The United Workers Party and by extension the people of Saint Lucia are appalled by revelations made by the Minister of Health Hon. Alvina Reynolds during a recent media interview, which suggest a major lapse on her part with respect to safeguarding the access to basic Healthcare by St Lucians.
During a recent interview with a local television network, the Minister admitted that her Ministry had been inundated with calls from concerned Saint Lucians complaining about the rise in the cost of medication due to the imposition of 15% VAT. The Minister went on to explain that her Ministry was in discussions with the VAT office to determine what can be done.
While we note the Minister’s effort at damage control, her efforts only helped to expose yet another glaring example of recklessness by the Kenny Anthony administration in pushing ahead with policies without careful analysis of the implications for the people of this country. The Minister’s declaration revealed that she was indeed extremely callous and incompetent in the fulfilment of her duties as the policy chief for the health sector.
Saint Lucians who are now being negatively impacted by the increase in the cost of medication would have expected the Minister to review the VAT legislation to ensure their access to medication would not have been compromised due to the new tax measure. By the Minister’s own admission she appeared to have abdicated her responsibility to read the VAT documentation or to ensure that her Ministry had undertaken the appropriate reviews ahead of the implementation of VAT.
The entire process leading to the implementation of VAT has been characterised by a haphazard and rushed approach. As a result we are now witnessing serious cracks in a system that is only two weeks old. These shortcomings have been exposed by alarms coming from the hospitality, business and manufacturing sectors and the general population.
We wish to remind the Government that it has an obligation to the poor and indigent who are the ones most in need of medication to combat their various ailments. It is these persons who have to struggle to meet the cost of insulin and high blood pressure tablets. The placement of the additional burden on these persons to pay VAT on these medications by the Government is tantamount to handing these persons a death sentence. It is clear that the SLP Government through its recent economic policy decisions has adopted a stance that is leading to the marginalization of the maléwé who they purport to represent.
The United Workers Party is of the view that any government which imposes VAT on medication is one which is void of a social conscience. It is a Government which demonstrates an aversion to the plight of the poor and dispossessed among us. Is the Government aware that the statistics show that almost 80% of the deaths in this country are as a result of chronic non communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension? Is it fair therefore, to place VAT on the vital medication for those persons? Diabetic and Hypertensive patients are the most affected as oftentimes they cannot get their medication at the public hospital nor health centres.
Given the current financial and economic situation faced by most Saint Lucians especially the poor, we again call on the Government of Saint Lucia to revisit the provisions of the new VAT legislation and to properly examine the human costs to the country. The health and welfare of our people should not be compromised or sacrificed at the altar of the financial gain to the Government.