Over the last eight months, Saint Lucians have seen the rollout of socio-economic policies which have ameliorated the lives of thousands of people, especially the poor and the marginalised. The country has witnessed a reprioritisation of expenditure with a focus on educational assistance, housing repair, diversification of agricultural produce, income support for bus drivers, training and financing for businesses, and the creation of a relatively safe environment for citizens during COVID-19.
Despite these welcomed efforts, the COVID-19 pandemic and now the Ukraine-Russia war have brought into focus the heavy cost we are currently paying for wastage, corruption and misplaced priorities of the previous administration. The poor decisions of the previous administration have led to a 24% contraction in the economy, placing Saint Lucia in the unenviable position as the sixth (6th) worst performing economy in the world. This burdensome reality is now being reflected by a 60% increase in public debt between the period 2016-2020 and a debt-to-GDP ratio of 90%.
Having issued over $185 million in Direct Finance Contracts for roads, payable in five years, and
$154 million in payables due to local vendors, the recent recommendations by the Leader of the Opposition Allen Chastanet are disingenuous and fiscally irresponsible. Chastanet’s poor economic decisions can be seen by his approach to VAT, when he reduced it to benefit big landlords while reducing the government’s coffers and government’s ability to look after the most vulnerable.
It would be useful for Hon. Allen Chastanet to seek the counsel of honest economic advisors, who should remind him of his disregard for fiscal discipline and his active part in the decline of the
Saint Lucian economy. No doubt Hon. Chastanet should remember his increase in gas taxes from $1.50 to $4.00, sometimes beyond $4.00 even though it was illegal, and his threat to place a tax on charcoal making during the height of the pandemic. He is to be reminded that the wind-farm and the LED projects which were to be funded by the CDB (infamously associated with the Pajoah Letter), long-term strategies to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, were frustrated by his administration.
The Opposition UWP must decease with its untruths and behave in a mature and responsible manner if it is to play its part as an effective opposition party, which is respectful of the intelligence of the Sain Lucian public.
It would serve the Opposition Leader and his Party well to stop its divisive and disingenuous behaviour for the country to begin its rebuilding process. As the Government continues to prudently manage the finances of the country, socio-economic interventions remain one of its priorities designed to assist citizens in their daily challenges. Let us focus on stabilising and growing the country to a place that is safe and prosperous.