Letters & Opinion

Promises Only Comfort Fools!

By Stephen Lester Prescott
Image: Siltation at the John Compton dam

I recently talked with someone in the public service who estimates that this Government is on track to lose projects approximately worth $900,000 million or more. Astounded, I requested details and was even more astounded.

I was advised that losses or possible losses in the future include: the Doppler Project (about $7 million), the Castries-GrosIset highway (about $150 million), the Wind Farm Project in Dennery ($30 million), the Soleil Festival 2017 (millions lost in the first year of this rebranded event, although these figures are well hidden), the John Compton Dam ($50 million), the North -South link road ($40 million), redevelopment and penalties associated with the Hewanorra International Airport project (about $63 million), land acquisition (about $200 million) and outstanding payments to people for land acquired (about $46 million).

So, while we have a Government that has failed on its performance card, we also have a Government that has readily given away millions of dollars worth of development projects intended to benefit this country.

PM Chastanet promised to bring us $1.2 billion in three years through 2,000 new hotel plants and developments. We are in Year Two, but as I revealed through my last submission on the budget assessment last week, there have been no new developments offered by this PM.

I have to admit that when I saw this year’s performance, my mind went back to the last UWP term when Mr Allen Chastanet served as Tourism Minister. I am not sure how many of you recall his promises after that election campaign, not one of the seven new hotels promised by him as a Minister was built under Chastenet’s watch — not Ritz Carlton, Sapphire Estate or Raffles; and he couldn’t even resuscitate Le Paradis.

And who can forget the $58.275 million big Black Bay land deal! Minister Allen Chastanet said the following in defense of that Black Bay fiasco at the time: “…It was an investment risk…St Lucia is in a better place…if UWP didn’t have shares then people of St Lucia would have lost more….UWP found a compromise they went for a bigger return for people in St Lucia.”

Remember Saint Lucia, that’s how he was with other people’s money!

But least you accuse me of being biased against Prime Minister Chastanet, I offer this cursory comparison of both parties’ performances after a year in office.

Now, you be the judge!

LABOUR GOVERNMENT REVIEW 2011
• VAT introduced at 15%. About 56 million was generated to fund capital and recurrent programmes.
• Repurchase of Black Bay Lands lost by the UWP Government.
• Re-introduction of STEP with year round STEP in Anse La Raye/Canaries. Launch youth employment programme and youth agricultural entrepreneurship programme.
• Programme to train and employ single mothers-SMILE through NSDC.
• National Initiative to Create Employment launched. (NICE)
• Construction of Dubonerre Bridge.
• Wasco and St Jude’s amnesty Programme provided to consumers.
• St Lucia maintained its score on the Transparency International List in ranking for corruption.
• Adjustment to the pass through mechanism to allow for three month change period for changes in fuel prices.
• Rehabilitation of the Morne Lay-By, Soufriere Lay-By and commenced work on Barre Des Isles. Slope stabilization around the island.
• Marchand Grounds redevelopment project
• Renovation of TiRocher Micoud primary Health Centres. Existing arrangements of St Jude’s hospital continued, work in progress.
• $500 Bursary Voucher for all successful Common Entrance Students, School Bus Subsidy reinstated and laptop programme introduced.
• Suspension of Common External Tariff for four years on pharmaceuticals to avoid having to pay VAT on top of the 10% import duty which existed on medicine.
• Piton Management Area kept off the World Heritage Sites in Danger List.
• Appointment of National Heroes Commission
• School plants rehabilitated around island
• Construction Stimulus Package for local industry was introduced.
• Re-introduction of school sports Programme and rehabilitation of Philip Marcellin Grounds in Vieux-Fort.
• Subsidy provided to Minibus Drivers to avoid increases in bus fare.
• Labour Code passed.
• Constituency Projects and Infrastructure launched.
• St Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival Launched and decentralized

UWP GOVERNMENT REVIEW 2016
• VAT reduction to 12.5%, the promised total eradication has not occurred yet. VAT reduction has backfired and people now have higher prices at the supermarkets and a fuel tax of $1.50 for every gallon of gas or diesel purchased.
• Leased about 1000 acres for 99 years for US1 to one foreign developer in the south.
• No new employment initiatives. However government claims credit for unemployment figures being reduced to 15% in one quarter, but unfortunately it went back up to 24%.
• A new private training school linked with a Government Minister is provided a Government grant to do training. Accreditation of this school now in question, so who knows if Taiwense taxpayers will be refunded?
• Terminated homehelp elderly care programme, farm support programme and field maintenance programme under NICE. Workers were sent home, the apprenticeship arm was retained.
• Termination of Kuwait St Lucia Government cooperation on the Gros Islet highway initiated by previous government.
• Halted the John Compton Dam and Airport re-development projects.
• St Lucia blacklisted by EU and falls on the Transparency International List in ranking for corruption
• PM has promised to reduce fuel prices, consumers wait but got additional fuel taxes.
• Gabion and rubble walls constructed in Balata and Union, retaining wall constructed in Cedars and Canaries village. Pot holing around the island.
• Micoud road rehabilitation.
• St Jude’s construction terminated and audit undertaken. Dialysis unit relocated to Owen King, the donor funded hospital is not functional yet but it maybe privatized soon.
• Terminated the laptop programme and the Fire Assistance grant. Reduced disability grants from $300 to $200 per family. Reduce and then terminated some afterschool programs.
• 24 million dollar tax exemption provided to one foreign hotelier.
• Plans of the Dolphin Park Project announced threat to ecosystem and historic landmark a concern.
• Appointment of Tourism Authority and termination of employment at tourist board.
• School rehabilitation works on hiatus and Educate Saint Lucia launched
• Launched the DSH Pearl of Caribbean for Vieux Fort, environmental, livelihood, relocation concerns.
• Foreign consultant advises that DaherMall should be turned into a coliseum and all sports facility should be retrofitted with pools.
• Removed the St Lucia National Trust subvention.
• Radio St Lucia closed, employees relieved of duties. Tourist Board staff terminated.
• Terminated the construction of Soufriere Square, Vieux Fort administrative Centre.
• Suspended St Lucia Jazz and Arts, Soleil rebranded and events taken away from locals and rebranded for hoteliers.

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