankrolling government’s lavish expenditure?
- If “the country is broke”, has the government filed for bankruptcy?
- If “the country is broke”, why the downward adjustment in VAT, numerous audits, contract buyouts, aimless traveling, hefty invoicing for routine government contracts and the awarding of no bid contracts?
- If “the country is broke”, is this the justification for the amendment to CIP, Saint Lucia goes cheap, supported by a bill board that reads:Come as a tourist. Leave as a citizen?
To undo the government’s communication nightmare on DSH and seduce a more receptive audience, a so-called ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ fact sheet, was produced. It quickly became nothing more than an exercise in questions and “alternative facts” designed to confuse and deceive.
For example, one question reads: What is the proposed project plan between the government and DSH?
The answer: “The Saint Lucia government has entered into a partnership with Desert Star Holdings Limited for the development of the Pearl of the Caribbean, a development plan for the south of the island.”
However, the so-called “fact sheet” was oblivious to clause 28: No partnership ~
“Nothing in this agreement is intended to or shall be construed as establishing or implying a partnership of any kind between the parties.”
Other question and answers contradict both DSH framework and supplementary agreements, but that is no surprise. The “fact sheet” is a real con job: a well known ploy of tyrants, to channel non-answers to their own crafty questions, without reference to the original document.
Thus, if the prime minister is truthful on “Building a new Saint Lucia”, there should have been a different perspective, an approach that is informative and inclusive.
Currently, the best option is to renegotiate the highly asymmetrical DSH agreement into a genuine unprecedented agreement of free trade, commerce, agro-business and industry, urban and rural renewal.
Recently, the prime minister said he is very encouraged by the number of foreign investors as well as local investors who are willing to stand up now and make things happen.
What could this mean in terms of policy objectives?
In “fact”, this flies in the face of the country’s ranking for doing business, current low international credibility and the insignificant appeal government has for locals and Diaspora investors, beyond political and charitable contributions.
For an “alternative” perspective he said:
“Saint Lucia is in trouble, we continue to run a deficit.” However, he “is convinced that the strategy being pursued” by his administration is the right strategy… “We are very much on pace with what we want to achieve. There is no way that the current size of our economy can yield the revenue that we need to be able to modernise Saint Lucia – to make Saint Lucia a world class destination.”
This is a position that best serves a highly irrational argument when compared to actionable ideas and to revisit “legislation to positively set debt ceiling,” and begin the process to build a Saint Lucian brand not a charity economy.
Still, in an effort to make the case for effective governance the prime minister said:
“We have a public service which I do not believe is running as efficiently as it possibly can.”
Hey, nothing new here, if one can recall, Kenny Anthony’s sudden reality:
“The public service has incredible talent, enormous talent; when you look across the region, Saint Lucia probably has one of the highest number of graduates in its system. But the real question for us, for you, for me, is whether we are getting the best out of this huge investment we have made in those who manage the public service, and whether we are maximising the talent that is available.”
Consequently, the crisis of management, leadership and utter incapacity of successive administrations continues.
On the other hand, it is a well established fact that government should invest in its human resources and focus on training displaced workers for new and emerging jobs, many of which will require productivity enhancers in science, technology, engendering and maths (STEM) for new technologies that put real dollars into the pockets of workers.
Thus, how does one justify that “the country is broke” yet indulge in the spectacle of a workshop, on best practices for effective governance, for cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of statutory bodies, and facilitated by the locally based Caribbean Governance Training Institute at the cost of US$2,000 per participant?
After all, this is the same silo management structure of government that professed to be ready to govern from day one but, seven months later, needs training at taxpayers’ expense.
Is this not “milking the bull”? ~ Cecil Lay
In the coming months the prime minister’s political and economic policy will have to relate to globalization and geopolitical developments that further impact Saint Lucia.
Will government be able to get ahead of runaway unemployment, a substantial improvement in GDP growth and public administration efficiency? Will government continue its dependence on revenues that has entrenched corruption and the practice of policy adventurism as a substitute for broad-based relief?
Despite the obvious realization that the DSH agreement, the “alternative fact” sheet and CIP are concepts of disruption, the prime minister is misguided in using these as a basis for “building a new Saint Lucia”.
Meanwhile, the future of the country is under a dark cloud!
By Melanius Alphonse
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality. He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and NewsNow Global analysis. He can be reached at email@example.com