|Political party says embassies and consulates are bankrupting Saint Lucia|
|Published on January 31, 2013||
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By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- The cost of operating Saint Lucia's embassies and consulates abroad at a time when the country is in dire financial straits has come under heavy criticism from the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM).
The LPM asserted that, while the government of Saint Lucia has presented an argument for belt tightening to the citizens of the country, it has not followed its own advice by minimizing the cost of operating what the LPM describes as “Saint Lucia's largest non-productive and low-yielding bureaucratic investment outside of the country”.
“For years, we have been told how crucial it is to maintain diplomatic facilities abroad. However, when one looks at the astronomical cost of maintaining our missions and consulates, including how little we have benefited from their operations over the last few years, the inconvenient truth is exposed -- not only are these foreign installations bankrupting our nation but also their primary purpose may, in fact, be nothing more than a clever backdoor opening that has allowed all governments in Saint Lucia to award lucrative jobs and contracts to selected persons within the echelons or their respective political organizations,” the LPM said.
The LPM said it believes that, if Saint Lucians are truly concerned about where the bulk of the island's scarce resources are being spent, including why the government seems to be faced with so many difficulties in meeting its financial obligations at home, then they need to consider the following facts:
a) The cost of "official" travel and subsistence expenses by government ministers and their entourages currently total $12.48 million annually.
b) The cost of personal housing for ambassadors and other heads of St Lucia's missions and consulates stands at tens of thousands of dollars monthly.
c) The large salaries and personal allowances that they receive, including chauffeur-driven cars, have seldom been a topic of discussion by government officials back home.
d) The long-standing decision of the government of Saint Lucia to opt for prime real estate on which to house its missions and consulates remains a subject that the government of Saint Lucia is unable to adequately justify to a poor and struggling nation.
“In these very difficult economic times in which we are living, and in which the average Saint Lucian can hardly put bread on the table,” the LPM insisted that Saint Lucia cannot continue to waste large sums of money on foreign missions and consulates and their diplomats, most of which (in terms of performance) have not produced economic benefit for the island.
“We must find a way to restructure our entire operations abroad immediately and to usher in a modern system of diplomacy that produces trained diplomats whose primary focus is not on attaching themselves to international causes but who are capable of using their positions for attracting jobs to our shores and of operating our foreign facilities cost effectively,” the party said.
The LPM said that it is able to offer some very serious advice to the government of Saint Lucia.
“If taken in good faith, these measures may result in millions of dollars in savings, which can then be channelled back into the island for economic reconstruction,” the party said.
The LPM suggested to the Saint Lucia Labour Party administration of Dr Kenny Anthony that it should consider shutting down Saint Lucia's consulate in Miami with immediate effect and seriously consider re-evaluating the qualifications and usefulness of some of the staff currently stationed at various missions and consulates around the world.
“In addition, fiscal prudence on the part of the administration of Dr Kenny Anthony would be demonstrated if the Saint Lucian mission in New York and other consulates could enter into agreements with member states of the OECS to share embassy spaces and to even perhaps permanently operate joint facilities in order to extend the diplomatic reach of the island and the OECS region by extension,” the LPM concluded.
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As someone who resides in the UK, I am delighted to see that someone has written on this subject. Experience has led me to believe that those working in Caribbean embassies and High Commissions are merely on one long holiday. Offices are often poorly manned, customer service skills grossly lacking, with many only engaging with their nationals living in the UK when it pleases them.
Send them home and invest the money saved in development projects to create skilled and well trained 'at home' entrepreneurs.
Ian Francis, Toronto, Ontario:
As an observer and commentator on Caribbean Affairs, I am always challenged to read and respond to the rhetoric and illogical comments offered by the Lucian Peoples Movement (LPM), This article is so silly that I have to wonder the following. In the last General Elections in St. Lucia, the LPM contested the elections and was soundly thrashed by the St.Lucia Labour Party. If my memory serves me right, the LPM was not able to muster over 200 votes. With such dismal showing in the polls and the LPM persistent and demonstrated ability that shows it lack of foreign affairs policies and the process of management of foreign affairs, I feel deeply obligated to respond to the nonsense that LPM has espoused in this article.
Certainly, Prime Minister Dr.Kenny Anthony has shown responsibility in the governance of St.Lucia by alerting nationals of the emerging economic situation, the need for belt tightening and a national collective approach toward addressing the situation. In my opinion, Dr. Anthony should be commended and the LPM should take the initiative to offer their support and demonstrate national responsibility and political savvy. LPM have miserably failed to show such responsibility but embark upon a low level of political commentary that clearly shows its misunderstanding of foreign affairs.
St. Lucia as an independent Caribbean nation has the right and responsibility to pursue its bilateral and multilateral relations with other independent global nations and international organizations. As a result of this inherent mandate, the State is required to have diplomatic and consular relations with diverse nations and where appropriate, to ensure that St. Lucia has the necessary diplomatic and consular representatives to advance its interest. To give the impression that diplomatic and consular missions are bankrupting St. Lucia is not true. LPM'S exaggeration on this matter clearly lacks credibility as it has failed to show readers a cost analysis on St. Lucia's foreign missions abroad.
In the mumbled and exaggerated article, LPM alluded to the sum of $12.48 million annually which is applied to the cost of official travel and subsistence by government Ministers and their staffers.
Given all of the above and the miserable failure of LPM to make a credible case against the government on its management of their foreign missions, it might be very beneficial to LPM to begin doing some serious groundwork in order to improve their numbers at the next general elections. LPM has nothing concrete or enticing to offer St. Lucian voters. While they have been told so by voters, they persist upon a campaign of mischief and make belief against the Anthony regime.
Finally, I agree that our Caribbean governments need to examine much closer how foreign affairs are managed both at home and abroad. Are Missions adequately staffed? Do staffers at these missions know their role and responsibilities? What cost cutting measure can be put in place?
All Caribbean governments especially those in the OECS are experiencing diplomatic nightmare and action is urgently needed to improve the situation.
In the case of St.Lucia, I am extremely doubtful as to what LPM can contribute it improve the situation. I think LPM must be recognized for what it worth. A joke Political Party.