What is the overall state of St. Lucia at this time, from the perspective of our government?
In the 10 months of United Workers Party rule, there has not been a single comprehensive report about the state of the nation, and one hopes that this will be rectified in the Prime Minister’s upcoming Budget Address, which will be government’s first.
The current Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Philip J. Pierre, is on record as saying that when his party demitted office last June, it left the country in good order. By now, everyone would know that this simply was not the case. But Mr. Pierre cannot be faulted for making such a statement or taking comfort in its perceived accuracy because the government has not seen it fitting to challenge his claim.
The truth is that we now have a country that is largely dysfunctional with many services and institutions that are unable to deliver to our people the remedies and relief that they require.
To many people, especially those who last June voted for change and an improved standard of living, the government has been moving rather slowly in giving effect to its mandate and fulfilling its plans and aspirations for the country. That we have many lingering issues, that much is obvious. But does anyone know the full extent of the mess that our country is now in?
We can see the unemployment. We can feel the abysmal economic and social climate but there is much more that abounds that we either cannot clearly see or tangibly feel, or simply cannot understand why such conditions exist. Like the deplorable condition of state infrastructure, especially government offices, schools etc.; like the fact that we are still unable to open two new hospitals; like the promises made to friendly countries to put our court system in order that are yet to be fully honoured.
And top of all this is the constant babel of protestors who all seem to have the cure for the conditions that are afflicting us, even if they don’t understand the gravity of task of restoration that faces us. In fact, the government finds itself pretty much in a bind when one action that it takes to achieve a particular result is interpreted elsewhere at producing pain somewhere else. The VAT reduction and the case of the NICE workers are classic examples.
The way out of the current mess must necessarily be painful. That much is clear. Try as it might, the government may well sometime soon have to give serious consideration to entering into a programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As we mentioned before, some of our sister OECS countries—notably St. Kitts and Nevis and Grenada—have done so, and have pulled themselves up, although not totally, as a result.
Just this week, a leading regional economist put to the Barbados government the idea of slashing wages of public workers instead of jobs as one remedy to that country’s economic problems. That was one idea mooted in St. Lucia just a few years ago, but discarded. Of course, neither salary or job cuts is socially or economically palatable but do our people understand that the days of having their cake and eating all of it, too, are no longer?
We believe that in St. Lucia’s case, the government would need to try to find some kind of national consensus going on the measures that need to be employed to get the country moving. But first, it must bare all to the people so that there is some understanding of just where we are at. The coming Budget will be an appropriate occasion to tell it all. We cannot move forward unless we know where we are.