By Clifton St Marthe
The St Lucia Labour Party came into office campaigning under the banner and promise of “BETTER DAYS”. Many St Lucians may have fell for this promise with the hope that there will be more jobs, more business, more money and a more vibrant economy. The lure of power induced the SLP to make wild and reckless promises which for many though were certainly unrealistic given the current global financial and economic climate.
Nonetheless the SLP strategist and leadership persisted with their utopian ideals to replace reality with glamour and false hopes and to take us to a promise land painted in red. A promise land which was captured by the slogan: “En Rouge”. Today instead of realizing “better days” we are perhaps beginning to reap the revelation of “bitter days” in fair Helen. It appears that we are beginning to experience the blight invoked by that voodoo chant – “En Rouge”.
It is now evident that the Zombies which were laid to rest following the 2006 General Elections have now awoken once again. The Zombies of STEP, the Zombies of affirmative action, the Zombies of administrative excesses, the Zombies of “Job for the Boys”, the Zombies of Communist China, the Zombies of Mal-administration and yes “cost over-runs”. We take solace in the recognition that the Saint Lucians electorate have matured and will keep close watch and vigilance along with the Opposition.
Having recognized that the promise of “better days” will remain a fleeting illusion, we can now critically examine the performance of the first 100 days of the Kenny Anthony Administration. Our examination can perhaps begin to give us a sense as to whether the Leopard has changed its spots.
Prime Minister Anthony promised the nation during his campaign for office that if elected to office his Government will spearhead the “immediate” injection of EC $100 Million into the economy. We have yet to see him use his “magic wand” to bring this to fruition. Dr. Anthony should explain to us his failure to meet one of his major commitments given to the electorate. We have yet to see the creation of jobs, jobs, jobs. Instead what we have witnessed is a STEP programme which is an insult to the dignity and pride of our people. The STEP projects involving clearing of road verges were undertaken even when there were existing contracts with “Caretakers” to do the same work though the Ministry of Communications and Works. It would have been more appropriate for these STEP workers to be deployed in assisting farmers combat the ravages of Black Sigatoka or more meaningful projects within the respective communities.
While we still await Dr. Anthony’s Code of Conduct Manual to guide the conduct of Cabinet members, we observe that the Prime Minister has saddled the Country with a Government that is both bigger and costlier than obtained under the United Workers Party. In addition Dr. Anthony extends his largesse even further by creating jobs for an Advisor on National Security and an Advisor on External Affairs. Given the frightening inexperience of his Government we may well see the appointment of more Advisors for Tourism, Health and Agriculture perhaps. We also note the appointment of an additional Permanent Secretary for Special Initiatives. My understanding is that these excesses cost the people of Saint Lucia an additional EC $100, 000 each month. On the matter of the code of conduct Dr Anthony promised the nation during the Swearing In ceremony for his Ministers on December 6th, 2011 that this measure would be put in place within the first month of his Administration. We are yet to hear anything further about the “book of rules”.
Soon after the current Government assumed office a directive was issued for persons serving on all Board to submit their resignations. This was the first step by the current Administration in their attempt to paint the entire machinery of Government in red. Known supporters of the SLP were appointed to the boards and leadership of key agencies and institutions. None was more blatant and shameful than the appointment of a former Deputy Chairman of the SLP and a leading political “Spin Doctor” to the Presidency of the Upper Chamber of Parliament.
Whilst the Government has been busy finding placement for its supporters on the various boards and institutions it has failed to date to make a decision on the appointment of a Police Commissioner. Having concluded its “sweet heart deal” with former Commissioner Regis, Saint Lucians expected the Government to do the obvious and to act with haste to appoint a Commissioner of Police. With the previous legal impediment now out of the way the Government appears to be dragging its feet on the appointment of a Police Commissioner and has instead decided to extend the stint of the current Acting Commissioner.
I wish to call on the Government to bring an end to all the public speculation and anxiety within the St Lucia Police Force by immediately confirming the appointment of a new Police Commissioner. It is my view that the required quality and human resource capacity does exist within the current leadership of the Force to make such a decision possible.
The process of victimization and affirmative action has once again reared its head with the return of the St Lucia Labour Party to office. We have since witnessed a deliberate approach of issuing contracts only to known supporters of the SLP thus enforcing the policy of “jobs for the boys”. Saint Lucians may have taken note of a recent directive issued by the Minister of Social Transformation and Local Government to the Castries City Council that copies of all contracts issued by the Council be submitted to his desk for review. This statement made by the Minister during the swearing in ceremony of the new Council is as an unfortunate display of Ministerial arrogance and an unnecessary attempt by the Minister to politicize the operations of the Castries City Council. The role of the Minister is at the policy level and not in operational matters.
After taking sometime to make an appointment to the critical office of Attorney General, Dr. Anthony’s eventual choice appear to once again reflect the disdain and contempt that he has for the sons and daughters of this land of two Nobel Laureates. Has Dr. Anthony by his actions suggested to us that there is none of our own capable of holding such a sensitive office? This trend on Dr. Anthony’s part is taken a step further as demonstrated by the appointment of the Mayor for the City of Castries, our nation’s capital. Saint Lucians should note that both of these appointments carry historical significance. It is in fact the first time that native Saint Lucians have not occupied either of these two offices. Our sons and daughters must be encouraged to see themselves being capable of holding high public offices in the land that gave them birth.
Since the advent of this Administration we have witnessed attempts to impress the St Lucian electorate with the use of subtle political psychology in the work of Government. Instead of focusing its efforts in generating much needed revenue to finance public sector projects the Government is instead instituting measures such as a tax amnesty which will result in the lost of millions of dollars from the Government treasury. Whereas such actions may appear to be politically expedient it cannot be in the best interest of our country especially when the real motivation for such policies may be to “bail out” business friends of the St Lucia Labour Party who owe millions in tax arrears to the Government. One particular case in the south of the island stands out. The employment of tax amnesty measures especially for the private sector is a model which has been tried before with little impact on the economy. We are living in tough economic times in which business people are naturally conservative. The responsibility is therefore that of the Government to stimulate economic activity through public sector investment.
Saint Lucians are anxiously awaiting the plans of the current Administration with respect to implementation of the Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project. After relentlessly criticizing the Government of the United Workers Party for its pursuit of this worthwhile and extremely important project, the SLP Government must now let Saint Lucians know whether it will be abandoning or pursuing the project. Hundreds of Saint Lucians especially in the south of the island are awaiting the opportunities which the implementation of this project would deliver to them. The Government by its inaction has failed the people of the south and is seriously compromising the development prospects of our tourism industry for the country as a whole.
The matter of Government’s Foreign Affairs policy is one which has generated much anxiety on the part of many St Lucians. The electorate remains curious over the failure of this Government to express what for most St Lucians should be an obvious decision to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It is clear for the majority of St Lucians that our country has and stands to benefit far more from relations with Taiwan as compared to China. The question is why then is the Government of the St Lucia Labour Party continuing to drag its feet on this matter. When we observe the stance of the Government to date coupled with its machinations with the ALBA groupings there is every reason for St Lucians to be weary of the foreign affairs policy direction of the Government. Reports stemming from a number of international news sources confirmed that during the just concluded ALBA summit in Venezuela a special resolution incorporating Suriname, Haiti and Saint Lucia as “permanent guest members” was unanimously approve. One should be extremely concerned over the implications of such posturing on relations with our traditional friends in the democratic world.
Finally St Lucians are no doubt very mindful of the promise by the St Lucia Labour Party of “better days”. Already for many the experience has been one of BITTER DAYS. I think it is important that the Opposition wakes up and begins to exercise the vigilance promised by its leader. Perhaps before concluding my commentary I can remind St Lucians of some of the projects being undertaken by the current Administration without credit to the last Government that were negotiated and contracted by the United Workers Party whilst in Government. These include: the Bois d Orange Bye-Pass Road and Bridge Reconstruction; approval of an annual subvention of EC $25,000.00 to the National Consumer Association; Remedial works at the Barre de Lisle; Introduction of Jet Blue Flights and Securing Supplies and inputs for Farmer to combat the threat posed by the Black Sigatoka Disease.
It is important to note that we were not treated to the usual cry of an “empty treasury” by the Government on their entry to office. Indeed the Government was able within days to implement two cycles of the STEP programme and pursue other programmes seemingly without any hiccups due to the absence of required financial resources. This confirms the fact that the Government inherited an economy that was relatively healthy state. As we move beyond this initial period of assessing the performance of this Administration I am confident that Saint Lucians will continue to remind the Government of its elaborate promises and hold them to their commitment to provide “better days”.
Editor's Note: Pic produced by blog