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Stripping away the smoke screens of ideology and public relations, political leader, Philip J Pierre, in addressing the annual conference of the Saint Lucia Labour party (SLP), stated: “I am no showman, nor am I an actor, my detractors say I stammer but I rather stammer the truth than be speaking lies eloquently [a strategic commodity that points to Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and tells apart leadership traits.]”
Pierre continued: “This is who I am; Philip J Pierre is about leading a country where every citizen has a reasonable chance of reaching his or her potential; where citizens begin to respect each other for who they are not what they have; where quality health care is available to those who need it not just those who can afford it, where transparency and accountability in public affairs are encouraged not discouraged; where collaboration and cooperation are seen as strengths and not impediments to human development; where a quality education is the right of every citizen and not just that of the privilege; where corruption in government is unacceptable and treated as a scourge on the people; where our people feel no sense of alienation in their country; and where opportunity is based on meritocracy not privileged connections. This is the country I desire and this is the country I intend to lead.”
Hours before Pierre’s address, prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, told Barbadians that economic reality is now setting in, that Barbados has entered into a US$290 million extended fund facility (EFF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and at least 1,500 public workers will be laid off over the next few weeks as she seeks to turn around an ailing economy.
“Will it be seamless and absolutely perfect? Probably not. I have been around long enough to know that mistakes are made, but what is important is that if mistakes are made and they are brought to our attention that we correct them as soon as possible,” Mottley noted.
Among the principles mentioned here, there are notable aspects of leadership, communication methods and economic theories, an important force in indebted small island developing states (SIDS) and middle-income countries (MICs).
Saint Lucia is also burdened with an economy in dire straits – out of control spending and high debt levels at fiscal year-end of approximately EC$4 billion.
Recently, Prime Minister Chastanet said of SIDS and MICs (inclusive of Saint Lucia): “Economically vulnerable to ‘de-risking’ and the loss of correspondent banking relations, unable to access concessionary financing and unfairly tarnished by tax labels, Saint Lucia struggles under the weight of international frameworks that make it difficult to chart an effective path to sustainable development or even take control of its destiny.
“Saint Lucia has had two straight years of economic growth while increasing its tax revenue and it is on track to attract a record level of foreign investment.”
There is nothing new about this tale of chaos, pain and confusion that comes with profound risk, absent consistent economic growth above 4 percent annually and prudent expenditure. Even then, this requires constant vigilance on expenditures to offset scrutiny and skepticism leading to austerity measures.
Besides that, Saint Lucia is already at the point requiring the exercise of sound economic judgement and practical measures; not ballooning debt and hopeful promises, “speaking lies eloquently”.
And so, Pierre’s address stated: “The statistical measure of economic growth is of no use if the people do not benefit from it. With their claim of economic growth the truth is the majority of people are in financial distress.
“The reduction of VAT is of no significance when low-income people cannot see any reduction in supermarket prices. What is undisputed is that the government has lost much needed revenue, which could have been used to finance the health care services of our country.”
Almost inevitable, given the scale of the country financial and governance capacity, internal and external priorities, and the effects of a new economy, is thinking long-term economic stability.
The immediate concerns are that government will need to repurpose its economic advisors/council, and the current trickle-down economic theory; make structural changes, improve business and political management and advance communication and implementation to a stable economic future.
With this, Pierre captured the means to accomplish the new economy, inclusive of: “The Co-operative sector must play a bigger role in the economic life and development of our country – a people centered approach to economic development with a renewed emphasis on small and medium size enterprises.
“Moving forward we must also explore new economic activities in the Blue Economy by paying close attention to the development of a sustainable fisheries sector. This will require our tourism industry to practice sustainable waste management systems that will preserve our seas and oceans.
“[We] will ensure Saint Lucia’s carbon footprint is kept as low as is practical. We will pursue the development of a sustainable Green Economy, which will ensure preservation of our natural environment and the pursuit of alternative sources of energy that will reduce our importation of fossil fuels and environmental degradation.
“[We] will redouble efforts to draw the attention of the international community on the issues of the impact of climate change on small island developing states.
“We can transform the economy of Saint Lucia with the co-operation of the local private sector, ensuring a level playing field within the private sector and provide good governance where threats and intimidation are replaced by dialogue and compromise.”
Pierre explained further, in the direction of stability and persistent dynamic behaviour and economic change, that: “We are experiencing a systematic dismantling of the processes and institutions that were intended to support good governance.”
To rephrase the argument, with hindsight to Barbados and Saint Lucia, eliminating corruption, wastage and the operation of a modern public service, would provide savings for better public service salary and wages, debt recovery, economic development and jobs.
Indeed, with good policy and manageable shocks, sustained growth is possible. The upshot is that the wisdom of a fiscal stance combined with monetary policies and ethical responsibility, the future viability of Saint Lucia could point to a new horizon.
But one remarkable objective is the mindset, the political will and legislative muscle that Pierre’s address revealed: “One thing is certain a new constitution will adopt a zero tolerance policy towards corruption in government. Corruption deprives us of the resources that are so desperately needed to reduce poverty in our country. We will adopt a robust anti-corruption strategy by strengthening the provisions of the existing integrity legislation and provide the commission with the resources to carry out meaningful investigations.
“Politicians found guilty of corruption will receive no protection and must be punished. The poor in our midst have paid too heavily already for the corruption now taking place in 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 News Now Global analysis. He can be reached at [email protected]