HOPEFULLY, three distinct narratives will have emerged from our discussions of St. Jude. This article deals with the first – ambition.
Politicians will seemingly go to any lengths to impress us, and in the case of the reconstruction of St. Jude, this has led both the UWP and SLP administrations to commit to the construction of a “state of the art” hospital in Vieux Fort.
Neither party has bothered to indicate how we are supposed to pay for it. Not only are we incapable of financing the capital cost of this hospital, but, as we have seen in an earlier article, we are equally incapable of financing its operating and maintenance costs,.
For the UWP administration of August 2011, the initial objective was reconstruction of the burnt out St. Jude. As the proposed scope and cost increased however, a decision was taken to renovate the existing facility and to construct a smaller specialist hospital on a new site.
According to the Project Manager’s handover report, “This approach was expected to guarantee the reinstatement of St. Jude Hospital completely at its original site with new and improved infrastructure”, with the proposed specialist facility intended not only to serve St. Lucia, but to also serve as a regional medical centre.
Following the change of government to the SLP in November 2011 this approach changed, the specialist medical centre was no longer under consideration, and the scope of services to be provided at the reconstructed St. Jude was expanded.
While the SLP administration is blamed for this expansion, we now know from the then Chief Medical Officer’s statements that the preference was for the existing St. Jude site to be utilized for the hospital facilities to be provided for the South. What the SLP might be blamed for is for proceeding with plans for construction without the financing being in place, a decision that led to the stop/go nature of the pace of construction and the ensuing lengthy delay in completion of the hospital.
So that, when in office, the SLP boasted that they were constructing a “state of the art” hospital. And with the UWP now in office, they too are intent on providing a “state of the art” hospital. Yet neither party has identified what “state of the art” is supposed to mean in terms of medical care.
And while in the case of the SLP their claim may be put into the political posturing and grandstanding category, the UWP has given every indication that they intend to build a new hospital for another EC$100 million.
If we take a step back from all of this though, what we find is a marked change in our appreciation of money, and in our perception of value, between the period 2013 and 2016.
In November 2013, Dr. Anthony had to go on bended knee to the Taiwanese for a loan equivalent to EC$54 million for St. Jude’s. With that loan approved, half of the funding was disbursed in January 2015, with the balance only to become available on completion of those works which that half had financed.
And if we examine the statement of project financing presented in the Project Manager’s handover report at Pg. 17, we see that our financing of this project through government bonds fell from EC$18.6 million in 2011/2012 to EC$3.6 million in 2015/2016. As Dr. Anthony reported in his budgets for that period, it had become increasingly difficult to raise funds through the sale of government bonds.
With the advent of CIP and the selling of our passports for cash in January 2016 however, suddenly we began to hear of US$100 million hotel projects. And with the change of government to the UWP in June 2016, this turned into talk of additional multi-billion US dollar development projects in the South. In the twinkling of an eye we had gone from beggar to billionaire, all on paper, only that now ECS100 million is no longer a significant sum to us.
It seems not to matter that we cannot balance our budget, but in short order, we are becoming a crude, crass and vulgar society, the attributes of a newly rich people enjoying unearned wealth as we race to the bottom.
But I would like to draw Prime Minister Chastanet’s attention to the Project Manager’s handover report, and to the statement at Pg. 10 indicating that of the EC$98 million expended so far on the project, EC$41 million has come from “Grants and Donations”.
So that as he considers construction of a new hospital in Vieux Fort, the first thing that Prime Minster Chastanet must now do is to repay all of that money to those who so kindly gave it to us. No matter how much money we now think that we have, we are not to treat our friends as if their kindness doesn’t matter.
The same applies to the new abbatoir at Beausejour, donated by the Taiwanese and now proposed for relocation to Micoud – the grant funding for the structure must be returned to the Taiwanese before relocation of the facility can even be contemplated.
As a nation, we will do the right thing.
We continue with the second narrative of St. Jude next week.