By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate editor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — During the parliamentary session in Saint Lucia on Tuesday, when numerous motions and bills were tabled and passed, including additional borrowing in excess of EC$200 million and to authorise after the fact a US$20 million World Bank line of credit, former prime minister and minister for finance, Dr Kenny Anthony, took issue with government accountability and also the involvement of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
Debating a resolution to authorise the current prime minister and minister for finance, Allen Chastanet, to borrow US$2 million by way of a loan from the International Development Association to finance the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Guarantee Facility Project, Anthony noted:
“The member for Micoud South [Chastanet] in presenting the various resolutions tends to read the section of the motion that deals with the final resolution itself and not the entire motion.”
“Suffice it to say, however, that the motions are supposed to be read into the record of the house for all kinds of reasons, especially financial motions have to read so that it enters Hansard fully for future reference for one kind or another because the preambular clauses do have essential information that is critical and crucial and may not be always reflected in the final paragraph.”
The other matter had to do with accountability by the House of Assembly for guarantees for regional funds to be used regionally.
“There can be little question that a motion of this type should draw the approval of the collective opposition today. And there is no doubt that funding of this kind is badly needed for the small business sector.
“I hope we get reports because we are guaranteeing. We deserve reports on how this is impacting the small business sector, who are getting the loans and who are making the differences.
“What we heard from the prime minister and minister of finance was a rather elaborate machinery to create this agreement and to disburse the funds. And it was interesting that the disbursement of those funds has been removed from the governments and entrusted to a regional mechanism.
“But what been sorely lacking has been reports from regional entities as to how they have used those funds. The house is never informed. I would love if it is agreed that a report is submitted to the Parliament of Saint Lucia regarding the use of those funds and how those funds have actually impacted on the small business sector.”
Anthony also took issue with the Monetary Council of the ECCB:
“The member for Micoud South made reference to the Monetary Council appointing individuals or recommending individuals. This issue really requires some discussion.
“The Monetary Council should stop getting involved in such matters. That’s not a fiscal matter. It’s not a monetary matter. The business of the Monetary Council is to handle monetary issues. This constant habit of the Monetary Council to get involved in administration matters far removed from monetary issues has to be curtailed and brought to an end.
“The Monetary Council should spend more time looking at the challenges that the citizens of the Eastern Caribbean face over banking issues. Day by day, Saint Lucians are being abused by the banking sector.
“How many Saint Lucians who have checking accounts in banks can’t get their checks cashed unless they go to the bank themselves? These are kinds of issues that the Monetary Council should be addressing to protect Saint Lucian consumers against banking practices. Nobody is speaking for them and for years we have been arguing with the monetary council that they have to change their approach and it’s not a question of making statements about economic performance of these islands. It’s not just a question of regulating banks to know the very complex legal arrangements. But it is also a question of looking at the issues confronting day to day consumers with the banking sector.
“Now what are you getting involved in a matter like small business loans appointing people or getting involved in the administration of such a matter.
“I don’t care about the governor’s passion for small business. His passion cannot and should not translate into getting involved in the administration of such financial arrangements. There’s no need for it.
“I think this Monetary Council should be told in clear terms that this is not a monetary matter and it should not get involved in matters of this kind. Pay more attention to the hardship that ordinary consumers are enduring from the banks in Saint Lucia and indeed the region as a whole.”