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Today’s leadership and economic mess facing Saint Lucia give ample reasons to believe that our leader’s make-believe principles have a hand in creating our present situation. Citizens have been robbed of basic human dignity, freedom and justice. And into a situation of human suffering and the humiliation of unemployment that has led to economic insecurity, which threatens national security.
The Dr Kenny Anthony socialist government keeps asking for solutions, while choosing to be selective in their approach and dismissive of what the Lucian Peoples Movement (LPM) has proposed.
Meanwhile they fail to look in the mirror and recognize that they are living proof of what hasn’t worked and won’t work to get control of the economy primarily through getting government spending under control, the proper functioning of law and order and the elimination of excessive regulation and bureaucratic red tape of government service delivery, the lack of a revised tax policy and tax rate cut and, as I have repeatedly stated, the combined use of monetary policy, structural reform and fiscal stimulus, and to enable a better balance between price stability, growth and inflation in an enabling macroeconomic environment for strong investor confidence.
I’m not interested in laying blame as there is too much to go around but if the Dr Kenny Anthony socialist government continues what it’s doing, it clearly isn’t a solution that will ease our problems to reward our labour for the future and to guide the destiny of Saint Lucians.
The LPM centrist political organization
The reality is that, though the LPM are considered newcomers as a political party, approaching five years, we are not one dimensional, neither are we new to politics, business and commerce. We placed trust in ourselves and our capabilities. We find strength of individual determination and resources. And we find strength in mutual trust.
Many commentators and pundits would have preferred the LPM’s message, ideas and policy positions to have come from the other competing political organization. The cry of many is what’s next and what are the options to get the country back on track.
As far back as January 27, 2011, in my article Getting St Lucia back on track I wrote on the subject matter. Earlier this month in another article, Ideology run over by fiscal deficit I addressed further issues. However, lasting change and fiscal prudence comes from within. It is a change in mindset, practice, habits and direction that the LPM is all too familiar with.
The hallmark of the LPM is the promotion of economic growth, entrepreneurship and enterprise, and wealth creation, with a strong belief in social justice, to protection of the poor through non draconian polices. And the LPM is committed to the principles of a balanced budget that provides equal opportunity combine with an emphasis on personal responsibility. The decentralization of government power, to allow the people to become the engine that drives the governance of the country and the economy, via both public and private partnership; and investment in human development, protection of social capital, and the environment.
The LPM is simply in a central obit and a new political vocabulary that separates the politics of old, with a new movement in tune with the times. And, therefore we are a bona fide generational change that represents a defining way forward, as a centrist political organization.
Right Wing Conservative Ideology and the Leftist Socialist Model
To the right is the United Workers (UWP) right wing conservative ideology, which of late is practicing as a fairy-tale style that is uncomfortable or often unbelievable in what it advocates, and which leads one to believe that government interference contravenes an individual’s right to liberty.
Contrast this with a leftist socialist model of Keynesian economics belief and confidence in a socialist welfare state through industrial democracy and social market to nationalization of the economy, central planning, and extensive and undue government intervention in the economy. To the extent that Dr Kenny Anthony used the UWP government’s instability as a crisis to promote socialism and deficit spending, to the promise of $100 million dollars that has rendered Saint Lucians impotent.
In the political theatre of Saint Lucia, the current practice of right wing conservative ideology and the leftist socialist amount to extremism. None of which a centrist party wants a part of, as they are over their heads, both acting badly in public performances to authenticate that the usual make-believe of left and right side government can no longer gravitate on hope.
The Political Facts
Two-and-half-years of labour shock and misery is a far cry from the high expectations of en rouge, better days and socialism dependency, having sold to voters what they wanted to hear, rather than what they need to hear. The fiscal deterioration that citizens are experiencing today was not expected and, as such, something they were not prepared for.
Recently, in keeping with the hollow shell of Dr Kenny Anthony’s socialist government, he activated a delaying tactic to appoint commissions. This is a strategy used by governments when in doubt and need help. However, voters understand such and reward in kind with the power of the vote.
Of late, the conservative ideology of change is coming is equally unbelievable. It is simply stubborn ideology that is in search of a policy of restoration and rehabilitation. Such dreamland thinking is also indefensible, since it is made up of a make-believe fabric that is worn out and more suitable for biodegradable use. Thinking and believing that change can happen without collective responsibility and a leader with nothing in common with Saint Lucian people.
The storyline is that of two ideological parties are stuck in a generational style of pure old politics that is not authentic and does not rise to the current challenge to change the dynamics from a socialist government that is too fat, to a leaner government, and from decades of wasteful spending and corruption.
Unfortunately, Peter pays for Paul, as both governments have developed annual budgets that are unable to signal fiscal management plans, set medium to long term goals and a road map for future reforms.
Now that the rubber meets the road, water bills have increase by 66 percent, VAT is 15 percent, an even on ground provisions. We are paying more for electricity and public transportation. And fewer subsidies that unfairly hurt the working poor and create adverse effects on fixed incomes and the middle class’s ability to invest and grow.
This is a government that does not have its priorities in order and is ill-advised, such as the Dr Kenny Anthony’s socialist government’s decision to stop abruptly all ongoing projects upon coming into office in 2011. Rather than completing them through tighter controls, closer monitoring and reporting, while taking the tough call and making the hard choices.
Instead, mindless populism and unguarded expectations gave way to irrational exuberance.
This hurts even more, now that not one major project is capable of creating an impact on job creation, and unemployment of 24.9 percent and climbing, or to improve revenue generation. The best gig government can muster is the routine maintenance and reconstruction of roads, sidewalks, (ti-canal construction) and bridges more comparable with local government operations of old time politics. And a heartless Dr Kenny Anthony’s socialist government that takes away 5% from the wages and salaries of the poor and vulnerable under false pretence of fiscal deficit reduction for political propaganda.
The centrist recommendations on the way forward
The option on the horizon is for newness and compromise where possible. A genuine change of social and fiscal responsibility, capable of delivering service(s) with accountability and transparency, capable of speaking the truth in the face of reality that confronts modern society and capable of paying attention to the fiscal challenges and to deliver results.
To spur growth that leads to job creation, a realistic government cannot continue to compromise on fiscal consolidation. Fiscal discipline is needed to strengthen macroeconomic stability, manage account balance, price stability, increase production and efficiency, and to pay a living wage. Progressive centrists like the LPM will go further and modify the labour code to provide for a minimum level of income and the introduction of individual retirement accounts. Women in leadership are a vital connection to cement the core values of family life. Therefore, a labour system that supports a flexible work week to display citizen’s capabilities and provide a healthier quality of life, ease congestion on public infrastructure and services is an essential part of the LPM’s way forward.
We deeply believe that no one should be living in poverty or surrounded by a life of crime and lawlessness.
On January 24, 2014, in an open letter to Dr Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, the many difficult and troubling situations locally and internationally that are currently crippling Saint Lucia were outlined. In relation to national security the LPM made specific recommendations.
For many of us, seeking compromise, the sharing of ideas and providing support to come up with the best possible solutions is essentially what the LPM strives to achieve, as exemplified in our positions on foreign policy, economics, agriculture, health care, education, and sustainable socio-development issues.
Recognizing the task ahead, on February 24, 2014, we outlined specific socio-economic steps to Dr Anthony; in the publication Keynesians liberal economic days are gone, outlining actionable ideas. We believe these would help to ease supply side in agriculture and agribusinesses, ease inflation and strengthen rural economies, as well as to encourage investment in local manufacturing and the farming sector to sustain economic momentum.
While the right wing conservative ideology and the leftist socialist disagree the young people of Saint Lucia are sidelined in the development process. The LPM position on youth and entrepreneurship centers on the approach of youth consultation and the change dynamics outlined previously. Further opportunities will evolve from joint cooperation via smart centers, skills development programme(s) to harness our education complement and service centers to provide entrepreneurial, e-governance and contractual services.
The LPM remains the silver lining to advocate for the importance of improving business confidence, to kick start the economy, cleanout bottlenecks, set out reform priorities, fast approval of projects, customs and Inland Revenue clearance and business registration and incorporation. These are important to create public value in the economy and the undertaking to measure concerns of productivity and a better economic future.
It is of no value to continue doing things that do not need to be done and have no economic value, especially if it is just politically expedient.
Therefore, fiscal stimulation is important, likewise previously untapped resources are needed to fulfill Saint Lucia’s potential to build growth, economic revitalization and to improve our fiscal position.
It is always a tough call to raise money through divestment of ownership of public assets to corporations and individuals. But this conversation and subsequent acts may prove to boost growth domestic product (GDP), create new opportunities that further empower citizens on an inclusive basis, and create a culture of wealth creation.
This will require bold and decisive leadership — with a sensible plan, of course — to convert ownership or equity of statutory institutions such as Water and Sewage Company (WASCO), Saint Lucia Air and Seaport Authority (SLASPA), and Invest Saint Lucia, to fund future investments and expansion programs, including the new framework that is expected to transact the PetroCaribe oil agreement. The LPM strongly believes that an inclusive plan would better benefit citizen’s access to product(s) and services, and a return on investment (ROI) for the benefit of all.
Far removed from the politics of fear, indecision and pipe dream utterances, the LPM is grounded in real advancement, reform and a genuine commitment to the country’s growth and development. Instead of halfway solutions, right wing conservative ideology and the leftist socialist model tied together with 60 years of old time politics, government and governance that has reached a dead end.
The challenging task ahead is economic recovery and sustainable growth in infrastructure development and building towns and cities; creating public value with easier access to doing business, a refocus on agriculture and agribusiness, science technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, human and skills development especially among our youth, and the promotion of the cooperative model of inclusiveness with the offering of banking services, enhance savings and investments opportunities and a shared responsibility to the environment, universal health care and security for all Saint Lucians. To put it bluntly, the LPM offers a true experience of charisma and a spirit of optimism, with the symbol of the saw always ready to make a fresh cut towards prosperity.
Together we can make Saint Lucia great again to reach everyone’s dreams as our forebears intended when they fought for their freedom to build a new and better life. Once again, it will take a new path of collective responsibility to build up that strength to make the engine of growth work again to rebuild Saint Lucia.
The process has began and so can you, with the LPM’s number one goal — the pursuit of citizens’ happiness to live a more fulfilling live together, as History is our Lesson and Victory our Destiny.
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant. He is an advocate for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality; the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) www.lpmstlucia.com critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at [email protected]