PRESS RELEASE – The announcement last week by the government of Antigua and Barbuda that it had taken decisive action to restructure and merge its various offices in New York to allow them to function as a single unit and save the country thousands of dollars in future operating costs has received a resounding ovation from the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM).
The LPM has continuously championed the cause of restructuring our nation’s embassies and consulates abroad and has, in the past, bitterly criticised the government for presiding over Saint Lucia’s largest non-productive and low-yielding bureaucratic investments outside of the country. The LPM is hopeful that the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) government will finally see the wisdom of the LPM’s long-standing arguments in favour of diplomatic reforms and act swiftly to minimise the cost of operations abroad.
The LPM is strongly of the view that the people of Saint Lucia should not have to wait until an LPM government is elected into office before sensible international business practices and a robust foreign policy are blended to achieve tangible financial profits and other opportunities for the holistic development of the country.
Therefore, fully cognizant of the fact that a growing number of our people are becoming increasingly concerned about the government’s inability to meet its financial obligations at home, the LPM wishes to once again implore the government of Saint Lucia to consider the following areas and recommendations as part of a serious and comprehensive review geared towards diplomatic reforms:
A) The cost of “official” travel and subsistence expenses of government ministers and their entourages currently totals EC$ 12.48 million dollars annually.
B) The monthly cost of personal housing for ambassadors and other heads of St Lucia’s missions and consulates currently stands at tens of thousands of dollars.
C) The exorbitant salaries and personal allowances that these ambassadors receive, including chauffeur-driven cars, have seldom been a topic of discussion by government officials.
D) The long-standing decision of the government of Saint Lucia to opt for prime real estate on which to house our consulates remains a decision that the government of Saint Lucia is unable to adequately justify to the people of our poor and struggling nation.
In these very difficult times in which the average Saint Lucian can hardly put bread on the table, the LPM insists that the country cannot continue to waste large sums of money on foreign missions and consulates and their diplomats, most of whom (in terms of performance) have produced no economic benefit for the island.
The SLP administration must immediately find a way to restructure the entire operations abroad and usher in a modern system of diplomacy that produces trained diplomats who are business savvy, and capable of using their positions to attract jobs to our shores.
The LPM further wishes to propose to the SLP administration of Dr. Kenny Anthony that it consider shutting down the Saint Lucian consulate in Miami with immediate effect given the relatively close geographic distances between the three cities in which our nation has foreign installations within the United States (Miami, New York, and Washington).
In addition, fiscal prudence on the part of the Anthony administration would be demonstrated if the Saint Lucian mission in New York as well as other consulates could enter into agreements with the member states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to share embassy spaces and even perhaps operate joint facilities in order to extend the diplomatic reach of the island and, by extension, the OECS region.
Finally, if the Anthony administration is serious about dealing with the island’s deficit and its economic challenges, the LPM implores the prime minister to further tap into the vast network of students studying abroad in the fields of international relations, international business and marketing who are capable of being utilised in our missions and consulates on a voluntary or internship basis.
These are a few of the numerous common-sense cost-cutting measures that should be employed ; however, the SLP administration must first demonstrate real leadership by proving that it is sufficiently disciplined to curb its wasteful spending by agreeing to an internal audit of the vast and expensive diplomatic bureaucracy that it owns abroad.