MASSIVE SALE AT AUTO DOMAIN INC. IN CORINTH, GROS ISLET, July 15-July 20, 2019, 40% off on selected items: transmissions, engines, body, electric, brakes, filters, headlamps. Call 758-584-2621 or 758-287-2886

St Lucia government’s ‘alternative fact sheet’ (commentary)

By Melanius Alphonse

 Share This On:

unnamed-5COMMENTARY – It took seven months for the prime minister and minister of finance Allen Chastanet to sort out his administration’s economic ethos and principles. 

However, the message is: “The economy is broke, Saint Lucia is in trouble.” 

“The government was focusing on three primary areas in terms of building a new Saint Lucia, finance that deficit, the re-engineering of the public service and investment.”

But really, is this factual? How should one grasp this? Meanwhile, the combination of “alternative” and “facts”, trends towards Desert Star Holdings (DSH) and citizenship by investment (CIP). 

Historically, the prime minister’s course of action comes at a significant adverse economic cost to taxpayers and governance. 

And oftentimes, it is the unguarded posture that gives a true insight into the true nature of imperial designs that are not only outrageous but irresponsible. 

Let’s be clear! At the first press conference for the year, the prime minister said: “2017 is to tighten your seat belt and to embrace the change…” but apparently that did not apply to the ministry of finance, and the image of the country, now mired in conflict of values shrouded in secrecy and a broken justice system. 

At a press briefing, two weeks later:

“We have seen for ourselves that the country is broke. How do I know that? When the fact is that you are only spending a million dollars on road rehabilitation, on maintenance, a million dollars on maintaining hospitals; a million dollars on training in the civil service – so you have over 12,000 employees, just imagine that , and you are spending a million dollars a year on training them.” 

Addressing the UK Diaspora, January 21: 

“The government was focusing on three primary areas in terms of building a new Saint Lucia. One was the current financial situation as we continue to run a deficit government and we have been borrowing quite substantially to be able to finance that deficit, the re-engineering of the public service and investment.”

Nevertheless, in a familiar pattern, the prime minister did not offer a road map to “building a new Saint Lucia,” but sounded ill-informed and poorly advised. 

The irony is such that Dominic Fedee, minister in the office of the prime minister with responsibility for tourism, information and broadcasting, speaking in relation to Radio St Lucia said: “The country is being robbed… It is ashamed I believe, the political directorate that they would have undertaken quantum abuse of taxpayers’ monies for political purpose,” oblivious that neither he nor the prime minister understand the gravity of their over the moon comments. 

Let’s deconstruct the “alternative” and “facts”:

  • If “the country is broke”, what’s the basis for this in financial terms and what is the substantial evidence, along with the agenda moving forward?
  • If “the country is broke”, the minister of finance and his silo ministry of ministers have failed to proffer fiscal and financial reform to return to stability:
  • If “the country is broke”, who is bankrolling government’s lavish expenditure
  • If “the country is broke”, has the government filed for bankruptcy? 
  • If “the country is broke”, why the downward adjustment in VAT, numerous audits, contract buyouts, aimless traveling, hefty invoicing for routine government contracts and the awarding of no bid contracts? 
  • If “the country is broke”, is this the justification for the amendment to CIP, Saint Lucia goes cheap, supported by a bill board that reads: Come as a tourist. Leave as a citizen

    To undo the government’s communication nightmare on DSH and seduce a more receptive audience, a so-called ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ fact sheet, was produced. It quickly became nothing more than an exercise in questions and “alternative facts” designed to confuse and deceive.

For example, one question reads: What is the proposed project plan between the government and DSH?

The answer: “The Saint Lucia government has entered into a partnership with Desert Star Holdings Limited for the development of the Pearl of the Caribbean, a development plan for the south of the island.”

However, the so-called “fact sheet” was oblivious to clause 28: No partnership ~ 

“Nothing in this agreement is intended to or shall be construed as establishing or implying a partnership of any kind between the parties.”

Other question and answers contradict both DSH framework and supplementary agreements, but that is no surprise. The “fact sheet” is a real con job: a well known ploy of tyrants, to channel non-answers to their own crafty questions, without reference to the original document.

Thus, if the prime minister is truthful on “Building a new Saint Lucia”, there should have been a different perspective, an approach that is informative and inclusive. 

Currently, the best option is to renegotiate the highly asymmetrical DSH agreement into a genuine unprecedented agreement of free trade, commerce, agro-business and industry, urban and rural renewal. 

Recently, the prime minister said he is very encouraged by the number of foreign investors as well as local investors who are willing to stand up now and make things happen. 

What could this mean in terms of policy objectives? 

In “fact”, this flies in the face of the country’s ranking for doing business, current low international credibility and the insignificant appeal government has for locals and Diaspora investors, beyond political and charitable contributions.

For an “alternative” perspective he said:

“Saint Lucia is in trouble, we continue to run a deficit.” However, he “is convinced that the strategy being pursued” by his administration is the right strategy… “We are very much on pace with what we want to achieve. There is no way that the current size of our economy can yield the revenue that we need to be able to modernise Saint Lucia – to make Saint Lucia a world class destination.” 

This is a position that best serves a highly irrational argument when compared to actionable ideas and to revisit “legislation to positively set debt ceiling,” and begin the process to build a Saint Lucian brand not a charity economy. 

Still, in an effort to make the case for effective governance the prime minister said: 

“We have a public service which I do not believe is running as efficiently as it possibly can.” 

Hey, nothing new here, if one can recall, Kenny Anthony’s sudden reality: 

“The public service has incredible talent, enormous talent; when you look across the region, Saint Lucia probably has one of the highest number of graduates in its system. But the real question for us, for you, for me, is whether we are getting the best out of this huge investment we have made in those who manage the public service, and whether we are maximising the talent that is available.” 

Consequently, the crisis of management, leadership and utter incapacity of successive administrations continues. 

On the other hand, it is a well established fact that government should invest in its human resources and focus on training displaced workers for new and emerging jobs, many of which will require productivity enhancers in science, technology, engendering and maths (STEM) for new technologies that put real dollars into the pockets of workers. 

Thus, how does one justify that “the country is broke” yet indulge in the spectacle of a workshop, on best practices for effective governance, for cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of statutory bodies, and facilitated by the locally based Caribbean Governance Training Institute at the cost of US$2,000 per participant?

After all, this is the same silo management structure of government that professed to be ready to govern from day one but, seven months later, needs training at taxpayers’ expense. 

Is this not “milking the bull”? ~ Cecil Lay

In the coming months the prime minister’s political and economic policy will have to relate to globalization and geopolitical developments that further impact Saint Lucia.

Will government be able to get ahead of runaway unemployment, a substantial improvement in GDP growth and public administration efficiency? Will government continue its dependence on revenues that has entrenched corruption and the practice of policy adventurism as a substitute for broad-based relief?

Despite the obvious realization that the DSH agreement, the “alternative fact” sheet and CIP are concepts of disruption, the prime minister is misguided in using these as a basis for “building a new Saint Lucia”. 

Meanwhile, the future of the country is under a dark cloud!

 

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 NewsNow Global analysis. He can be reached at [email protected]

(3)(0)
This article was posted in its entirety as received by stlucianewsonline.com. This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of stlucianewsonline.com, its sponsors or advertisers.

5 comments

  1. Will this writer ever use his talents to point to POSITIVE things that can be teased out of the morass of negativity spewed each passing week? What's this? An essay writing competition?

    (26)(0)
  2. All I know is when I am broke I behave like I am broke. i adjust my life according to my income and cash flow. Is this Government behaving like it is broke ???? Expensive trips accumulating Sky miles . Almost a million dollars in St Judes Audit.Government vehicles all over the place night and day ,weekend and holidays on and off duty.Government workers show up to work and leave work when they want. Is that how you run a business when you are broke??

    (4)(1)
  3. Now now now Melanius, I have always enjoyed you, you may not always be on point but you are an entertaining read, but this? You are better than this. Did you even write this piece?

    I think in this article you lost objectivity and went on a sensationalist rant, which in essence a string of nice words with no real content. Asking for evidence that the government is broke, a simple google search or call to the ECCB or Min. of Finance would have given you the country's finances.

    Moving on, this post isnt to berate you. While I agree that DSH is a splendid opportunity and gives us a great opportunity to explore a new industry and expand existing ones, the deal is very one sided. Perhaps given that we are surrounded by similar beggar countries we don't even have much negotiating power as the investor has many alternative choices. Either way, DSH needs to happen (with the kinks ironed out) and the momentum in the south needs to be maintained.

    I hear you that Kenny did indeed express concern with the public service. But he proved inadequate and lacked the "cojones" to do what needed to be done. Chastenet has started trimming the fat off the public service which is a good start. Im not going to go into the economics of why the Government shouldn't be the main employer in the country.

    I also favor his decision to have a workshop for his ministers. Given our constitution and society allows any Tom , Dick and Harry to run for office many of these guys do not have the necessary ethical training. Good governance needs to be carried from the top to the bottom and echoed from the bottom to the top. I believe chastenet is trying to facilitate a culture change in the public service and i appreciate the effort.

    Regarding the STEM recommendation, I respectfully disagree. While focus on STEM will prepare our student for emerging global jobs they do not prepare them for the requirement of the saint lucian job market. We do not have the capacity or need to turn all our students into engineers, mathematicians, biochemical engineers or other highly specialized fields. While we may need a few, there is not significant demand for them and you would simply lose them to the first world countries anyway.
    What we do need are Farmers, entrepreneurs, Manufacturers, Chefs, Bartenders, Hoteliers, Fishermen, service men etc. and other jobs suited to our economy.

    Anyway man, nobody listens to this crap anyway. Arthur Lewis had been preaching this for ages, who cares really?

    (6)(1)
    • You don't know bull foot from bull cow about economics. Supply creates its own demand. If the youth get a STEM education, then they can start businesses other than offering themselves as STEM low-paid contingent independent contractors or drug peddlers. They can produce goods and services of higher value and get paid for that. That is more honest and less life threatening than selling drugs, involving by grandmothers through grandchildren getting their business cuts by being on police watch, and by gang members.

      (13)(0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.