As attractive as the tagline reads; Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, priority number one, the bigger issue is – where will the jobs be in Kenny’s 2012/2013 budget. Surprise, surprise let’s face it. The economy is still in negative growth and the forecast is still cautious or, rather, sluggish to be precise. Saint Lucia has the highest percentage of youth unemployment of 20 percent and climbing, which does not take into account the under – employed.
To date, this has to be truly a major priority to realize any long term benefits of investor confidence and investing in an economic recovery. This is a national crisis way beyond ideological lines.
Two decades past, Saint Lucia was in a good position. In today’s economic reality, reshaping Saint Lucia to drive returns is paramount; a new transformative development is imminent and the opportunity to reflect and prioritize requires deep passion on what really matters.
In this case, better diversification in a new economic development that is based on export, agri-business and related services where growth is inclusive, measurable and sustainable is a viable option. Equally, market liberalization that focuses on middle income growth through private capital to serve small and medium-sized enterprise can help ease capital constrains.
And not one that is base on a shadow economy of manipulation or hype, and certainly not “STEP.” The era of foreign aid “happy money” is over, with deeper cuts to development assistance spending like the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in the tune of $319 million. This will directly affect the education, training and health allocations to Saint Lucia.
Currently, slow growth is forcing government to scratch for revenue daily and compete with the private sector for available investment funding. For one, this contributes to the volatility in the economy, leaving investors more exposed to greater risk factors. Faced with this parallel, Saint Lucia is not on track to meet a three percent target growth.
Where are the jobs going to come from in Kenny’s 2012/2013 budget? Has a high level delegation been sent to Brazil on a fact finding mission? Where are the youth and the unemployed going to be in Kenny’s 2012/2013 budget, although, to be fair “STEP” is the hottest gig in town, if one can get a pick?
Sure enough the prospect to jobs, jobs, jobs is a paradox and a scary scheme to simple common sense and knowledge. Now that the early previews are in on the budget shortfall between revenue and spending – once again, where will the money come from; is it China, Venezuela, Cuba, Taiwan, Iran, or the10,15,17 percent VAT proposition?
Meanwhile, the public service will be required to find savings through streamlining efficiencies and internal processing and a ceasefire from the labor unions, while the question of wage freeze, allowances, benefits and the consideration to push up the retirement age – again is not an abstract proposition to better days.
Understandable, the bureaucratic exercise newly imposed consultants and advisors to the Ministry of Foreign affairs is an undue burden on the public service at a time when world governments are cutting public spending and performing massive remodeling and asset disposal, cutting travel cost, telecommunications and rent.
Millions are expected to be spent on post Tomas community infrastructure, personal and hiring credits to business and millions more for the “STEP” program.
There is no guarantee that government is expected to cut the deficit in half, stabilize the debt and begin a gradual approach to economic recovery. Whatever comes down, Kenny’s 2012/2013 budget needs to provide an answer to reshape Saint Lucia.
The reason being that Saint Lucia cannot continue to lure in economic uncertainty and the tribalism of a small and penniless island State – which must rely on foreign handouts every year to make up for budget shortfalls.
Clearly, the government of Saint Lucia is not living within its means and has lost its legitimacy to instruct the household and business sectors. By now one would have expect the technocrats and the advisors to instruct the government in very simple and layman’s terms for comprehension and then have an honest conversation with the public on what Saint Lucia can afford and how; and moreover what Saint Lucia cannot afford and why.
Hence, the gap between the employed and the unemployed must be narrowed to grow the economy and cub the social ills such as crime, gang violence, prostitution, drug and human trafficking. There is no more time for talk and pomposity about jobs, jobs, jobs. Simply bring it on, by extracting the possibilities and resources to bring prosperity, or else the logic is lost.
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant. He is an advocate for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality; the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org