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Alternate reality hampers governance in St Lucia (commentary)

By Melanius Alphonse

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Melanius Alphonse

Melanius Alphonse

COMMENTARY – The “alternate reality” seems odd, in particular when “the vulnerable” are very much over the edge, the “reality gap” widening, misinformation on political and economic issues based on “alternative facts” and crony capitalism is just fine as long as it involves the right cronies.

Experts reaffirm that self-dealing by government officials has become standard procedure, conflicts of interest are based on one’s own calculations and image. And hypocrisy is fine, as long as it entails toeing the party line and defending the party’s view of government.

The Allen Chastanet-led administration FY2017/18 budget currently being prepared under highly uncertain economic conditions, seeks prescriptions to infrastructure investments and luring more foreign investment in a prolonged slow-growth economy.

However, social and economic statements contain no new policy direction featuring progressive elements of a substantive proposal in the making. It is now even more embarrassing to watch the House of Assembly and the Senate, with graphic images, the Chastanet-led administration seems comfortable and not ashamed to contend with.

Nonetheless, barriers to the full participation of women and children and persons of lesser means are the focus of penal and restrictive agendas, albeit the need for increased focus on research and development and programs to help people transition to STEM jobs and a transformative economy.

In view of this, the Chastanet-led administration should take the following into consideration:

First, Chrystia Freeland, PC, MP, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs:

“Canada is committed to gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls and the promotion and protection of their human rights. Women, peace and security are part of Canada’s foreign policy priorities. The active participation and leadership by women in all aspects of society is critical both at home and abroad.”

And second, Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of international development and la francophonie:

“Canada believes women are powerful agents of change and have the right to be full participants and influencers in peace and security operations. Achieving gender equality requires transforming unequal power relations and challenging social norms and gender stereotypes that limit opportunities for women and limit the full potential for a better world.”

Another thought aims to recommend reading of The Public Papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt to understand a few things in broad terms and:

“…address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.

 

“More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment. Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.”

 

Doing this would help lay out a strategy to access untapped potential, and to make Saint Lucia innovative, competitive and productive.

 

However, the proposal by national security minister, Hermangild Francis, to raise the age of consent in relation to the breakdown in the social fabric of Saint Lucia seems discordant with a strategic intent to accelerate economic growth and realize social aspiration and societal change:

 

“One of the things I want to do in discussion with the attorney general is to even look at bringing the age of consent up to about 18; too many children are having children. That is where the problem is because if you notice the people who are getting involved in crime are very young people and that means that the family has broken down so we need to correct that.

 

“In other countries like the United States and Sweden and those places where the age of consent is 18, we don’t seem to find those incidents of children being wayward.”

 

Raising the age of consent is not an incentive to recalibrate and decrease protective rackets, personal ethics, behaviour and societal ills without a change of knowledge and the development of new approaches to skills training, the enforcement of current legislation and a functional justice system.

 

Without hesitation, Chastanet sought to point out the social decay on crime as best he could by saying this is “something that has been building up for a while”, whereby “three generations of girls under the age of 16 having children and by the time they’re 18 they have two and at 21 have three — by different fathers.”

 

“These girls are coming from an impoverished background where children are growing up without parents,” Chastanet said. “I want to be able to put tougher laws in place whereby young girls who have children under the legal age will be prosecuted as would their parents.”

 

In keeping with orthodoxy a modified statement was published:

 

“Parenting is by no means an unfettered right. Parenting carries significant legal responsibilities. Parental responsibility statutes have been in effect in the United States for at least 100 years. Such is the case also in the UK.

 

“Most parental responsibility statutes punish parents for what they have not done rather than for what they have done. Since my statement last week many have sought to criticize me for what obviously was a misstatement. I misspoke when I stated that young pregnant mothers would be prosecuted. These are the victims and they would not be victimized further by facing prosecution. I should have stated that the parents of minors who get into that kind of trouble will be held legally responsible as well as others who are involved in illegalities involving underage individuals.

 

“Our hospitals, as with hospitals in most other countries, have a legal responsibility to report illegal sexual activity involving individuals below the age of consent. We must enforce and ensure these organizations are meeting those obligations.

 

“Too many of our young people in trouble are ignored until they have committed heinous crimes and are in the headlines.”

 

Threats seem everywhere these days and used as a tool to mobilize the governing base. The dangers in this speak to weakness that may very well continue to making people sceptical and insensitive to a governing majority seeking solutions.

 

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

Stoking fear is not a strategy; neither is playing upon the nation’s anxieties by frightening people with the intent to gain control. These are far too dangerous methods to lead Saint Lucia out of actual crisis.

 

In consideration of the IMF annual Article IV consultation discussions on economic developments and macroeconomic policies, 2017 mission to Saint Lucia: the unglamorous view is objective, of course, pending the larger points of “alternative facts” to “alternate reality” by government operatives:

 

“…A credible medium-term fiscal consolidation plan and a rapid implementation of the reform agenda are needed to reduce policy uncertainty and ensure the success of the authorities’ economic program.

 

“…In the meantime, the fiscal package announced by the government under the ‘Five to Stay Alive’ initiative, which includes a reduction of the VAT rate from 15 percent to 12.5 percent, will weaken the fiscal position unless measures are taken to mitigate its impact; and, by shifting the tax burden onto the tourism sector, risks having undesirable effects on competitiveness and growth.” ~ IMF2017

Conceivably, ‘alternate reality’ sheds new light on a boondoggle government!

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 NewsNow Global analysis. He can be reached at [email protected]

 

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