By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate editor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — Following the October 30 sitting of parliament, when former Saint Lucia prime minister, Dr Kenny Anthony, took issue with government accountability and also the involvement of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), he repeated that performance on November 20, with regard to the current management of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on the grounds that the CDB has departed from and has lost sight that the reason for its existence is to facilitate the economic development of small islands that is in the founding document.
“That is what Sir Arthur Lewis [Saint Lucia’s Nobel laureate for economics 1979] preached, when he was president of the bank,” Anthony said, alleging that the bank has long departed from that founding principle; recommending that both the CDB and the European Union “conduct an audit of their procedures”, while questioning what consultants Ernst and Young “was brought here [in Saint Lucia] to do?”
Anthony, a former finance minister, was outlining reasons why he was not supporting a motion authorising the minister for finance to borrow from the CDB an amount not exceeding US$4,927,210, consisting of a Special Funds Resources portion in the amount of US$2,463,605 and an Ordinary Capital Resources portion in the amount of US$2,463,605 for the purpose of financing the Services of consultants to conduct implementation (LABs) workshops and to set up a Performance Management and Delivery Unit.
Anthony further suggested that the “Caribbean Development Bank is doing a disservice to this island and to the region”.
“I say unashamedly that I do not support the current management of the CDB. I don’t! Why?” He argued: “Because, I do not believe that the current management of the CDB are living to what the founding fathers of the bank, and in particular, our own Sir Arthur Lewis pronounced for that bank.”
Anthony continued with a question: “Now, what does this have to do with this loan here, to finance consultants?
“There is nothing that the CDB loves more than consultancy. Every single project must have consultants, every one. It is an industry, and the CDB in particular, has the fascination for Canadian consultants. It is not often you get them appointing regional consultants, except when it suits their purposes, for example, like poverty assessment of poverty reduction, they may use a firm out of Trinidad. So, the moment the CDB sees a proposal for consultants, it lurches unto it. And by the time they are finished, they have their consultants all lined up.”
Pertaining to the rate of implementation, Anthony explained that he has had the opportunity to interact with all the major agencies at Saint Lucia’s doorsteps but there are three of those who constantly blame lack of implementation on local authorities and local personnel.
“You look at the rate of implementation, for example, of the European Union in the Caribbean, and you will discover that that rate of implementation is abysmally low.
“Every year you come to the House of Assembly, in the budget, you announce what the allocations are for and then in the course of the year you look for the results they are never there. And whenever you tackle the European Union, they always tell you that it has to do with the lack of capacity in the various governments.
“I have always contested that. Always! Why? For the very reason that the leader of the opposition mentioned, that for years that this country has invested heavily on training civil servants to design and to implement projects,” adding, “No country in the Eastern Caribbean has invested as heavily as Saint Lucia has been training its civil servants to implement, design, whatever it is, where projects are concerned.”
Anthony when on to say that he has always said to the European Union, to “do an independent audit of the procedures that [they] are utilizing to access projects and to monitor projects.”
Using the Owen King European Union (OKEU) as an example, Anthony said: “The OKEU hospital was a brainchild of the former Saint Lucia Labour party government, and that’s one of the problems today, that that hospital has now taken over eight years to bring to life.”
“One of the fundamental reasons why it has taken so long has to do with the European Union procurement processes. And the fact that, that organization was not able to respond quickly and adeptly to the various proposals and recommendations coming from the public sector functionaries in the country.
“It has nothing to do, as people assume, with lack of decision in the ministry of health, or among public officers. It had everything to do with the approach of the European Union, because among other things, in the vast majority of cases, they insisted that when this had to be created, they go out, it had to go out, to ensure that interested parties in the member state were given the opportunity to bid.”
In contrast, Anthony said, “The CDB is no different. I have always said, and I will continue to say that the CDB needs to do an audit of its procedures. It could not have been right that, after Hurricane Thomas, it took literally months and then years to obtain funding from the CDB to repair the damage caused by Hurricane Thomas.”
“This is my point,” Anthony continued, “We can do as much training as we want, of public officers and functionaries or technocrats; the problem is not with them.
“The problem is with the institutions who have responsibility to make those loans or resources available. And unless we understand that, and force the institutions to change their ways, we are going to be stuck in mud all over again.”
As to the purpose of financing the services of consultants to conduct implementation (LABs) workshops and to set up a performance management and delivery unit, what will be the results? Anthony’s thoughts were, as previously expressed, “that one of the big problems that we have with regional organizations is accountability.”
Reaffirming his dissent, “This [motion] is unnecessary. I do not believe that our civil servants should be sidelined. I believe that we have competent, well-educated civil servants. I believe we have sound technocrats in our public service. I believe that those technocrats know exactly what the country requires, but the issue has always been one of political leadership.
“With all the skills of honourable members on the other side, I would have hoped that they would be able to harness, use their political leadership to harness this vast army of skills that exist in the public service.”
“And of course, Ernst and Young was brought here [in Saint Lucia], up till now, we don’t know how much they were paid for their contribution to the budget [of Saint Lucia], which I understand that the civil servants were laughing at afterwards.
“If Ernst and Young knew what it was doing, it would never have accepted to do any contract in Saint Lucia because of conflict of interest. They are representing clients here; clients that deal with the government of Saint Lucia.”