I HAVE to admit that listening to the PM’s budget address and the Throne Speech was déjà vu for me. Nothing new in there, a duplicate of previous programs inherited from the Labour administration with no courtesy of even acknowledgment that it was not original UWP work. I compared the PM’s last speech and this one and have to admit that he deserves a failing grade on performance. This Government has clearly underperformed based on my assessment and failed to deliver on the majority of its last year’s policies.
After reviewing the PM’s 2017 speech I noted that he promised to Create Sustainable Employment. Yes, we must applaud the PM, he did create a Department of Jobs, but Youth unemployment moved from 38.4 in 2016 to 38.5 in 2017. Government was also recently beating the tables about bringing unemployment down in third quarter of 2017 to 16.8%, but sadly it went back up to 23.4 at last quarter of 2017.
PM promised Tourism Development. I’ve already dealt with this sector in detail before, however, I must point out that the PM did give his word that Fairmont in Choiseul and Range Development Black Bay would commence, but nothing yet. Thanks to the inheritance of Harbor Club, Royalton and berth expansion from the previous administration, UWP could at least pretend to have been busy working in Tourism.
The PM also promised an Agriculture-led Strategy by revitalizing the banana industry and increasing production. But what I read and heard in the Budget Debates speaks instead of unprecedented declines in banana, livestock and fish landing.
The PM also promised to improve security and justice in 2017. Unfortunately we remember the 10% increase in crime reporting at end of September 2017. To his credit though the Forensic Lab reopened, but functioning at same capacity from whence it was closed, so only drug testing is being undertaken and all else is exported. So nothing new has actually improved.
He spoke of a Border Control Service agency, no progress on this? And then there was the Hall of Justice declaration. The Government went like bulldozers to move artist from Barnard Hill and force them to relocate to Union. Government undertook feasibility study, site investigations, consultations were held with legal fraternity, plans were drawn, expenditure incurred and a year later all donors are afraid to enter into financing arrangements with this administration…. A year later, nothing to report. So what really has the PM achieved by increasing our Public Debt from 2.6% to 3.4%.
Interestingly though, I also read what was published in the VOICE newspaper two weeks ago of the 2018 Throne Speech. And one line from The Governor General speech spoke to me…
“My Government installed a Minister for Equity to be the fountain of Equity, Social Justice and Empowerment to vivify what have been antiquated and ineffective.” I’m not sure if the GG is living in the same country with me, because I haven’t yet seen equity in our society. Instead, there is the growth of a small economic oligarchy, the decline of the working classes and further marginalization of the poor.
But back to the GG’s Fountain of Equity, Spider through his portfolio he has so far overseen…
A Distress Fund a facility that served fire victims who invariably didn’t have home insurance being defunded in 2017/18, yet Minister ‘Spider’ Montoute is responsible for support to fire victims. And he was proud to stop the NICE programme as constituted because 90% of workers were labeled supporters of the Opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party and they had to be denied employment while vital care services to several communities and thousands of vulnerable citizens were put on hiatus.
While ‘Spider’ has been busy slashing social programs like the Afterschool Programme, the preliminary 2016 country poverty assessment data suggest that from 2006 to 2016 the poverty headcount fell from 28.8 to 25. 0. This is a vindication of the investment of Labour Government in social programs yet Spider is not moved.
But as the representative for Gros Islet, the GG’s Fountain of Equity has also sat quietly and allowed the National Trust to be defunded. And who can forget the halting of the Soufriere Square — a project in his Ministry which was a mere three (3) months from completion, now he has denied the people of Soufriere for almost two years employment and a recreational space. And of course the termination of the Derek Walcott Museum and Theatre project in Central Castries through his Equity Department have denied hope and opportunity to the Youth of the inner city.
Spider has been lucky enough to benefit from all the work previously done by the Labour administration including: the USAID and CDB projects secured to work with inner-city Youth at Risk of Exposure to Crime; The Social Safety net reform project which included developing a targeting tool for public assistance; plus the Labour Government in collaboration with the OECS Commission also commenced review of the Family Law Bills in 2014. The review of existing legislation relating to juvenile justice was the thrust of that project, and that process was completed in 2016. So, when I read all that the GG claimed his Government and the Fountain of Equity were doing, I was dumbfounded, because there was nothing original to the Spider in that speech. What has this Fountain of Equity being doing to earn his well-paid salary?
So it’s non performance all around.
In this administration I see a policy direction which is anti-poor, anti-middle class, pro-small economic oligarchy, anti-local, pro-FDI at the expense of local private sector. Some may argue that it is far too early to judge the policy directions of this administration, but I differ in that view as we are already in year-two and year-three begins preparation for the next elections.