‘Growth by Empowerment for a Better Future’ was the theme of this year’s Budget presentation delivered by Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs, and the Public Service, Hon. Allen Chastanet. Never mind political allegiance, everyone who cared to be informed about plans for Saint Lucia’s development over the course of the next year tuned in for both the Budget presentation and the parliamentary debate which followed.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet started his presentation by thanking the people of Micoud South for their continued support and guidance, and Saint Lucians in general for the encouragement he received regularly. It didn’t take long for him to get into the heart of things – where we stood as a country; the accomplishments that had been made weighed against the policies and programmes detailed in the Manifesto of the United Workers Party (UWP). Chastanet said the preparation of the budget had made it possible to determine whether there was need for government to ‘re-double’ its efforts.
On the positive side, the prime minister noted some of the areas where Saint Lucia was making steady progress, inclusive of an eight percentage growth spike in the economy since his government had come into office. The debt to GDP rate had also been reduced, although it was still above the prudential benchmark. The prime minister reported that the debt to GDP rate had fallen from 67.7 percent in 2015, to 64.9 percent in 2018. Stayover visitor rates were up, as were cruise visitor arrivals, up from 677,000 in 2015, to 760,000 in 2018. Investors continued to look with interest in the direction of financing tourism development in Saint Lucia, there was a primary surplus, unemployment had fallen, and the fiscal deficit was within manageable limits.
On the not so good side, the Prime Minister noted that Saint Lucia was still lagging behind its ECCU neighbours in terms of Quality of Life Indices, a subjective and multidimensional concept which typically measures the quality of the various domains in life guided by individual values, goals and socio-cultural context. Emotional, physical, material and social well-being are all taken into account, and as such, the prime minister mentioned that unemployment among young people was still too high, poverty too widespread, education not necessarily meeting the needs of students or businesses, health care inadequate, and crime still a major problem.
Promising to deal with these issues ‘head on’, the prime minister’s message took on a tone of breaking free from stagnation, which he expressed, and unlocking opportunities to propel every Saint Lucian to a decent standard of living. The prime minister urged everyone to get used to doing things differently, in order for government to hit its targets, and make a difference in the lives of the people.
The Prime Minister’s Budget presentation was promising, to say the least. In last weekend’s edition of The VOICE we unpacked various aspects of this year’s Budget presentation, and we will continue to do so in the days to come, as the government continues to roll out its action plan for the Financial Year 2019/2020.