As Saint Lucia moves towards “Better Days”, a campaign pledge that has proven to be both elusive and problematic for the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party to fulfill, there is a heightened sense of unease throughout the nation.
In an attempt to mask the campaign pledge the government has imploded under the weight of massive borrowing, bigger government, and a failed experimentation that advances the belief that small and struggling economies such as Saint Lucia can buy their way out of poverty, by further embracing the concepts of a welfare state, which has essentially dwarfed the aspiration of the Saint Lucian people to attain real economic advancement.
Instead of a dynamic economy that offers options to jobs, product development and opportunities where people can pursue economic advancement, Saint Lucia, under the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party and its predecessor (the United Workers Party), has become helpless in a society where governmental bureaucracy, and inconsistencies in policies, fiscal management and discipline, has frustrated thousands, and left hundreds more wondering whether this time warp that has enveloped them for decades will ever be broken.
From VAT, with all of its confusing and undefined processes, to a simple visit to government agencies, where attitudes towards the public are often condescending and rude, mounting cases of unpaid wages to workers, inflation, economic and political uncertainty, Saint Luca it seems is on edge. Once again the government bureaucracy seems undeterred that it is creating further obstacles that are deficient of common sense, thereby stifling job creation and business expansion and ignoring the needs and desires of the people, as well as the ability to solve real national problems.
This isn’t a serious approach by government for a holistic revamp of the Saint Lucian economy! What economists observe is a focus to put out little fires here and there, and more patchwork, which only serves to prolong the inevitability of what is to come.
These days, the most pressing question on the minds of Saint Lucians is when will better days come? Or is the best that Saint Lucia can ever become already here? What has changed? …. The actuality is simple.
Better days are nowhere near, not even with Santa Claus’ imminent gifts and surprise this Christmas. What is near is a stalled and declining economy, the signs of which are already everywhere, and will no doubt raise its ugly head in 2013 and beyond, if nothing seriously is done to alter the current course on which the nation has been riding for decades now.
In fact, what is very visible is the desperate need for visionary leadership with fortitude to face uncertain times and to navigate present realities; and to finally lead this nation to a progressive path of economic prosperity, something it has not experienced for a while.
Island states such as Saint Lucia, despite political daydreamers’ assertions, continues to exist in low growth, high debt, burdensome deficits and stubborn unemployment. And, given all we know now, there is nothing in place to cushion or shield the nation against economic risk and to protect its financial credibility.
Many will acknowledge that Saint Lucia’s fiscal spillage is in permanent disorder. With runaway borrowing, increased social spending, extravagant recurring expenditure, misfired stimulus packages, and non productive tax exemptions that compound the non existence of economic and political reform.
With this in mind, Saint Lucia cannot survive or even contemplate progress with Finance Minister Dr Kenny Anthony’s inability to date to show real leadership that is capable of directing the nation towards economic viability. But, it is no surprise that the political directorate does not have a plan to achieve growth and thus stabilize the economy. And to put it bluntly, no country, especially one that is unable to establish a local agricultural base adequately to meet the demands for food, can ever survive an economic recession with substantial growth.
The common cry these days is the solitude of getting used to living in a country that government is forcing its way to mortgaging the future of Saint Lucia, through unproductive recurrent expenditures and demanding a greater part of the infrastructure and economic future for its cronies.
But, the fallout will come as the masses withdraw from a political dictum that is out of touch with new economic realities and the weight of external factors that will continue to have significant impact on government revenues, its debt-to GDP ratio of 74%, increased deficits beyond 7.6% (2011/2012), and higher interest rates.
Against this state of affairs are the upward mobility of petroleum by-products, oil and natural gas, food imports, the cost of health care and education.
Quite interesting is the multiplicity of scenarios where no one should expect an economic growth near 2% for 2012/2013 or any room for numbers game near 4.4%.
That would be ridiculous, if not hilarious!
By now, one would have expected an update of the country’s economic and fiscal condition, given the government’s poor revenue performance and capital spending that is unbalanced, unsustainable and on life support. Yet, no policy decision has addressed such, much less a fiscal reduction towards a balanced budget and to direct Saint Lucia from a developing country to a developed economy by 2020.
The Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) would have implemented this with immediate effect, for there is no doubt when comparison are made between our economic vision for Saint Lucia, and that of the government, ours is one that is borne out of commonsense ideas, and void of politics, which is the only remedy for tackling the economic problems of the country.
Saint Lucia is on a slippery slide towards more tax increases and civil volatility that does not offer any latitude for optimism.
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) critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at [email protected]