THE situation facing St. Lucia today is such that the economic problems have gotten out of control. The general public is of the view that the S.L.P. administration has failed the people and the country, and should call early elections. It is clear that the public is disillusioned and are looking forward to the speedy passage of the time left in the life of this parliamentary period of twenty-four months.
By any measure this SLP government has failed to live up to its expectations and fulfil the promises it made to the electorate. Therefore the people look forward with eager anticipation to the elections to teach Labour a hard lesson.
The hard evidence that confronts us on a daily basis, is of a country in the depths of an economic crisis, which was confirmed by the government’s resident guru Jimmy Fletcher, who said in a statement to regional officials when signing an MOU, that ‘our country is going through a very serious economic crisis. Despite this, agents of the government are still engaged in lies and distortions to fool the public. Contained in the propaganda sheet NATIONWIDE of November, 15, 2014, was the following: “Day by day, month by month, year by year, this government shows how much different and better it is. Under the current Prime Minister, the government the majority voted for at the end of 2011, has simply been working day and night to ensure it delivers on its promises to make life better for all St. Lucians.’’
This is a classic ploy straight out of the handbook of Adolph Hilter’s master propagandist Joseph Goebbels, whose method was to tell lies diametrically opposite to the truth, and the lumpen proletariat (the thoughtless masses) would believe it. The NATIONWIDE editorial continued: “Every week this government announces here and everywhere, positive results of new projects being undertaken….and the leader of the main opposition party cites unemployment and job loss figures from imagined sources.”
Tell that to the hundreds on the breadline who have been laid off, and the school-leavers graduating with no hope of employment.
Instead of these sterile flights of fancy and outright delusions, the writer avoids the reality that confronts the citizens of this country, which are in direct contradiction to the claims of this delusionary scribbler. I recommend therefore, that the writer visits government’s statistics department to get the real facts and figures about job losses in the country and the decline in St. Lucia’s economic performance.
The information from the statistics department reveals that during the rule of the U.W.P. administration between 2006-20011, at the height of the global recession in 2008 which hit the leading economies of the world like a tsunami, the unemployment rate was 20.6% after five years of U.W.P. rule. Ask anyone who is honest and they will tell you that there was greater optimism in the country then, compared to the hardships, despair and gloom which exist today. Under this SLP government the unemployment rate climbed to 23.3% in 2013, and the figures obtained three months ago showed that it had reached 25% of the work force, and was expected to climb even further by year-end.
The ‘very serious economic crisis’ is due to the huge fiscal deficit, which is the difference between government revenue and expenditure, which this administration has never tried to seriously address by its extravagant spending which it has lavished on non-productive consultants and its select supporters. Prior to the elections of November, 2011, our fiscal deficit was a manageable 5% of G.D.P. under the U.W.P., which was well within the acceptable parameters of prudent economic management which any qualified economist would confirm. In its first year in office the SLP increased the fiscal deficit from $166 million to $230 million, the following financial year 2012-2013, the deficit climbed to an astronomical $328 million, or 9.5% of G.D.P., almost double in two years what the SLP inherited from the U.W.P.
This excessive spending by the SLP is what formed the basis of the plea from the government to the civil servants to take a cut of 5% in wages. But the Prime Minister’s method of imposing the cut without the approval of the civil servants, was to incorporate this measure in the Estimates of Expenditure or budget of 2013-2014. This would make the cut compulsory as long as the government with its majority passed the bill in Parliament. But Kenny Anthony did not take into account the resolve and determination of the civil servants. Inspite of the passage in Parliament, the civil servants and the T.U.F. threatened to shut down the country if the government ever dared to cut their salaries. But a weakened government could not succeed in its planned imposition, because in the minds of the civil servants were vivid images of Kenny Anthony marching up and down the country goading them to demand a 14.5% increase from the U.W.P. administration. This man definitely has no respect for the intelligence of St. Lucians.
This Monday, November 17, the government suffered another major blow with the announcement that the government negotiating team had reached a decision that wages would not be cut, instead there would be a ‘wage freeze’ for three years for the period 2013-2016.
The Chairman of the G.M.T., retired banker Chester Hinkson, made the announcement citing the hardships that such a cut would have imposed on civil servants with loans to pay and other financial obligations. Kenny and his ministers must be seething over the outcome of the negotiations. But he misjudged the Chairman who he surmised would act like a ‘puppet’ subject to the whims and demands of the Prime Minister. To his credit Hinkson conducted the task in a balanced, fair and even handed manner, and looked at the merit of the arguments presented by representatives of the workers and the government from an objective perspective to hand down such a courageous decision. It was therefore concluded that the government had no case. But the other dimension to the Chairman is that he emerges from the Hinkson family that fiercely guards its reputation and integrity. They are not for sale to any politician. This is their primary objective.
Special praise must be given to the head of the C.S.A., Mary Isaac, for her determined and resolute stand against this dictatorial regime. She has demonstrated qualities that are contradictory to the normal cowardly and docile attitude of St. Lucians. She was the epitome of coolness under the relentless onslaught of insults from government agents during her battle with the administration. The Prime Minister will never call general elections before it is constitutionally due because the cabal in government wants to plunder the state’s coffers to make as much as they can for the next two years.
We will continue to observe the Prime Minister’s behavior for the rest of this parliamentary period, and see if the Prime Minister continues to behave like a plantation master or the elected representative of the people that he should graciously serve.