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Commentary: Restoring the future advancement of St Lucia
Published on August 18, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Melanius Alphonse

As the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) celebrates its fourth anniversary on August 22, 2014, one could summarize the mood as having been around for much longer. We know that much, because it is possible, as we have done, to foster a new political culture, based on respect for the people; for the environment and for institutions.

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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) spokesman on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at malphonse@rogers.com
We know it’s possible to foster a new political culture that is committed to individual rights and freedom, transparency, accountability, integrity and decency; fiscal discipline and sustainable development; and we know it’s possible to foster a new political culture by unifying our society through genuine inclusion; by honouring our promises, by giving service to community and country, while protecting the population from all forms of injustice and terror.

In Saint Lucia today, both the political left and right are meshed in the ways of the past, plagued with vices and corruption too numerous for a small developing island state. Which leaves the LPM as the voice of reason to take comfort, upon reflection, of the many recommendations offered to the advancement of Saint Lucia, that very soon the future of Saint Lucia will be secured.

Taking into consideration the editorial of the Voice newspaper of August 14, Reality Check For LPM this clinches the chartered course the LPM has navigated; to give Saint Lucians a real choice as the clear option today and beyond as we plan ahead for a more ambitious program. http://www.thevoiceslu.com/editorial/2014/august/14_08_14/Reality.htm

“For starters, the LPM, regardless of its numerical strength, has carried itself well, with dignity and maturity, avoiding the silly and most times puerile controversies that have characterized the relations between and operations of the two other parties. Its maturity has been seen in the manner in which it has addressed the issues confronting our country. In fact, it can safely be argued that LPM has raised the level of public debate and discussion on these issues and has maintained its own bar of discourse, declining to become embroiled in the rabble that is frequently on show.”

The LPM knows that it cannot be denied as a political party of progressive thinkers, particularly as our vision seeks to transform Saint Lucia into a model nation where all aspire to excellence; where the government is the servant of the people; where the country enjoys public peace and security; and an economy that is strong and sustainable; where prosperity is shared equitably by all, and every Saint Lucian is assured of equal justice.

In the celebration of whence forth we came four years ago, we find enduring unity and strength in our diversity to continue the push forward together as a people.

The current financial paralysis facing the country did not reach this stage by accident. However, it got to this stage by a lack of vision for national development. It got to this stage by the lack of leadership to stir this country towards a prosperous future. And it got to this stage by the lack of management to implement ideas, solutions and to pay attention to the affairs of state; including the hit and miss, flaky foreign policy that is neither here nor there. And that’s where the LPM can make a difference... to point out the inadequacies and to provide a clear path to economic prosperity.

Taxes

Currently, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) government is helpless. As such, the government is back to the politics of distraction. They are back to the politics of delay. They are back to the politics of commissions. They are back to the politics of threats and a government of demands on the workers of this country. Yet, Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony characterizes others as a “disaster”, absent the use of a mirror for self examination.

We hear about all sorts of problems worldwide; however, ever since the 2011 elections, the SLP government has done one thing well; and that is to raise taxes on the people of Saint Lucia at will. Every month, consumers have to navigate new taxes, from 15% VAT, to a 66 % increase in water and sewage rates, to VAT on ground provisions. Electricity costs more, daily commodities (ground provisions, flour, sugar, salt, and rice, etc.) cost more. Last week, the price of bread went up and, true to form, there is also a new commission to investigate bread prices.

On Tuesday, August 19, the National Council on Public Transportation will meet to vote on the implementation date for increased bus fares in increments of 0.50 cents for short routes and $1.00 to $1.25 for long routes.

Many employees may very well not get a pay increase but, on the other hand, government direct taxes, indirect taxes and the cost of imports continue to increase mid-term in a lame duck government. However, every taxpayer should be asking whether they are getting value for the taxes paid, or are the current tax increases intended to provide a wider range of government services and to provide better customer service satisfaction.

Under the SLP government it is almost impossible for the common man to find a job in Saint Lucia. The youth of this country are hard pressed to understand how government policy will shape their future to a better life. This is a sharp contrast to what the SLP promised prior to its victory at the polls. This broken promise paralysis is a real issue, together with the increased amount of taxes that government collects.

This begs the question: is the SLP government deceiving taxpayers in this difficult economic environment, when families have less money to spend for their children’s education, healthcare, household debt, transportation, food, and to save for their retirement, while the Saint Lucian economy is on Death Row?

Taking these into consideration, the SLP government may very well be practicing tax terrorism and thus driving the Saint Lucian economy from Death Row to permanent purgatory.

Audit Implications

The LPM is well aware that the brain-dead SLP government lacks credibility, for the simple fact that a government that claims to pride itself on accountability and transparency, yet operates the affairs of the country without a fully functioning audit department, is likewise lost at sea and has no direction. In such a mode of operation, the SLP government is simply operating -- a blind state of affairs!

I have been around quite a few businesses and I really don’t know how many businesses, organizations or corporations can operate successfully without an audit for several years as the government of Saint Lucia is doing. This is a dubious record that offends ethics and credibility.

When any government allows an extended period without an audit of its finances to become business as usual – and to allow the authorities who are directly responsible to remain on the payroll of taxpayers -- a few things are fundamentally wrong.

As such, there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the delivery of government services, operational management and reporting, budgeting and prudent financial management.

• There is ample room for corruption, abuse and mismanagement of government resources, overnight millions and state run corporations;

• Decision makers are operating in the dark – unable to manage and lead with any sense of conviction;

• It is no wonder why the wealth, health and state of the country’s finances are in decline.

Recognizing this is a systemic problem that needs immediate correction, it would be advisable for the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Gail Rigobert, to get on with the job of the Public Accounts Committee, as failure to do otherwise is an endorsement of corruption and abuse of taxpayer-funded services, and the mismanagement of government programs and the limited resources of the country.

The past keeps catching up with the SLP government’s mismanagement. That is why one can refer to the practice of broken promise paralysis to the deceiving of taxpayers as tax terrorism and a probable criminal offence. With political and economic gridlock, it is only a criminal government that uses and abuses the resources of the state to the disadvantage of its people.

Restoring Credibility

We live in real-time in a connected world that is very uncertain, and it is not always possible to stay away from issues affecting daily life. Progressive minded people ought not to be afraid of the political, business, and social culture; or to avoid demonstrating support for or against matters that affect daily life and that of future generations for the advancement of Saint Lucia.

To do such would be rather unfortunate. This would certainly not help to re-assure future growth and development in the country. Look around in Saint Lucia today. Local investors are not convinced of a return on their investment. People have lost trust over the country's economy; and a question mark of credibility has also been raised regarding the country's economy.

For example, how can this SLP government be credible when it harbours broken policies that lead to negative growth and hardship? How can a government be credible when it is not fiscally prudent and unable to sustain periods of economic growth?

How can a government be credible when it cannot repay its debts, and meet its current accounts obligations? How can a government encourage entrepreneurship, investment, and goodwill to the less fortunate among us when certain Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue agents of the SLP government gouge citizens with impunity, at will, with illogical reasoning?

How can a government be credible when it is unable to pay its workers in a timely manner and the ministry of infrastructure is limited in its ability to implement capital projects island-wide?

Therefore, restoring credibility is the most serious challenge ahead to change the image of Saint Lucia, and the global perception to its economic viability. And that’s why this country needs fresh thinkers, with practical ideas, tried and tested professionals and not “fantasy braggadocios” and high spenders with twisted logic.

Happy Days Ahead

In this environment of unhappiness, the LPM is determined to turn things around. However, for Saint Lucia to grow we would like to take everyone along, because when Saint Lucia grows each and every one grows.

We have to take the nation forward on the path where every citizen can take part in an event or activity to strengthen our democracy; and build a great nation. Going Green with the LPM is the viable option designed to advance a shared agenda and shared responsibility. Doing what is right and not what is popular and irresponsible, as is the norm, that is engrained within the ancient politics of both the SLP government and the shaky section of the obstructionist opposition.

This is a critical time to participate in the programs the LPM is building quietly on the ground, as we plan ahead for more ambitious national programs with our operational base and prepare to represent the way forward in the advancement of Saint Lucia.

We cannot possibly do it alone. We depend on progressive thinkers to join our ranks, and take your place to help build the community, to advocate for political representation, economic advancement and a better quality of life.

It is a good time to turn up, to show resilience like the LPM, and to be a leading edge to the growing opportunities that haven’t existed over six decades in the history of Saint Lucia.
 
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