Letters & Opinion

The Billion Dollar Man And His ‘Gorgette’ Budget

“BE IT RESOLVED that the House of Assembly do adopt the Report of the Standing Finance Committee on the Estimates of Expenditure for the financial year 2015/2016 in the sum of ONE BILLION, FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FOUR MILLION, TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS ($1,464,236,000) as a charge against the Consolidated Fund and other funds of the State of Saint Lucia”.

It was certainly impressive watching the Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, execute his super –fast role, swapping from being the supplicant, pleading for a five percent cut in salaries and wages from public servants in 2014 to his 2015 mutation into “Mr. Big Spender”, just in time to present his Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the financial year 2015/2016, his Budget Statement and the Appropriations Bill. Kenny Anthony is truly the billion dollar man.

Big budget figures, it would appear, all laid out to leverage the big come – back schemes of Labour in time for the 2016 national election. Hands down, the Saint Lucia Labour Party is aiming to seize another cycle of power. Their way to continue holding onto power is to shrewdly unfurl a suite of projects and events in the upcoming months to give an orchestrated impression that their undelivered “better days” are finally here. Their sweet words and questionable claims of economic recovery, “new sprouts of growth”, and “the economy has turned the corner” and so on, ironically amount to a tighter squeeze on the pockets of the people. The Prime Minister slapped in some new fees or increased taxes in this budget; that he said arises from the non–reduction in wages and salaries.

At the moment, motorists are reeling from an announcement in the Budget Statement, delivered on Tuesday, by The Prime Minister. He not only proclaimed a revised licensing structure – moving from a two-tier system to a 10-vehicle licensing classification system, but a proposed 100 percent or more increase, in almost all the categories. Only fees for hearses and motorcycles, “M” plate passenger vans and farm vehicles will not be increased at this time.

The Prime Minister said the new increases will raise an additional $3.6 million, once again by reaching into the pocketbooks of the people. Not surprisingly, it is once more demanded that Saint Lucians have to cough up more millions, even as they already pay VAT and all other existing taxes, under a government which gives precious little back to the people. Such inconsistencies serve to significantly disprove a lot of the false optimism which was padded into the budget, and in fact, confirms that the country is still experiencing a low growth period.

The Prime Minister’s budget has essentially reshuffled the same old failures, which have heaped increasing strife on the shoulders of the public over time. The pernicious issues and concerns, which they promised to resolve, are still staring despairing Saint Lucians in the face. Notably the budget was bereft of proposed solutions for addressing climbing unemployment. It also did not articulate any innovative ideas for tackling the cycle of poverty impacting certain areas of this country. Without a doubt, the Labour government will continue singing from the same ineffective hymnal for its remaining two years in office. Truly, it is an unending struggle to stay alive under Labour.

All Labour’s bets are now focused on giving the country a cosmetic “good year”. It can be expected that the government will engage in an exercise of expansionary policy (higher government spending), in order to inject capital directly into this weakened economy. This tool can be used to address one of Labour’s most abysmal failures – which has been an inability to stimulate the contracting economy over three years. However, it comes with serious risks. Indeed risks that can sink the country deeper into debt.

In that light, observers have commented that it would seem this is the key motive behind this massive budget, which they‘ve charged against the few” peanuts” in the Treasury. Kenny Anthony’s team will imminently embark on several strategic public appearances that will be politically expedient and will supposedly bolster their image. We wait to witness the extravagant celebrations, hear the self-aggrandizing speeches and boastful rhetoric; while they cut ribbons at openings, hold sod turning ceremonies for originally UWP projects, and splatter their so–called accomplishments all over the media and via their paid public service announcements. These politically slanted activities will amount to a substantial wastage of government resources, associated with Labour’s attempts to feign productivity, economic growth, success and prosperity at this crucial time.

Labour has the effrontery to attempt to have citizens quickly forget about their sorry performance, and vote them back for another five year term. They are counting on this lofty, Mr. Big Spender budget, to radically sway the electorate to re–elect them into office. If anything is to be learnt from the history of the politics of the Labour Party, it is that they are masters of disguise of most things, including their pathetic stewardship at the helm of this country.

This administration’s dismal performance, marked by economic contraction, private sector stagnation, psychological depression and social degeneration inter alia, will not be swept under the carpet nor easily forgotten by the right thinking and responsible voters of this country. The reason for this is straight forward: “You can fool some of the people, some of the time but you cannot fool all the people, all the time.”

By Alexis B. Montgomery

3 Comments

  1. Here’s something to consider:

    Puerto Rico has about $73 billion in total debt, which is widely held by mutual funds, hedge funds and individuals, and the island needs market access to cover expenses, including more than $1.2 billion in debt service due this year.

    By selling new bonds, Puerto Rico buys itself time to try to restart the economy, plug its budget deficit and to restructure the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which owes about $9 billion.
    ————-

    Not only Puerto Rico has to struggle with a difficult economy, but take a look around the world, starting with the USA into Europe. My thinking is, these are difficult times and Kenny has done well under a difficult world-economy.

  2. Alexis B. Montgomery:-

    “You can fool some people some times but you cant fool all the people all the time”. I think you will agree that not too long ago that statement fitted the UWP government very well: it was no longer able to fool all the people all the time. I am afraid the party now have an enormous task of regaining the people’s confidence. And if I can offer my thoughts about its chances at the next general election, I will say this the signs are not good. To begin with it needs a better strategist. With the party in the hands of this over zealous blind who is devoid of imagination, creativity and originality, it is stuck in the mud. I want this man Chass to show his hand and show he and the party is ready to go to the polls by declaring which seat he will be contesting. If he vie for any safe seat I will interpret this as crudely political. Now, strictly speaking, politics is his game. Just that as a player he is no good!

  3. That serially, most of our ministers especially, the ministers of finance, have not had the benefit of a business background or orientation, and far less even anything but superficial training in economics, Saint Lucia is doomed to the usual fare of nauseating hot air camouflaged as budget presentations that are to to be taken seriously.

    Case in point: the last estimates debate. What a sham!

    Compton died without 99% of our uneducated population knowing that an Estimates Debate ought to be based on FIVE consecutive years of data. Odlum was not at all any wiser. Each Ministry must be included. Even amounts of as little as $1.00 is to be included under different heads to show interest and movement in a project to be undertaken later in the year as funds become available.

    When different sections of former ministries are moved to a different Ministry, combined, recombined, or in isolation say like moving a section from the Ministry of Education to Health, that can be followed as it should be under the same expenditure of income head too.

    Our raw youthful recruits, largely untrained civil servants have no clue regarding this it seems. The Head of the Civil Service, neither the minister in charge of the civil service all appear to be pleading abysmal ignorance too.

    Every cent spent on every health centre, hospital, salaries for posts in the Civil Service, emoluments, current and recurring expenditure for each head, for each government section MUST be shown there every year in a published volume with a four-year HISTORY of actual sums paid out and received! The historical data must show the actual sums involved.

    Only then, can one reasonably compare and call into account, why revenue may be falling or expenditure may be rising — or vice versa — strangely for just ANYTHING in government.

    Only then can ANY OPPOSITION use the estimates debate to call any government of the day into account, and ask why so much money and such poor results, or NO RESULTS are there to show for all the money that was, or has been spent. e.g., from the year 2000 to 2014. Yet there is an estimated expenditure for year 2015 showing an increase in perhaps 15%, 25%, or 100% for a budget item, if for example, that mayindeed be the case.

    We are, all of us, fools we continue to accept anything leas from ANY government that boasts transparency and accountability yet we foot the waste by paying out our tax dollars like sheep. Let us stop being idiots for all these political circus clowns for once.

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