Stay Healthy, Stay Wealthy

HEALTH care was among the many topics Prime Minister Allen Chastanet elaborated on during Monday evening’s press conference to mark his administration’s first 100 days in office. And with an amnesty on unpaid hospital fees set to take effect soon, tackling health care on a broader spectrum seems more progressive an approach than simply letting people off the hook.

Describing the current system of health care as “unsustainable”, the Prime Minister said health insurance needs to become a priority. The subject is so crucial that Chastanet is considering the OECS region having blanket coverage so as to reduce individual costs region-wide.

Undoubtedly, health care has virtually taken a back seat at our ill-equipped wellness centres and under-staffed hospitals. Public sentiments about the level of care offered at these institutions have over the years been less than favourable. Once in a blue moon, however, someone attests to having had a satisfactory experience after visiting one such institution.

But, like the adage goes, a nation’s health is its wealth. However, far too often citizens are forced to rely on private health institutions to remedy the most basic ailments because the level of service at public health institutions is nothing to shout about. Choosing the route of the private health institutions, some find, often works out better albeit pricier.

Granted that the St. Jude Hospital and Owen King-EU Hospital are still in recovery phase, the issue of accessing health care at public institutions should not be a disastrous experience. While many strides have been made to upgrade facilities, many patients still find walking into wellness centres and hospitals an unwelcome experience. That needs to change or people are going to continue getting sicker when they visit such institutions.

While the amnesty of unpaid hospital fees might seem “a humanitarian gesture”, according to the Prime Minister, people must also understand that running a sustainable heath care sector – public or private – costs money. As such, the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) might want to do more by investing more in the health care of those who funds its coffers. There seems to be a growing disparity with the benefits received from that scheme compared to the amounts paid into it.

Nevertheless, people also need to share their part of the responsibility in ensuring that the nation remains healthy by guarding their good health jealously. One would hate to think that an amnesty on millions of dollars in hospital fees becomes the norm because system like that can understandably fracture a nation’s coffers.

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    Which development paradigm will prove successful?

    Being Prime Minister of a two by four island is not as glamorous a job as one might think but the current holder of the title wants to prove us wrong. It appears that he is determined to make it glitzy.
    However the job much more arduous when the country is as polarized as ours and our expectations of government increasing exponentially every year.

    Ours is a country poor in natural, technological, and financial resources but that has never tempered the urge of our politicians to make seductive promises to the electorate while on the hustling.

    Once in office they quickly come to the realization that delivery on such promises has never been more difficult. Naturally that causes the existing credibility gap for the politician to widen even more. Case in point we have seen how the implementation date for the reduction of the VAT has been pushed back at least three times.

    When we have become wise to the modus operandi, and we should have by now, of the politician we will begin to not completely ignore the promises but focus our attention on what is pragmatically achievable and use that as the measuring rod in our determination of the government’s score card. Election promises will always be with us. We need to be smarter about them than those who make them.

    It should be clear to serious political observers that Mr. Chastanet wants to stand out and brand himself as the “Economy Prime Minister” as opposed to the “Housekeeping Prime Minister” he replaced.

    Allow me to make the distinction. Kenny Anthony was the Prime Minister whose focus was on building the infrastructure both the physical and for the facilitation of human and social development.

    While the current Prime Minister who has been a business executive and an entrepreneur for much of his life believes that the vibrancy of the economy should be given top billing.

    The philosophical orientation of both men clearly influences the approach and style of governance. One chose to see law as an agent of social change, and the shaping of the minds and sociopolitical consciousness of Caribbean youth as facilitators of that change in their respective countries?

    The other is the progeny of a local capitalist entrepreneur, has been an agent of a Caribbean capitalist entrepreneur, and graduated to becoming a local capitalist entrepreneur himself. The Liberal and Conservative philosophical sociopolitical orientation differences of the two are stark.

    What we have experienced with the advent of Kenny Anthony as Prime Minister and the Labour party forming the government was the increase in availability and accessibility of education, at the pre-primary, primary, secondary, and tertiary levels.

    There was also a steely focus on the development of physical infrastructure perhaps with the hope that such expenditure would gin up economic activity and growth by the multiplier effect.
    Thus we saw the building of roads, bridges, footpaths, schools, a few health facilities, police and fire stations etc.

    There was also some modest investment in the tourism plant and visitor arrivals increased due to a thaw in the global economy following the period of the great recession. However their inability to attract FDI in the quantum necessary and in a timely manner to positively impact the economy proved to be their downfall.

    Fortunately for the UWP administration they will benefit from these investments since they no longer have to deliver on them but must with all necessity embark on a program of continuous preventative maintenance of these physical plants all necessary for social and economic advancement.

    Of course they will have to pay the monies borrowed to invest in these capital projects and should the Prime Minister’s travels, the purpose of which we were told was to attract investment, was to bear fruit the vibrant economy that would result will provide the necessary tax revenue to make this possible. At least one hopes.

    It must become clear to the government by now that our treasury is not teeming with dollars and thus must restrict spending to activities that will redound to investment, and the completion of capital projects initiated by the last administration.

    If per chance this government is successful in making a dent on unemployment and creating economic buzz by next elections they should be able to give a good account of themselves at the polls if they are able to keep their propensity for self destruction in check.

    If the country on the whole benefits I will not begrudge them if they completed the demolition work on the SLP that we saw in the last elections.

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