We thought that going forward, after last year’s general elections, talk show hosts and social media influencers aligned to each political party would be less disingenuous and deceitful, and more straightforward in their comments about the economic situation in the country. How wrong we were.
Those aligned to the party in opposition have since shown that nothing will stop them from saying what they say, while those aligned with the party in power have demonstrated their willingness to over dramatise current events to make their points.
Finding middle ground in all of this could be taxing, but we have come to the understanding that in this heavily politicised country, this is how things are. This does not mean we will stay silent, however, when the antics of either side are out of sync with reality.
Take for example the much repeated hypothesis, by the aforementioned group aligned with the opposition, that government could do more to lower the cost of food and other household needs. It is all well and good to say so, but saying so without taking into account the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, COVID-19 and other global events, which have negatively impacted the world’s economy, and still do, is disingenuous, to say the least. If the opposition has a plan for lowering the costs of basic items we all consume, then, as a responsible organization, they have a duty to say how they would fund and implement such a policy. This newspaper offers its columns to responsible debate and suggestions to ameliorate the pain we are all suffering.
The twin shocks of the Russian invasion and COVID (more so the invasion), have led to a surge in prices across a broad set of energy-related and food commodities. In energy-importing economies, like Saint Lucia for example, there will be higher prices on almost everything as a result.
Higher prices will have the effect of reducing real disposable incomes, raising production costs, tightening financial conditions, and constraining policy space, effects Saint Lucia is already experiencing.
What Saint Lucians should now be asking themselves, is whether the current oil crisis can be made to benefit them if they push government to more seriously consider developing or accelerating policies for new sources of energy supply.
Will the government see the need to focus more on harnessing energy from the sun, which we have in abundance, and the wind, which we also have?
Truth be told, the economic crises from the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have worsened Saint Lucia’s vulnerability by further contracting the country’s fiscal ability to execute the economic and social programmes that will bring progress to Saint Lucians.
Saint Lucia’s current economic woes, at least a large chunk, cannot be said to be of our own making.
The June 2022 World Bank report, ‘Global Economic Prospects’, noted that “Supply disruptions of key energy commodities could severely affect a wide range of industries, including food, construction, petrochemicals, transport, and firm-level effects (Lafrogne-Joussier et al. 2022). Concerns about energy security have already prompted public policies aimed at bolstering national self-sufficiency and reducing energy prices for consumers; however, lessons from previous energy price shocks show that these policies are often costly and ineffective, compared with steps to encourage consumers to reduce demand, to substitute for other forms of energy, and to develop alternative energy sources.”
We reiterate our invitation to politicians, economists, and citizens generally to join in the discussion on the way forward. There is no doubt that hard times are upon us and disasters do not discriminate between friend and foe.