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SLNT SUBVENTION CUT – Govt. Cites Fiscal Challenges

CASH flow problems being experienced by the government has been identified as the cause of the removal of the $700,000 subvention to the St. Lucia National Trust (SLNT) for the 2017/2018 financial year.

Image of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet confirmed the subvention removal yesterday to reporters just before Cabinet met, prompting the Trust to call an emergency membership meeting for Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at its Pigeon Island National Landmark headquarters.

Calling the subvention removal “unprecedented, unjustified and an exceedingly unfortunate measure given its record as the country’s leading quasi-government institution for conservation,” the Trust called on all Members of Parliament to insist on the reinstatement of the subvention for the 2017/2018 period.

Noting that the loss of the subvention would greatly stymie its efforts in heritage conservation, the Trust stated in a press release yesterday that in the interim it would continue to carefully study the implications of the proposal and options available to it within the short term if the proposal is enacted.

“The Trust will also seek the support of its international partners, civil society and the entire St. Lucian populace, home and abroad, to advocate on its behalf,” it noted.

Chastanet said the subvention removal had nothing to do with the differences between his government and the Trust on the proposal of a dolphinarium for the Pigeon Island National Landmark but rather with government’s lack of money and his belief that government should be paying for the Trust’s recurrent expenditure.

“Right now, we have a cash problem in the government. We are not generating enough revenue to cover all the costs that we have. We have to prioritize where we are going to spend our money,” Chastanet said.

He explained that as a result of the country’s cash flow problems, several government and quasi-government entities were now under review, such as the St. Lucia Tourist Board, which is presently being replaced by a new entity. The Jazz Festival has now changed into a Summer Festival, while Radio St. Lucia is under review, as are the Government Printery, General Post Office, St. Lucia Marketing Board and Fisheries Department.

“So I am not vexed with the Trust,” Chastanet said, explaining that the Trust, like all entities in St. Lucia, is required to justify how it spends monies given to it.

Said Chastanet: “I’ve been elected by the people to make decisions to best benefit and re-prioritize how we are going about government’s business. There are too many St. Lucians who are suffering and who believe government has abandoned them. The decisions we make on a day-to-day basis do not reflect their needs. So we have to reprioritize how we are going to spend the money in St. Lucia, and if there was enough money to go around, this would be a non-issue.”

Image of SLNT Director, Bishu Tulsie
SLNT Director, Bishu Tulsie

He continued: “Everybody has to justify every single cent that we are spending. The government spends about $114 million a year on different entities and every single cent that we have is under review. In the case of the National Trust, the intention is that I don’t believe government should be paying for the recurrent expenditure of the Trust. So if the Trust has a business plan and wants to make an investment, then they are free to approach the government and make that request and we will invest it on the basis of the merit of the project.”

According to Chastanet, the Trust had at some time submitted a plan to Cabinet and that Cabinet was still awaiting final information on the feasibility study which seeks to convert the current museum into a conference facility.

“I’m still waiting to see whether this has financial sense,” Chastanet said.

Chastanet reiterated the subvention had nothing to do with him being upset with the Trust and seeking revenge.

“This is so far from the truth. The Trust is an advocacy group and I trust and respect them as an advocacy group and at no time has my government tried to bypass the Trust. In fact, the dolphin park investment that came went to the Trust. I did not make any pre-announcements, I did not lobby anybody. It’s for the Trust to make the decision. All I indicated to the Trust was that a vote by the membership is not a sufficient answer. You must give us in writing the pros and the cons of the project and tell us what your position is. So that when Cabinet sits down to make a decision that we have that information to put into our decision-making process,” Chastanet said.

Meanwhile, the Trust calls on the government to amend its position on withholding the 2017/2018 subvention in the national interest.

“As always, the Trust stands ready to meet with the government and seeks urgent dialogue on the matter, particularly given that it was given no opportunity to offer advice on this matter,” it stated yesterday.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio…

4 Comments

  1. Massa crocking his whip. All those who cross or think of crossing him had better heed! This is the action of a vindictive man who is submerged in his own self importance hence propensity to upset even the diehard supporters of the party. The truth is there others of achieving many of the strange actions he has taken but it seems he prefers causing debacles. The way of a folly.

  2. The SLNT needs to put on their big-boy pants.

    — The SLNT is a legal entity created through an Act: http://www.slunatrust.org/assets/content/documents/SLNT_Act.pdf

    As such, it is not some type of welfare case or, pardon the pun, some type of spoiled ‘trust fund baby’ that gets a “normal subvention”. Normal does not exist in the budgetary management of government. The SLNT needs to do a reality check.

    The St. Lucia National Trust Act, a legal creature of the Government of St. Lucia whose creation received Assention on 26th September, 1975:

    4. the objects of the Trust shall be –
    (a) the listing of buildings, objects and monuments of
    prehistoric, historic and architectural interest and places of
    natural beauty with their animal and plant life;
    (b) the listing of objects of prehistoric, historic and
    archeological interests;
    (c) the compilation of photographic and architectural records of
    the above;
    (d) to locate and to promote the preservation of buildings and
    objects of archaeological architectural, historic, artistic or
    traditional interest and the establishment of museums;
    (e) to promote and preserve for the benefit and enjoyment of
    the State of submarine and subterranean areas of beauty or
    natural or historic interest and to preserve (as far as
    possible) their natural aspect, features, animals and plant
    life;
    (f) to list the flora and fauna in the areas mentioned in
    paragraph (e) and to promote their conservation;
    (g) to make the public aware of the value and beauty of the
    State’s heritage as set out above;
    (h) to pursue a policy of preservation, and to act in an advisory
    capacity;
    (i) to acquire property for the benefit of the State;
    (j) to attract funds by means of subscription, donations,
    bequests and grants for the execution of the above objects:
    (k) to administer the Trust property for the furtherance and
    achievement of the above objects ;

    2. In this Act –
    “the Council” means the Council of the Trust
    established by this Act;
    “Minister” means the Minister responsible for subject of
    National Trust;

    Note Sections:

    — 3(1)
    — 4
    — 12
    — 16(1)
    — 17

    The SLNT has had several years to get publicly involved in fostering dialogue on these projects.

    Where had the SLNT been all these years, unseen and unheard, yet expending their yearly budget allocation on who-knows-what?

    By playing screaming-chicken-come-lately on this issue, they have lost most of their credit, much to the damage of those on both sides that you have been very happy to simply “Listen more to understand, don’t just listen to wait to be able to respond. And please don’t try and explain to me how a few Ph.D. students and grads from Country Club U who don’t understand the complex mixture of non-liner socio-economic factors at play are ever going to understand, never mind an analysis and provided the needed value-added on this project to date.

    As a legal entity of government, like any other government agency or department, there is a requirement each fiscal year to do a business plan — a plan that articulates it’s priorities in support of the government, the results that will be achieved, how these results will be measured, and a break-down of the financials required to achieve these results. Budgets for departments and agencies vary from year to year based on a number of factors. Bluntly put, each department and agency has to sing for their supper.

  3. Shortly stated, the SLNT’s response blatantly fails the sniff test.

    As only one of several particular examples of how the response fails the sniff test, the response states:

    “The Trust’s audit reports and annual reports are made available to our members annually both via email and on our website in the members’ area.”

    This is an organization funded by the taxpayers of St. Lucia. Why would audit reports not be published and not be publicly accessible?

    That would very, very strongly indicate that something is being hidden.

    The SLNT has been quietly operating under the radar and is seemingly now being selfishly co-opted for for questionable purposes. It is time to kick some rocks over and shed a light on just what the SLNT has and has not accomplished.

    In the times of fiscal challenge, tough decisions need to be made with respect to securing our economy, jobs and public safety, and how best to allocate funds. In this context, the present scrutiny of the SLNT should be both applauded and encouraged to go further.

    As voters, each has a voice and each has their unique value to add in where our nation goes and what nation we will leave for our children. Opportunities as follows:

    — Office of the Prime Minister – General: (758) 468-2166
    — PM’s Secretary: (758) 453-7352
    — Cabinet Secretary: (758) 468-2115
    — Press Room: (758) 468-2405
    — E-mail: admin@pm.gov.lc
    — Audit: E-mail: audit@gosl.gov.lc
    — Twitter: https://twitter.com/allenchastanet
    — Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/opmsaintlucia/
    — Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaintLuciaGovernment/

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