While appealing to citizens to play their part to help rid the country of criminal elements and their illegal and sometimes ruthless behaviours, Prime Minister Phillip Pierre reiterated that “crime is everyone’s business.”
In an address to the nation, Sunday, the prime minster touched on several critical issues that the country needs to deal with.
Among more pressing issues noted were, charting a course for the recovery process from the pandemic, tackling crime and sustaining the socio-economic equilibrium of the nation, which remains a top priority for the Pierre –led St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) government.
He called for citizens to “strive for a Saint Lucia where every child will have an opportunity to realize their true potential with the support of family, community, and the State,” while government strives to provide opportunities for all, especially the less fortunate and marginalized within the communities.
“The year 2022 continued to pose economic and social challenges locally, regionally, and globally. However, collectively, we have faced every challenge, matched every adversity, and assisted the more deserving and marginalized citizens in our country,” declared PM Pierre.
Recalling the impact and preparations made “for the onslaught of the fifth wave of the Covid-19 Omicron variant in our country,’ the National Security Minister said it was also “a very difficult and uncertain period for our country, with an economy that had been severely affected for two years.”
However, he added, “we persevered with the task of combating the Omicron variant and by the second half of 2022, the situation with virus spread and hospitalization of patients had improved to manageable levels which allowed us to remove the health restrictions and for society to return to normalcy.”
PM Pierre shed some light on the issue of The Economy, stating that: “The good news is, we ended 2022 in a much better place than where we started. We have entered 2023 with renewed optimism for the prospects of our economic growth.”
He said the country had faced several challenges on the way to recovery including: a global economic crisis fueled by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine War which triggered worldwide inflation and skyrocketing prices on supermarket shelves and at fuel pumps, and more recently, last November, where sudden heavy rainfall and flooding in the north of the island resulted in millions of dollars in damages.
In this latter situation, government stepped in with an allocation of over $1M to assist affected residents.
Pierre noted that despite these difficult times and raging challenges, “we have kept to our mantra of ‘Putting People First’, and have delivered on many of our promises to you as outlined in our manifesto, and my maiden Budget Address in April 2022. Most importantly, we have nurtured the economy back from an unsustainable and potentially destructive path and have laid the foundation for renewed growth.”
Underlying the extent of works undertaken to leverage the state’s affairs, PM Pierre added: “We have done so by attracting solid and dependable investments in our tourism sector, stopped the irresponsible and reckless spending, primed and stimulated the economy to keep it afloat, and stabilized the country’s finances.”
With prospects for a resurgent economy, the prime minister asserted: “According to the economic projections of the Ministry of Finance and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), we are on course to record between 5 to 7 percent GDP growth in 2022.”
He further stated that, “the stark reality’” is there are economic challenges being experienced the world over, and government has been responding with “limited resources to combat globally imported inflation while at the same time growing the economy.”
Focusing on the “vexing issue of crime”, PM Pierre described the matter as “the monster in the room.”
Added Pierre: “If as a people we can all adopt a zero-tolerance attitude to crime, whether it involves running a red light, knowingly driving a vehicle unfit for the road, tossing garbage and broken furniture into the river, child molestation, or peddling untruths on social media, chances are we will think a lot harder about arming ourselves with illegal weapons, to kill, injure or rob our fellow citizens.”
The national security minister said, in these times, the most basic weapons considered in the war on crime must include “dedicated crime fighters, appropriately equipped forensic labs, trained manpower, vehicles, detection equipment, border patrols, adequate police housing, and witness protection. In Saint Lucia with our limited resources, we are trying to improve our capabilities in all these areas.”
In the continued efforts to hold persons serving in ‘high office’ accountable, Pierre said , government remains committed “to strengthen the laws relating to integrity in public office and provide the Integrity Commission with much-needed resources to effectively deal with defaulters.”
Turning to the “much-discussed matter of the Special Prosecutor”, he assured that, “this government is determined to find the answers to several bothersome questions relating to possible misuse of public funds.”
On the issue of Citizens Security, PM Pierre stated that government will continue “to empower and provide the Police Force with the equipment and modern technology, the training, the facilities, and the human resources that are required to efficiently and successfully pursue its mandate of maintaining law and order in the country.”
Consequently, he added, “At the same time, the police must appreciate their role and must fully commit themselves to their oath to serve and protect our country.”
Summing up, the Castries East parliamentary representative noted: “We will engage in national outreach to invite every individual and agency who can assist to join the government in implementing measures to reduce the crime situation, which is afflicting our country and when possible provide some level of financial support to civil society groups engaged in crime prevention initiatives.”