THE coming year will be a special one for the government. One in which all their travels, grandiose ideas and talk of preparing a foundation for the development of the country, will have to show slate. After two and a half years in office – at the half way point in their five year term – it should now be all about showing the fruits of their labour.
But this may be harder than the government may want to admit as it will begin 2019 with considerable baggage carried over from this year, which are desperately in need of resolution. Should these issues not be resolved, then they will overshadow all the good the government may have accomplished thus far.
IMPACS, the sword over the head of succeeding governments, is one such issue the government will have to resolve one way or the other in 2019. Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, before taking office in 2016, boldly proclaimed in his party’s 2016 Manifesto, how a new UWP Government will confront the fallout from IMPACS by appointing a high level tribunal, consisting of former members of the judiciary, to review the background to and take follow up action on the IMPACS Report, with a view to recommending appropriate means of resolving the situation within the parameters of the laws of Saint Lucia.
The prime minister promised to do all of that within 100 days of assuming office. Several hundred days of being in office have proven that the government is just as helpless about IMPACS as the previous one. Where is this high level tribunal? If such a tribunal was appointed what course of action did it recommend to the government?
It took the Americans to show the government a way out of the IMPACS debacle. The American Government wants only one thing: To have the police officers named in the IMPACS Report brought before a court of law. Nothing other than that will appease the Americans and that is what the government, however reluctant it may be, will have to do in 2019.
Another heavy suitcase of problems the government will have to deal with comes from the social and economic sectors with crime associated with unimaginable violence, high unemployment – especially among the youth, poverty and the like occupying top tiers in those sectors.
These are the very same issues the government castigated the previous government on in their bid to be the ones to govern the country in 2016.
Page 70 of the UWP Manifesto summarized that economic decline and social deprivation intensified under the previous government. After two and a half years in office, can the government safely say that it has reversed the economic decline it blamed the previous government for? Can it also say that social deprivation has been wiped out since it took over the reins of government in June 2016?
One look at the crime situation in this country and the answer to the last question is easily discernible. Despite Police Commissioner Severin Monchery’s tough words that criminals will be dealt with, criminals have become even more brazen. News report after news report show how brazen they are.
Almost every single day within the past few days gun violence is reported with someone either killed or injured, whether it be innocent persons or intended targets. No one living in this country could deny that. All of a sudden the homicide count has leaped to either 43 or 44 as I write and could be higher when this piece is published. This is not glorifying crime; this is just highlighting the dismal failure on the part of the government in putting its money where its mouth is. (Read the UWP 2016 Manifesto).
Even Monchery, this week, admitted that the police force did not meet some of its intended targets for this year after it had reviewed its plans and strategies. This is not just an indictment on the police force but also on the government. While the police hierarchy is responsible for coming up with a programme to protect citizens and ensure safety within the borders of the country, such a programme depends, in large measure, on government for it to succeed. For example, the funding for such a programme comes from the government. Also crippling the police in many ways is the devil called IMPACS.
Unemployment is still at an unsatisfactory level. For instance the latest Labour survey conducted by the Statistical Department of the Government of Saint Lucia (third quarter of 2018) placed unemployment at 20.9 percent while youth unemployment stands at 38 percent.
The government will also have to deal with the widespread disappointment of citizens with the Ministries of Health and Education as it braces itself for 2019.
There is no need to rehash citizens disappointments in these two ministries as such disappointments are clearly revealed in news reports carried either on traditional or non-traditional media.
Come 2019 the government will clearly have to show that transparency, accountability and good governance are indeed the pillars on which it is standing. Too many organizations have come forth this year complaining of not being included in government’s plans for areas in which they are involved. Too many inconsistencies have spouted from the mouths of ministers to the point where they seem not to be singing from the same page.
Equally important is the need for government to show exactly where it stands in the grand scheme for the development of Vieux Fort, particularly. Has the Government of Saint Lucia signed off on the DSH Framework of Agreement or is it only the prime minister? And is it safe to say that with the prime minister’s signature on the agreement such an agreement qualifies as a government agreement with DSH?
Then there is the issue of the national debt which always seems to be on a never ending upward climb as was evident this week when the government came to parliament seeking approval to borrow EC$437,400,000.00
As one editorial in this paper once said, ‘the show must go on” and so we shall see, come next year, whether the government is all talk and no action because as the Good Book says: “By their fruits, we shall know them.”