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(SNO) — “What a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.”
Those words were used by Opposition Leader Philip J. Pierre to begin a statement on his Facebook profile on Saturday, Dec. 15, as he expressed his concern about the country’s rising debt, particularly the US$100 million loan from Taiwan to finance the Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project which is expected to begin in 2019.
Pierre said on Tuesday, December 11, while history was being made in plans to demolish the Parliament Building soon, the United Workers Party (UWP) government was borrowing approximately half a billion dollars in less than 24 hours.
“How many of us knew that our children yet unborn were being burdened with debt which was largely unnecessary and avoidable,” Pierre wrote.
He said the elected Opposition “chosen by thirty seven thousand and most likely considered by another twenty thousand who choose not to vote“ were informed of the decision by the government on Friday, December 7, 2018 that taxpayers would incur that debt “when only months before a budget was approved with estimates of Revenue and Expenditure”.
“Are we to believe that in May this year the government had no idea that it would be adding half a billion dollars to our debt?” Pierre asked. “Please be reminded that is not Allen Chastanet’s debt or the writer’s debt. Both of us may not be around when the country is asked to pay.”
The Castries East MP noted that there are “many disturbing and frightening aspects” of this borrowing that must be condemned as “reckless and uncaring”. He said his Facebook post will deal with only one aspect.
He then explained: “Earlier, government ministers and other surrogates were boasting of ‘growth’ predicted by the International Monetary Fund as an endorsement of the economic skill of the Prime Minister and that the Opposition were “agents of destruction and against progress.” Were the officials of the IMF mislead? If so, can we rely on the projections? Many will ask what am I talking about. Let me quote Page 5 of the IMF report dated June 2018 Article IV Consultation Page 5..
“Public Debt will increase only by the amount of the road network loan.,,,”
“Was that accurate information given to the officials? The truth is public debt includes debt of statutory boards like SLASPA and that debt had to obtain a guarantee from government and is indeed part of our national debt.
“Fact is, our National Debt was increased by two hundred and seventy million dollars. I beg the question, was the Prime Minister aware of this grave distortion of the truth? If not who will inform the IMF of that error that is indeed serious and far reaching.We can’t afford to allow party affiliations to cast such a shadow on our judgement.”
Pierre said in his next post he will deal with some other “disturbing aspects” of that borrowing.
In a press release, government had said “in order to ensure the project starts in the New Year, the Minister for Finance on Tuesday brought a resolution before the House to guarantee a loan of US$100 million from the Export–Import Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan) for the Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project on behalf of the Saint Lucia Air & Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA)”.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet explained, according to the release, “that the among the objectives of the HIA project was to alleviate the congestion during peak arrival, to implement urgent investments that will position SLASPA to take advantage of Saint Lucia’s competitive advantage as the ideal location for a hub for regional travellers, improve the earning potential of SLASPA and to expand the infrastructure of Saint Lucia and increase the capacity of the country to accommodate growth”.
Chastanet, who is also the Minister of Finance, also explained to the House of Assembly the myriad of shortcomings of the current airport, among them the inability to handle increased arrivals, the release added.
“The airport also has several inadequacies including the number of check-in counters and absence of automated check-in facilities, space allocations for the Immigration services and inadequate road infrastructure to facilitate the seamless operations of ground transportation. The tower and technical block are also in need of upgrading and the current facility poses challenges in meeting security requirements. Other issues include the inadequate seating within the departure concourse and the fact that the location of the terminal building does not allow for parking of wide bodied aircraft directly in front of the terminal.” the press release further stated.