LET’S give it to the Prime Minister. He caught almost everyone by surprise with his June 6 election date announced on Thursday night. Now, all the speculation and guessing is over and in less than three weeks, this country heads to the polls.
Dr. Anthony would have received the assurance from the Electoral officials that all was in place for the poll even while printers were still working feverishly to get materials ready as he was delivering his address to the nation..
Why so early a poll? It may have more to do with panic within the ruling party that its popularity is on the wane and it dares not risk any further deterioration, rather than the explanation by the Prime Minister that it was in the interest of ensuring “peace, stability and certainty in our country and its affairs”. Regardless, the decision is bound to rekindle the debate about a fixed date for general elections to which both major parties have now committed themselves. So this is quite likely the last time a sitting Prime Minister will have the privilege of opportunism where an election date is concerned.
We don’t see many objections to a June 6 election for the simple reason that prevailing circumstances in the country demand that St Lucians be given the opportunity, at the earliest possible time, to say who they wish to be governed by. There are too many issues affecting the lives of our people that need to be brought to public attention via the ballot box. If the government’s policies are benefitting the people and they are satisfied, they will return Dr. Anthony to office. On the other hand, if the reverse is the case, then it will be Mr. Chastanet’s United Workers Party that will prevail. In the mix will be a handful of independents who will be hoping to hold the balance of power if there is a stalemate.
What we do know, however, is that St Lucia is at a stage where it badly needs a resurgence or revitalization that can be provided either by a ruling party that undergoes serious introspection and comes up with new vigour and ideas or a new party that is fresh and bursting with enthusiasm to take the country in a different direction. In essence, we are saying that both major political parties have the opportunity to lift St Lucia out of the economic and social morass it now finds itself.
In the remaining few weeks of this campaign we will look to see whether these parties understand the needs of the country and its people at this time and we will judge them by the proposals that they put forward to the electorate to win their votes on election day. After this election, regardless who wins, it cannot be business as usual. We will need to usher in bold, new strategies to push our country forward. There are lots of opportunities that we have shied away from exploring, including in the agriculture sector that was once the bedrock of our economy.
Although the Prime Minister, as he normally does, downplayed the true extent of St Lucia’s problems on Thursday night, talking instead about gains and sacrifices made being quickly undone and reversed by “recklessness and irresponsible actions”, the truth is that this is a country with a burgeoning $3 billion public debt, record unemployment, under-performing productive sectors, a people burdened by taxation, among other ills. There a number of areas where we are either stagnant or have regressed, areas that impact the lives of the ordinary man and woman and influence their overall welfare and standard of living; health and education quickly come to mind.
The government which takes office after June 6 will have its work cut out because there is much to be done to bring real stability and progress back to St Lucia.