P.M. Promises Reduction By Late October
PRIME Minister Allen Chastanet says his government has received a report from a team of experts tasked with examining the fiscal state of his three-month old government.
The team headed by representatives from the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), was also advising the government on the extent to which it can reduce the 15 percent VAT introduced three years ago.
The ruling United Workers Party promised a reduction of the VAT during the campaign which brought it to power in June.
Chastanet said yesterday: “I only just got the report on Friday. We have another group that’s actually reviewing it from a tax perspective because I need to be able to get by in from everybody in terms of the quantum of the discount that I would like to be able to do. So I’m hoping to be able to make an announcement by the latter part of October and announce to the nation where we’re going to be going with that”
Chastanet spoke to journalists at an impromptu gathering shortly before the he sat down for an official cheque presentation from the Taiwanese Embassy.
Chastanet confessed that his government was hard pressed to fund some of the most urgent projects like the rebuilding of the St. Jude’s Hospital, funding and repairs for schools and the refurbishing of the Daren Sammy Cricket Grounds, which he said “all demand more resources than what we were given”.
He said his immediate priorities were the justice and the security systems.
Chastanet said with no Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and a backlog of over 4,000 cases, the judicial system was on the verge of disaster and he was fully intent on addressing that issue.
According to the Prime Minister, the world has downgraded St. Lucia’s human rights record and he credits the handling of the Lambirds case for that.
“We have not defended the case very well and I’m not complaining about the DPP’s office when you look at how poorly the DPP’s office is staffed. But this is not good. If you think the sanctions laid upon St. Lucia by the Leahy laws are bad, if in fact we go below a certain point when it comes to human rights in the world, all our aid will be cut off. So I’m taking this extremely seriously”
One pressing topic that he spoke on was the UWP’s progress after 100 days in office. Chastanet said all promises stated in the party’s manifesto had been fulfilled with the exception of VAT.
Another matter raised was his frequent travels abroad. Chastanet said whilst he was not looking to make himself comparable to any other prime minister, his flight history was no different to others before him.
Asked why he doesn’t simply allow the other ministers to go overseas to conduct meetings, he said: “A Prime Minister can open doors faster. So if I send another minister, it means that there is a follow up letter and a follow up meeting. When you arrive somewhere as a Prime Minister, it says a couple of things 1. It says to the people that the country is serious. 2. It helps expedite the process because it tells you that there is a priority with the country, and so I’m using the position of the Prime Minister to be able to expedite things because I know people are suffering…every day. I know in my constituency and constituencies all around St. Lucia, the frustration that people are having…they don’t have jobs, they don’t have money in their pockets and people want to see something happen.”
He also stated that most of his trips were funded by investors or agencies and not the Government of St. Lucia.
On the other hand, he disclosed that there were a few that the Government had to foot for obvious reasons, including CARICOM meetings, UN Assembly meetings and World Bank meetings.