Whilst Government last week launched its Construction Stimulus Package, there remain many questions and concerns pertaining to the management of this program and the equity of benefits to be derived. The UWP questions the effectiveness of such an initiative in the face of existing concerns which may undermine the integrity of the program.
The implementation of this program will come at a significant cost to the state as Government will be foregoing an estimated forty five million dollars in revenue thereby affecting its ability to implement projects and provide much needed services. We are of the view that such massive concessions by the Government without any assurances are ill advised and risky.
The UWP is of the view that the implementation of the Stimulus Package needs to be accompanied by appropriate mechanisms for monitoring to ensure that such a program is not manipulated. We wish to therefore offer the following suggestions:
1. That a mechanism to control the quantities of materials being imported should be instituted. This should be determined based on importation patterns over the past 12 months. Such a mechanism should be seen as an obligation given the massive concessions being provided with the forfeiture of over forty five million dollars in taxes through this initiative.
2. Random checks should be made to ensure that sale prices reflect the actual discounted price and that there is no unfair mark-up on goods.
3. Considering the fact that dealers will be refunded or accrue credit against their tax accounts from the assessment of the value of their current stock for commencement of the program, a commensurate measure should be put in place with respect to excess stock at the end of the eighteen (18) month period of the program.
4. Dealers should be debarred from using materials imported during the eighteen (18) month period of the program or current stock assessed for discount sale in any current or new construction project that is not directly related to their dealership.
5. Regulatory mechanisms should be developed and put in place as a matter of urgency to manage the implementation of the program. This is especially crucial given the fact that the state is foregoing the benefit of millions of dollars in revenue. Such mechanisms should have been put in place before the program was actually launched.
The UWP is extremely concerned at the absence of regulatory mechanisms for the program. The absence of such mechanisms creates the potential for the program to be manipulated. The UWP considers the absence of such mechanisms as grossly irresponsible on the part of the Government.
Finally the Government must assure tax payers that the Construction Stimulus Package will not be used to compensate and reward failed and aspiring politicians who have direct interest in the construction sector and as building supply dealers. These concerns abound as we are aware that some of these suspects are overseeing major construction/housing projects in which ruling party parliamentarians may have direct interest.
The opposition United Workers Party calls on public servants within the relevant Government authorities and regulatory bodies to remain vigilant in monitoring the implementation of the Construction Stimulus Package. Public Servants are called upon to maintain their professional character to ensure that the concessions offered within the CSP are not exploited by a few for selfish and personal gains.
The United Workers Party wishes to place the Government on notice that it is closely monitoring the implementation of this program. The Opposition will not hesitate to fulfil its obligation to inform Saint Lucians of any irregularities which comes to its attention.