Editorial

P.M’s Report Uninspiring

IMG Dr. Kenny Anthony

OBVIOUSLY feeling the heat from both the opposition and the public, Prime Minister Anthony called in the media this week for a briefing on the economy, but whether that event achieved the desired effect is questionable.

It was only five months ago, at the time of his budget presentation that the Prime Minister announced that St Lucia’s economy was “showing signs of recovery”. On Thursday, his report card indicated that the economy was “on the way to recovery”.

We cannot be certain whether it was the pressure that the Prime Minister and his government must be feeling that prompted Dr. Anthony to have this meeting with the media, but his performance was unconvincing and raised questions about his credibility. Frankly, the Prime Minister had little that was new to reveal.

Everyone knows and accepts that restoring the economy will be no picnic but St Lucians are looking for positive signs that would indicate that recovery is well and truly underway. They look for facts and figures and impact to determine that what their government is saying, they themselves can relate to from what they see before them on the ground.

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So when the Prime Minister announces increases in visitor arrivals and tells us nothing about the dollars and cents that accrued from this increase in arrivals, he is actually telling us nothing of substance because visitor arrivals on its own cannot be regarded as a serious economic indicator.

Also, here is the head of a government who in opposition publicly boasted about his ability to source official information, now telling the nation in an important economic report, that he does not have figures on the rate of unemployment but he expects that it will be “contained and will gradually reduce as investment intensifies and the economy expands.” For a Prime Minister facing a public protest march over unemployment, this is nothing but cannon fodder for his opponents.

But give the government some credit for other indicators like what was explained as the improvement in the fiscal position of the country and the declining rate of inflation, although these positives would easily be cancelled out by the Prime Minister’s own admission that the fiscal deficit is expected to widen again and that our debt stock is still high at $2.7 billion. Indeed, how can we even begin to talk about economic recovery with this millstone around our necks?

The idea of a report on the economy at this stage was a good one, but the content of the Prime Minister’s statement was uninspiring.

3 Comments

  1. Mr editor come on, somehow you have failed your reader with your analysis of the Prime Minister report on the state of the economy.
    For your enlightenment the figures released are referred to as leading indicators. Whereas unemployment figures are called lagging indicators. So please dont mix up the issues.

  2. THE ECONOMY: AT THE CORNER OF HOPE AND WORRY
    ==========================================================

    Last week the Prime Minister gave the nation a rather guardedly optimistic report on the economy. He didn’t know whether to hoot and holler about the supposed success he has had or whether to place more emphasis on his concerns about what lies ahead.

    In the end he finally told us that the economy is at long last showing signs of positive growth this year. While he did not promise better days he essentially promised days that are a little less bad than what we’ve grown accustomed to.

    The address, to my mind, was a Rorschach test where one can see what one wants to see in it. Not surprisingly the faithful say that he is gradually “winning” the battle he has been waging with the moribund economy while his detractors and opponents will say he is trying to sell us “espoir mal papai” – a false hope.

    Those of us who have paid close attention to the government’s performance vis-a-vis the economy are well aware that the Prime Minister has been seeing these “green shoots” of economic growth every six months for the last four years. The only difference this time is that he has given us a basis for his optimistic prognostications.

    He highlighted the steady growth in tourists’ arrivals both in stay-over visitors and in cruise ship visitors. He also mentioned negligible growth in manufacturing as well as in construction. In addition the well-timed commencement of the expansion of the Choc Gros Islet highway during in the election year will make believers out of the more skeptical. He also advanced the unsure growth in the global economy as another basis for his optimism.

    Astute observers of politics see the Prime Minister trying to bolster his credentials as an architect of good economic management to counter the seemingly unchallenged argument, up to this point, that he is an abject failure at this aspect of his job.

    I am not ready to give him “props” on that metric but will rather wait for a few more months to see the manifestation of his assessment of the economic outlook in the areas of jobs, a more bouyant investment climate, and the country’s financial health among other things.

    However, there is a significant segment of the population who share my ‘grain-of-salt” approach to the Prime Minister’s speech as they have not seen the manifestation of his rosy predictions in their finances and in their lives.

    Many business persons are still worried about the future prospects of their enterprise. The hope of the many chronically unemployed is simply not buoyed by the Prime Minister’s message. They want to see and experience something tangible that would counter their “been-there-done-that” ho hum attitude towards the speech.

    Of course there are many who would dismiss the speech outright as a game of political Three-card Monte. Their motivation is completely different from that of the single mother who is genuinely concerned about keeping food on the table and meeting the other needs of her children.

    They believe they have the perfect elixir for the economy and have been unabashedly peddling that argument. It seems to be the best way to hitch their wagons to the corridors of power. They know that a significant portion of the population believe that it is the vibrancy of the economy that provides the best chance for that rising tide which causes all boats to be lifted. However, many of that demographic are simply not yet convinced that their fortunes are better served by the alternative.

    As it is, according to the Prime Minister, Saint Lucia is at the corner of hope and worry and even if he holds steady and firmly to the wheel of the ship of state, due to our many vulnerabilities, the turbulent under currents of the global economy can redirect our path towards more worries.

  3. Lucia boy I would love to read an analysis from you, on how did we as a country got to that point in our development. I have been of the view that we should have gone to the IMF in 2012.

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