Castries, St.Lucia— The cost of operating Saint Lucia’s embassies and consulates abroad at a time when the country is in dire financial straits has come under heavy criticism from the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM).
The LPM asserts that while the government of Saint Lucia has presented an argument for belt tightening to the citizens of the country, it has not followed its own advice by minimizing the cost of operating what the LPM describes as “Saint Lucia’s largest non-productive and low-yielding bureaucratic investment outside of the country”.
For years, we have been told how crucial it is to maintain diplomatic facilities abroad. However, when one looks at the astronomical cost of maintaining our missions and consulates, including how little we have benefited from their operations over the last few years, the inconvenient truth is exposed—not only are these foreign installations bankrupting our nation but also their primary purpose may, in fact, be nothing more than a clever backdoor opening that has allowed all governments in Saint Lucia to award lucrative jobs and contracts to selected persons within the echelons or their respective political organizations.
The LPM believes that if Saint Lucians are truly concerned about where the bulk of the island’s scarce resources are being spent, including why the government seems to be faced with so many difficulties in meeting its financial obligations at home, then they need to consider the following facts:
a) The cost of “official” travel and subsistence expenses by government ministers and their entourages currently total $12.48 million annually.
b) The cost of personal housing for ambassadors and other heads of St Lucia’s missions and consulates stands at tens of thousands of dollars monthly.
c) The large salaries and personal allowances that they receive, including chauffeur-driven cars, have seldom been a topic of discussion by government officials back home.
d) The long-standing decision of the government of Saint Lucia to opt for prime real estate on which to house our missions and consulates remains a subject that the government of Saint Lucia is unable to adequately justify to a poor and struggling nation.
In these very difficult economic times in which we are living, and in which the average Saint Lucian can hardly put bread on the table, the LPM insists that Saint Lucia cannot continue to waste large sums of money on foreign missions and consulates and their diplomats, most of which (in terms of performance) have not produced economic benefit for the island.
We must find a way to restructure our entire operations abroad immediately and to usher in a modern system of diplomacy that produces trained diplomats whose primary focus is not on attaching themselves to international causes but who are capable of using their positions for attracting jobs to our shores and of operating our foreign facilities cost effectively.
The LPM says that it is able to offer some very serious advice to the government of Saint Lucia. If taken in good faith, these measures may result in millions of dollars in savings, which can then be channelled back into the island for economic reconstruction.
The LPM wishes to propose to the Saint Lucia Labour Party administration of Dr. Kenny Anthony that it considers shutting down Saint Lucia’s consulate in Miami with immediate effect and seriously considers re-evaluating the qualifications and usefulness of some of the staff currently stationed at our various missions and consulates around the world.
In addition, fiscal prudence on the part of the administration of Dr. Kenny Anthony would be demonstrated if the Saint Lucian mission in New York and other consulates could enter into agreements with member states of the OECS to share embassy spaces and to even perhaps permanently operate joint facilities in order to extend the diplomatic reach of the island and the OECS region by extension.
Finally, if the government of Dr. Anthony is serious about dealing with the islands’ deficit and economic challenges, then the LPM implore him further to tap into the vast network of Saint Lucian students studying abroad in fields such as international relations, and international business and marketing who are capable of being utilized in our missions and consulates on a voluntary or internship basis.
These are a few of the many common sense cost-cutting measures that can be employed by the government; but first, the Labour Party government must demonstrate real leadership through proving that it is disciplined enough to curb wasteful spending by agreeing to an internal audit of this vast and expensive diplomatic bureaucracy that it owns abroad.