By Melanius Alphonse
The juvenile maneuver by minders of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) to schedule budget proceeding during the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival April 29 – May 11, 2014 is another example of what jolts my spirit.
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) www.lpmstlucia.com critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday, April 29, 2014, a meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House will commence at 10 am during which the finance minister will table a motion to adopt the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the financial year 2014/2015 of EC$1,252,021,600. At 2:00 pm the estimates will be laid in the House of Assembly to be followed with the debate, continuing into the next day, April 30, 2014, at 10 am.
Quietly, this is done simply to distract the minds of a population more in tune with food, a good beverage and jazz music at this time of year. But, despite the obscurity it is difficult to hide the SLP administration proposition last year that a recovery was underway, along with the much vaunted and expected VAT revenue.
Not to my surprise.
Kenny Anthony and his cabinet of top heavy ministers and advisors have turned out to be dark horses who don’t understand labour market needs, inflation, and have consistently overestimated growth and job creation that threatens the Saint Lucian economic recovery.
The grim reality is that Saint Lucians are feeling the full impact of an SLP-driven recession of truly bad ideas, politically motivated decisions, gross negligence in economic management and finance, and foreign affairs.
Currently, Saint Lucia is far from recovery despite the fancy reproduction of words by the prime minister. Thus, Saint Lucians have come to a thoughtful understanding of who cannot be trusted on leadership matters, the economy or simply being a good statesman.
Surely, there will be much to debate on the estimates of revenue April 30 and the budget address May 15 and 16 respectively. But the traditional Throne Speech by Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, at 11 am is worthy of its entire spectacle. With any luck, all will not be forgotten followed by jazz in four venues around the city of Castries.
The Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure this year from already broadcast snippets seem merely old clichés that are redesigned to comfort the SLP administration’s sheer recklessness. The IMF and the World Bank have a clear understanding of Saint Lucia’s finances and will wedge with undue fuss the hard knocks that Labour has bestowed on Saint Lucians. Former IMF consultants that are assisting with the budget presentation as are current consultants at the ministry of finance know quite clearly that that island needs to prepare for structural adjustment measures.
Therefore, it is not by accident or wanting to share his concern publicly that Kenny Anthony, Saint Lucia’s finance minister, mentioned the $150 million in non-performing bank loans in Saint Lucia’s loan portfolio.
I believe this is by design a precursor of things to come.
For instance, on the heels of the Tourism Stimulus and Investment Bill and the Agriculture and Fisheries incentives bill – to fulfill one of the manifesto proposals of the government -- comes another forced acknowledgement by the finance minister that “We’re slipping away” on investments in Saint Lucia.
I don’t know on which planet Kenny Anthony, Saint Lucia’s finance minister lives because even while in opposition he should have known what was happening and what he was about to inherit. But when one is in purgatory -- having to make amends -- what do you expect?
Clearly, this goes to show that Kenny Anthony has been sleeping on duty at the expense of the taxpayers for far too long. In the real world, it would not take Donald Trump to utter the words – You’re fired!
It’s a travesty now to come to present day reality and its even clearer why the SLP mantra of Better Days and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs is a pipe dream, such that the best SLP can do is to provide a false sense of social assistance through menial short term employment like STEP that does not build on education achievement and skills development that employers need.
This is indeed vindictiveness from purgatory by an SLP administration of socialist practices, designed to carry the majority of the people on a blind date with “cap in hand” while the SLP party elites enjoy a lavish lifestyle.
What is it going to cost the taxpayers of Saint Lucia?
Evidently Peter will pay for Paul, and with the twisted logic of Robin Hood, its déjà vu all over again with Kenny Anthony as finance minister, this is the “known unknown”. You never see what you’re getting and what you hear is not what you get.
Not only does Saint Lucian have a problem where the devil will be in the details of the 2014/2015 budget (as is the SLP manifesto -- Blueprint for Growth), but the revenue and expenditure on April 29 and the Budget address on May 13 are grim reminders of a blind date going over to the dark side… seeking souls.
What next will this SLP administration do to us, as they only now remember deficit reduction and promoting investment, while forgetting their misdeeds in purgatory?
The banana industry, agriculture and farmers were abandoned under Labour. Today this same SLP administration is uttering the words “there is need for a new cadre of farmers if the island is to take advantage of the new emerging markets globally”. This is hypocrisy at its best!
No amount of retrofit legislation will woo investors; neither will added items to the 15% VAT basket subsidies, a top heavy, non-producing administration with high interest payments and mounting national debt. The argument for the VAT implementation was not only cruelty to the people of Saint Lucia, but stupid from an administration of doctors with the best brains who even now don’t see the need to revisit this policy position.
Already the SLP administration policy impairments and socialist ideology is starving Saint Lucians to death -- unable to buy basic foods. Investment is sleeping away, health care and education are non priorities, manufacturing and agro-business is off their radar, while accessing new markets and promoting exports is a continuous challenge as the prime minister is not exposed to understanding free market economics.
It may well be too little, too late by a handicapped administration that is unable to negotiate one successful business deal to bring jobs to the people of Saint Lucia, much less to gain the confidence of investors.
Meanwhile, the SLP administration, as in previous years dating back to 1997, represents an administration of rhetoric that is painful to the hustler on the streets of Soufriere, who find it almost impossible to earn a legal dollar. The continuous uncertain access to food, employment, housing, education and health care is dramatically widening the gap between the rich liberal elites, the Rodney Bay mafias in the north, the Savannas Bay mafias in the south, the middle class and the poor, which is clearly facilitated by an SLP administration that specializes in political incentives and skillfully executed contract awards.
Again, this is not only a stupid act to pursue, but a clear sign of greed in broad daylight, while the SLP administration talks about accountability, transparency and deficit reduction.
Perhaps it is not hard to understand the finance minister’s version of economic growth as suggested last year when, in critical times, he can find surplus funds of EC$3.1 million to purchase a residential property in Coubaril to house Saint Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF), offices.
When logical thinkers examine this transaction and the service SSDF provides it seems surely tortured logic and cruelty to the people of Saint Lucia and particularly the elderly, who have to navigate 97 steps to access government services alongside a busy thoroughfare.
Saint Lucia’s economic weakness cannot be denied, as at is glaringly noticeable. No number crunching or fancy statistics can change that reality. Even if the SLP administration resembles more of a real estate investor with their creative idea to renovate the old Golden Hope building to house the office of the prime minister.
This seems by design to be a fitting, even ironic gesture, a finishing line -- assuming the prime minister will be the first new occupant of the Golden Hope facility.