THE dramatic announcement by the Prime Minister of our country, that he will be instituting a Cabinet reshuffle, must have taken citizens of this country by surprise. This is in contradiction of the impression given by the Prime Minister that the Ministers of his administration have put the country on a path of economic growth, based on the increase of tourist arrivals, and the impression given is that the fiscal position of the government is performing well, without giving statistical data to support that assertion.
The boast of record tourist arrivals for St.Luica since this administration came into office is deceptive. The increases in tourist arrivals are based on cruise ships at Port Castries, who are in-transit arrivals, who stay for less than 24 hours in Port Castries. Therefore a cruise-ship passenger is a visitor who does not contribute significantly to government revenues, compared to hotel occupancy in which the government makes a huge sum from hotel occupancy taxes and foreign currency reserves. Therefore a distinction must be made in touting huge increases in the tourism sector, when those who are intransit on cruise ships for a limited number of hours, and long term visitors who spend more time at local hotels are lumped together, thus giving a distorted view of a rise in tourism occupancy levels in the country.
Therefore, the announcement by the Prime Minister that he will be instituting a Cabinet re-shuffle in the future, with no time frame, suggests that the Prime Minister is not satisfied with the performances of his ministers in their designated ministries. The Prime Minister makes a further statement that contradicts his announcement that “The changes do not come through dissatisfaction with anybody’s performance.” Why would a leader of a country want to implement a Cabinet reshuffle if the performance of the various Ministries is satisfactory?
Less than a month ago, the 22nd of February, St.Luica celebrated its 39th year of Independence, which set St.Luica on a trajectory of economic growth and infrastructural advancement, unprecedented in any of the other O.E.C.S territories.
During that period St. Lucia developed at a rapid pace, with major expansion of infrastructure, such as the Castries – Gros Islet highway, the dredging of the sand-fly and mosquito infested swamp in Gros Islet to build the Rodney Bay Marina, which has transformed the northern part of the country to the most vibrant and modern mecca of all the other O.E.C.S territories.
There was the visionary scope of a serious leader of a country who would not concentrate on musical festivities and bacchanal, but would introduce positive pursuits and endeavors with his sound economic training at the London School of Economics. He conceptualized an “Economic Tripod” which included the construction of many hotels for the tourism sector; invited manufacturers to our shores, such as the major internationally acclaimed Heineken Beer Factory, The Winera Boxing Plant, and many garment manufacturers; there was the impetus given to agriculture with the banana industry, which was so successful that the industry was referred to as “Green Gold”.
In addition, Sir John looked after the sociological needs of the citizens of St. Lucia, by establishing a number of low cost and middle income housing projects; he expanded the school stock, by building a number of Secondary and Primary Schools all over the island many of which were donated to the people of St. Lucia by the generous Mr. Leon Hess. He introduced The National Insurance Scheme, to guarantee workers financial benefits on retirement. What has Allen Chastanet contributed which is parallel to anything that Sir John has accomplished?
Despite the fact that this administration has not built, any school after almost two years in office, while they have been unable to even rectify the horrendous deterioration of schools throughout the island; What a shame.
There is no one worthy in the administration that can touch the hand of Sir John and his vision for our country. All that is in evidence are cocktail parties and Music Festivals.
Today as we examine and contemplate the actions and agenda of the current Prime Minister, it must make us as a people, to be very disturbed by the course of recent events in our country.
When one examines the arrangements made by the Prime Minister, with foreign agents such as Teo Ah Khing in the DHS agreement, in which the interests of a foreigner take precedence over the interests of citizens of a country, then in the eyes of the public there is a conflict of interest.
The intelligence and perception of the general public should never be under estimated, for they observe that the interest of foreigners or a foreign entity, take precedence over the interests of the people of St. Lucia.
The latest revelation is that the Owen King Hospital, financed by the European Economic Council (E.E.C.) has been handed over to a Cayman Island Company, to manage the operations and the dispensation of service to patients. Citizens of St.Lucia must ask the question: What is the hidden agenda of Allen Chastanet, in hiring a foreign entity to operate and manage a hospital in St.Lucia, when it is evident that there are many brilliant and highly qualified St. Lucian medical practitioners who are capable of working and managing the Owen King Hospital?
This action by Allen Chastanet must portend badly for his future as Prime Minister of this country, in which foreigners take precedence over the interest of St. Lucians in which our citizens are secondary.
These actions by Allen Chastanet, in which people are left in the dark as though we live in a Totalitarian state, suggests that the P.M.is running the business of the country as if it is his private enterprise.
The Opposition in Parliament are the representatives of the people of St.Lucia and should be consulted and informed of issues relating to the business of the State, The P.M. should not be entering into private financial arrangements with foreign entities, such as the DSH agreement, and now the contracting of a private entity from Cayman Islands, to manage the Owen King Hospital, a generous gift from the E.E.C.
This will be a financial liability of hundreds of thousands of dollars added to the operation of the hospital which will be borne by the citizens of this country.
I urge the Opposition in Parliament to appeal to the E.E.C., to conduct a forensic investigation into the financial arrangements made by the Prime Minister with the Cayman Islands Organisation, and present that report to the St.Lucia Parliament. The citizens of St.Lucia must be informed of the financial liability that the Prime Minister has imposed on the people of this country.