Our current financial deficit has been in contention for quite a while. As a matter of information, successive governments have unequivocally been laying the shortfall on our costly existence as a third world nation. Metaphorically! Change of administrations has never attempted to address this deficit in their operation. For this issue why doesn’t our current prime minister release to the public a copy of the austerity measures suggested by the International Monetary Fund?
Many years ago, our neighbouring island Barbados was faced with similar circumstances, which consequently guided the then ruling administration in taking severe measures to appease both the IMF and the unbalanced state of affairs of the island. Barbados’s former Prime Minister Sir Erskine Sandiford audaciously addressed the condition by principally setting the pattern of a considerate leader when he announced to the nation that he was obligated to balance the country’s insufficiency as mandated by the IMF, by first exhibiting the conclusion, and then awesomely inviting the respective unions along with public officials in his announcement to commence austerity, with him leading by example in taking the first elemental fall with a significant cut in his salary. Then what followed through is interesting to note as this has led the Barbados government, public unions, and the Barbados dollar to tread along the road to economic stability.
Here in St Lucia we are a bit fortunate to be sharing a common currency, which is linked to a number of neighbours with one currency trading in line to the US dollar. What we in St Lucia need now is and to quote our central bank governor, the financial guru Sir Dwight, is proper prudent leadership or managers ~ like Barbados’s the late Sir Erskine, who successfully inspired and revealed great modesty, stirring his nation away from financial embarrassment, in spite of his party having to pay heavily at the national elections that followed. Sandie, as he was affectionately called by his fellow countrymen went on to become a respected national icon, first being ceremoniously knighted in recognition for his good economic strategy and then made an ambassador for his knowledge and expertise in dealing with governmental issues and I dare to mention his ability in putting country first.
Fellow St Lucians, we are now faced with a similar situation as our neighbours Barbados faced 20-odd years ago. In addition, we should cautiously stop comparing ourselves with systematically and economically advanced islands like Barbados, where the geographical sphere has given them the advantage for growth. Suffice to say, in an island of a measly 170,000 inhabitants, how did we find ourselves now having to pay for reckless officials mishandling of the economy? This government’s interest payments are projected at over 15%, as reported in the 2014/2015 estimates of expenditures, coupled with transfers somewhere between 11-12%, to cap government at 70% fixed expenditure of gross domestic product, along with other things that placed government in the red… which means many financial institution will consider our debt level as a high risk bailout.
The saving grace for the current administration will have to start with our leader asking the island for forgiveness by first publicly renouncing his acrimonious statement of threats, which he made while in opposition, to write to the international corps warning them against investing into this island. Secondly, we in St Lucia clearly need to know why we are paying back so heavily for his blunders in handling the then Rochemel affair. Thirdly, give St Lucian contractors and labourers a break to bring about sustainable benefits to the economy by basically tendering contracts to nationals to alleviate the present accumulation of silt at the Roseau Dam. Such dignifying gestures will put this island on a good balance in gaining common grounds in all apparitions.