AN exchange of words over the price of fuel has erupted between the main political parties here with the Leader of the Opposition asking whether the realities of being in government are beginning to hit home for the Allen Chastanet administration.
Philip J Pierre, Political Leader of the Opposition St. Lucia Labour Party believes that the realities are hitting home pointing to the back to back increases in the price of fuel since the new government took office last month, and the government’s failure, so far, to show the hidden taxes embedded in the fuel price it claimed the previous administration had attached to the commodity.
The verbal war was powered by remarks made by Chastanet on a political platform, just days before the June 6 general elections, that on assuming office his government, almost immediately, would lower the price of fuel.
“When we were in government there were statements made that we had hidden taxes and that we were making money off fuel prices. We always held the position that government made no money on gas. When they (government) were in opposition they accused us of having hidden taxes and doing something underhand that is why the price of fuel was how, it was. We are saying that now they are in government we would like them to disclose how and have they found the hidden taxes, and whether we made money on gas apart from the $2.50 that we said all the time were the taxes on fuel,” Pierre said.
But Prime Minister Chastanet however, has defended the two increases in fuel prices since his party took over the reins of government last month saying in effect that his government had no dealings in the prices, the last increase being recorded last Monday. He assured St. Lucians that hopefully prices would decrease at the next reference period, which is the period during which fuel is imported into St. Lucia.
The price of fuel is determined via a three-week market pass-through system in keeping with the changes in international oil prices.
The Chastanet administration is arguing that the changes in fuel prices that were seen last Monday reflected developments in international oil prices over the period May 30 – July 3 of this year – a five week period, claiming that there was a two-week delay in implementing the previous price change due to the June 6 general elections. Therefore the reference period was extended by an additional two weeks to account for the delay. With regard to the first increase in prices recorded last month he said the increases were made before he became Prime Minister.
But in holding out hope for a downward spiral in fuel prices at the next reference period, which would be at the end of this month to the beginning of next month, the Prime Minister made it clear that a decrease would depend very much on what happens with international oil prices.
Chastanet is not perturbed with the opposition’s view that the realities of government are hitting home adamantly stating that his government is still on course to accomplish five of the programmes it said it would accomplish within its first hundred days in office.