A YEAR ago, the incoming UWP government’s focus seemed to be on just how much of a difference it could make in the electorate’s lives in its first 100 days in office. At the time, there was a mad rush to beat the clock to accomplish – or at least begin – as many short-term goals it possibly could to allay citizens’ fears that it could handle the job at hand.
Alas, one year has gone by and depending on whom one asks, the government has either “done its best given the variables it inherited” or “did little or nothing to improve people’s lives and future prospects”.
Understandably, government officials have already gone on record to state that many of its policies are in train to realize positive dividends either later this year or in the years ahead. One classic example is that deals made for the revival of the banana sector would result in large quantities of “green gold” being shipped to Europe sometime next year. The irony is that during the election campaign there seemed to be ready-made plans for which bananas would have been leaving Castries for Europe within a matter of weeks.
If anything, the government has found itself being on the defensive for the past year on an issue that has since precipitated widespread debate throughout the Diaspora. The Desert Star Holdings Limited (DSH) ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ project has arguably been the main issue that has kept the government on the tip of everyone’s tongue incessantly, and for good reason.
Even as the fault lines and positives of the deal become clearer each day, one wonders whether the government is placing adequate focus on other aspects of the economy. Surely, having won a general election during which a multiplicity of issues came to the fore, one must expect the government to tackle these issues head-on also, not so?
But a year later, Saint Lucians still cannot be treated at the Owen King-EU Hospital, nearly a year and a half after benefactor, the European Union, was given the assurance by the former Prime Minister that it would have been operational by the second half of last year. To compound the healthcare fiasco, the St. Jude Hospital seems far from completion while its temporary location at the George Odlum National Stadium continues to wither with rust.
Jobs are still hard to come by as many businesses are finding it difficult to keep their doors open and their balance sheets out of the red. With another batch of school-leavers set to go job hunting later this month, the problem of joblessness will be magnified, no doubt. Meanwhile, there is a virtual lack of needed social programmes to act as safety nets for the unemployed and underprivileged.
The crime situation is worsening, too, and one need not view the callous homicides the island has recorded thus far for the year as the only criminalities plaguing our communities. With frustration thick in the air, many people have now become emboldened to get by via whatever means necessary, in the process defying taboos and law enforcement with impunity.
Much of what needs to be done to bring about the change people clamoured for a year ago seems to be tied up in this year’s budget process, which finally comes to completion on June 20. However, many are already complaining that some of the changes being made either lack people participation or are destined to disadvantage the very people in whose names those changes are being brought about.
After a year in office, the current administration might well think it has done all it could to prove that it has all the right answers to change things for the better. However, it should be mindful that despite its best efforts, too many people are still questioning whether it has the right amount of focus and commitment to solving the many problems facing the country. Therefore, it’s about time that the government’s programmes and policies began to provide tangible results.