By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate editor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — In an op-ed published today, opposition Member of Parliament for Castries South, Ernest Hilaire, asks the question “should we not be scared?” after reviewing the level of proposed borrowing by the government of Saint Lucia and the real cost of the Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) redevelopment project.
“Before the sitting of parliament ended though, you got the impression that the government is pushing along a trajectory which they know is fraught with danger but hoping, just hoping that it pays off,” he observed.
According to Hilaire, when added to the projected budget borrowing in the estimates for 2018/2019 (EC$300.6 million), it means the government will be borrowing just over EC$1 billion this year alone.
“And if the project borrowing is achieved, by the end this financial year in March 2019, the prime minister and minister for finance [Allen Chastanet] would have borrowed EC$1.48 billion since coming into office in June 2016,” he noted.
More importantly, most of that borrowing has not come to parliament for approval, although required by law.
In Parliament last Tuesday, opposition leader Philip J Pierre also noted the country’s “unsustainable debt path” and “careless” borrowing that is expected to exceed EC$4 billion by end of this fiscal year and projections of 81.3 percent debt to GDP ratio by 2023.
“My problem is that the government’s debt trajectory is becoming very, very dangerous. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has made the point that Saint Lucia is in problems in the medium to long term… and we are not seeing the surpluses to be able to deal with that borrowing. We are not generating enough surpluses and our deficits are increasing all the time,” Pierre pointed out.