“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