OPPOSITION Leader Phillip J. Pierre has described the EC$1.4 billion budget presented to Parliament earlier this week by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet as “nothing more than a list of aspirations with no strategy to achieve anything”.
Mr Pierre told legislators that the tax-free fiscal package contained a “list of the usual empty promises, and with the absence of a strategy it was no surprise that there were so many contradictory statements”
He said a major area of concern for all St Lucians is the uncertain and deteriorating state of the health care system and yet Prime Minister Chastanet “gave no indication of when the national health insurance scheme, would come into force.
Mr Pierre also argued that the health insurance levy is a new tax.
“And, if as it looks, given the amount of preparatory work needed, the scheme will not be in place during this fiscal year, how then will the operation of the new OKEU hospital be funded if as he promised it will be open in the fiscal year 2018/19?,” Pierre asked.
He also reminded Parliament that the government had made similar promises about the opening of St Jude’s hospital by December 2016.
Pierre said that the government had indicated that the public debt continues to grow as a consequence of deficits from previous budgets, but according to the figures in the Social and Economic review “under his administration all the deficits increased a reverse trend from the decreasing deficits of previous years”.
He said the government had promised no new taxes, but has committed minibus drivers, fishermen, taxi drivers and other motorists to an increase in the price of gasoline by over one dollar.
He promised that a St. Lucia Labour Party would implement measures to relieve the burden of the fuel tax on the fisher folk in St. Lucia.
The Opposition Leader noted that while the government expressed concern about the negative impact of high debt servicing commitments on its ability to meet the educational and social needs of the nation, “Prime Minister Chastanet is willingly lending the proceeds of our passport sales to foreign investors at a concessionary rate of two per cent under the CIP (Citizenship by Investment Programme) while his government is borrowing at five to eight per cent in the market.”
He said that opportunities have been lost in all sectors of the economy and that over the last two years “we have lost two years of projects, two years of economic, educational, social and sporting opportunities.
According to Mr Pierre, the budgetary proposals outlined by Prime Minister Chastanet “must be considered in the context of rising deficits and lower surpluses and a widening deficit on the merchandise trade account.”