Commentary: St Lucia’s PM cannot govern: Too much looseness

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Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality. He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and News Now Global analysis. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Melanius Alphonse

With expectations of multiple demolitions of historic buildings in Saint Lucia and proposed infrastructure projects on the horizon, the confidence of the government in Saint Lucia’s economic prospects rests on developing a plan that will focus new initiatives.

But, key to capturing the business opportunities and business potential are friends, family and foreigners (FFF) specific to the informal strategy of economic power and political corruption.

Given record borrowing north of EC$1.5 billion, higher revenue and expectations for future growth outlook on specific sectors of the economy, is also projected as the best opportunities that lie ahead for Saint Lucia’s unmet needs.

Therefore it’s no surprise that the shell-shocked Guy Joseph, minister for economic development, housing, urban renewal, transport and civil aviation, and Saint Lucia’s representative on the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) board of governors [ imagine that] fits the nuances of the Pemandu EC$13 million consultancy.

Contradictions without recourse

At the November sitting of parliament, Joseph, whose vocalization is faster that he can think [logically], was summarized by opposition Member of Parliament Ernest Hilaire, stating: “He is a sac/bag of contradictions!”

MP Hilaire’s retort was in response to MP Joseph’s assertions: “Knowing what had to be done to turn the economy around, yet, is the same person who came into government and don’t know what he has to do,” adding, “if you knew what you have to do why are you having this [meaning Pemandu]?”

“It is the same MP who excoriated the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) on the pretext that they came into power and did not have a vision and they wanted to have a vision commission; yet admits in the same breath that we [the Chastanet-led administration] do not know what to do, to build a sustainable developing society by 2022. So we are hiring and spending EC$13 million for somebody to tell/assist us in what we have to do.”

But, Joseph’s uninspired confidence let the cat out of the bag, justifying the Pemandu price tag and the aspirations “to achieve a sustainable developing society,” albeit financed by CDB.

“We are dropping in the ratings! Things are not nice and proper! Projects are being delayed!”

But really, many question why Joseph is crying now, oblivious to his statement, “You just start to cry”! What’s more, his optimism about his intellectual indifference to the abuse of power, corrupt practices and the competence to execute state resources, foreign government donations and donor agencies indiscriminately.

Sullied as it is, these influence real challenges to project implementation, performance measurement, resources availability, procurement processes, audit procedures and monitoring.

This includes a newly built meat processing plant in Vieux-Fort compliments of Taiwan at approximately EC$24 million, and the Castries Comprehensive School (CCSS) a gift from the Canadian government dating back to 1974.

The lack of vision

The madness continues in an extraordinary manner, lacking good governance, a transactional Chastanet-led administration and orthodox exceptions to justify Pemandu beyond the public service and available human capital.

However, it does not take much thought process to understand the key motivation that is hell-bent on stripping away any remaining traditional and moral claim that is uniquely Saint Lucian.

It did not matter then, but years later the National Vision Commission launched April 28, 2014, to serve the country well in pursuit of the establishment of a 20-year vision and development plan for Saint Lucia vanished into thin air – in much the same way as the Planning Unit in the ministry of finance.

Clearly, not enough attention was paid to strategic planning to chart realistic expectations and create added value to a dynamic future, beyond prioritizing external influences to recycled ideas deemed relevant to Saint Lucia.

Across the island, expectations for innovative investments that represent sound opportunities do not match the best laid schemes of a development plan capable of transforming sound ideas into reality, harness resources, and create an environment where growth is sustainable and inclusive, and societal well-being is valued.

And notwithstanding the complexities of Saint Lucia’s healthcare crisis, an idle and mindless prime minister is predisposed to a photo shot showcasing the starting gate for horse-racing in Saint Lucia, illustrating his priorities. Let’s go to the races!

Alternative facts, revolving programs, projects and strategic communication – telling half-truths and outright lies reporting key economic indicators are not strong buffers against headwinds of job losses, more recently, the closure of the Blu Hotel in Rodney Bay.

Rising inflation, weak economic performance and unreal public policy are corresponding results of the inability to manage socio-economic and political risks. These are significant barriers to new approaches to high-performing development practices.

Meanwhile, the US continues to unseal indictments, Canada is cooperating by arresting the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies who is facing extradition to the US on suspicion of violating US trade sanctions against Iran, “both scenarios might get closer to Saint Lucia.”

Masking these issues with leadership that cannot inspire trust, improve performance indicators, strategic public management and create public value will continue to do Saint Lucia a grave disservice.

Diversity of though and action

New answers must be formulated. Strong leadership is required to see through the challenges of Saint Lucia’s prime minister who has admitted he does not listen; and thus, does not respect diversity of thought and action. A deficiency that’s unable to bring new ideas and the country together, opening up scenarios for innovation, business and jobs driven by technologies for the future.

Leader of the opposition Philip J Pierre made the comment that “He [Minister Joseph] never speaks truth and reason to my mind.” What’s more, this resonates as a parallel that consistently meets the characteristics of the Chastanet-led administration.

Saint Lucia is in limbo right now, taking into consideration key performance indicators and overall fiscal performance of the economy, in particular, its current account surplus, economic growth outlook and valuations.

Taken together, these consequences cite the experience with understanding the urgency to inspire confidence, strategic thinking and innovation, truth and facts heading into the future.

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