Published On: Mon, Nov 25th, 2013

The return of the plague

Melanius AlphonseFortunately, the awareness of physics is spreading towards change, but maybe this has nothing to do with size, given that “size no longer dictates greatness!”

Observers have often commented on the game of expediency and the logic behind derailing sound economic measures by not only Caribbean leaders but more particularly Saint Lucian leaders, choosing only to come along when it is all messed-up and more difficult to fix.

There is the old cliché – ‘you can run, but you cannot hide.’ However, Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony has not taken heed. And so, when he delivered a sermon at the Barbados campus of the University of the West Indies, rather than in Saint Lucia where it matters most, this catapulted a level of anxiety.

With all that is happening in the country “adversely,” why not face up to an audience and people to whom he is accountable, and to answer questions on his stewardship?

Actually if anything, it was pleasing to learn that the sermon acknowledge some confessions long overdue. But since action speaks louder than words, it would have been more beneficial to heed one’s own advice and walk the walk – rather than talk a sermon.

However, was this sheer brilliance in a condescending way?

But more striking was the absence of options on the tough choices that are required to make right decades of wrongs on the way forward. Reminiscent of yet another do nothing administration and policy strangulation!

The challenge of deliverance for small island states like Saint Lucia is predominately, how the country will offset the impact of increased taxation and rising inflation. And how will Saint Lucia meet its growing debt obligation, deliver quality service to taxpayers, while aspiring to meet growth benchmarks?

Also, notwithstanding the fact that the region needs LIAT in order to meet economic and social needs, what are the contingencies to protect the interest of taxpayers for a debt default of the three million US dollar guarantee that the minister for finance has announced; along with the remodeling of LIAT and the provisions for efficiency and service to the people of Saint Lucia?

Likewise, on the heels of Dr Kenny Anthony’s administration’s inadequacies, what consideration has the “best brains” given to the daily collapse of small and medium enterprise (SMEs) and the economic wellbeing of Saint Lucia? Why hasn’t the government of Saint Lucia pooled resources to offer investment opportunities in agriculture? And further, what is the Development Bank of Saint Lucia doing in that regard?

We the people need nothing less!

 

In times like these, symbolic gestures are not enough and won’t work either, given the high price Saint Lucians continue to pay for miniscule service by grossly incompetent ministers for finance, administration after administration.

At this point in time, Saint Lucia needs value for money and true leadership. It cannot be business as usual by a Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration that doesn’t know how to govern. Especially, when the horse has run out of the stable and left to stray for many years -- and only now seeks the fold for consultation and presentation of a white paper.

Evidently, one is left to ponder on the assertion by James Bryant Conant, “Behold the turtle; He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.” If so, it has to be a matter of purely substantive action from here on.

The underlining precept in the case of Saint Lucia is to immediately proceed with smaller government. The cabinet of ministers should be reduced to nine and the senate proportionally. A reduction of VAT is also a matter for consideration in tandem with a 10% across the board cost-adjustment in the public service and a wage freeze for the next five years. A reduction in corporate taxes (from 33% to low 20s,) and a reduction of payroll taxes should also be examined as well. This would translate to increased cash flow in the hands of workers and employers as well as the provision for growth and development of Saint Lucia.

Further, as has already been proposed by the Lucian Peoples Movement (LPM), there is little need for the multiple consulates and ambassadors that taxpayers have to service. This is a burden that cannot continue indefinitely. The government of Saint Lucia is well advised to reallocate the $22.7million allotment in the budget for the financial year 2013/14 to more substantive use on the home front. Recently, Grenada has come to that realization.

As it pertains to effective regulation and economic activity, companies will continue to be hesitant to invest in an economic environment where the cost of doing business is uncertain and continues to climb. Particularly, when contract enforcement ranks 170 on the World Bank ease of doing business report, with a getting credit/creditworthiness ranking of 130, and property registration of 129 respectively; accompanied with the high cost of public utility (electricity, gas and water) in a monopoly state of mind.

The judiciary is another institution that worries nearly everyone locally and internationally. The World Bank ease of doing business report has referenced the judiciary and well as the US State Department. The experiences are well documented. And at the same time people understand that the judiciary is a vital institution that ought not to be handicap. In fact, bearing in mind the urgency to put right the judicial system with increasing clout, and to normalize relations externally, the future could be a slow and harder road to travel in the development of Saint Lucia.

What’s more, an unresolved state of affairs gives rise to unfavourable reviews. In this case as with many, it directly compounds high unemployment numbers. Then of course, there is the existence of an SLP socialist administration, and their policy of tax and spend, that constantly takes from Peter to pay Paul.

The inability to correct these weaknesses will continue to discourage the inflow of foreign direct investment while making it more difficult to open the island to substantial international trade.

 

I have written in previous publications that the underutilization of the manufacturing industry and the death of agriculture by the SLP administration are major flaws that must be corrected in view of the high cost of the import bill, and to provide strength and economic flexibility -- the goal of which is to provide added-value to secondary production in agri-business, financial services, logistics and management services.

The way to achieve this is via leadership of purpose that includes everyone.

Leadership with consistency of purpose; leadership that is authentic and comfortable with self! And leadership with a model set of behaviour that is universally acceptable to facilitate value propositions that would eventually translate to the social and economic well being, for the payment of taxes, fees and employment for the good of all.

Without a doubt, Saint Lucia has come a long way to enjoy great freedoms. As such, citizens have a responsibility to guard against anyone or any group of persons who seek to derail such freedoms, or seek to silence voices of contrary opinion.

In that regard citizens ought not to surrender to SLP socialist ideology, to the established elites, and to the up and coming “mafias” who have made it known that opposing views will be kept in check!

Their attempt to silence voices and derail strongholds of freedom must not be taken lightly, and as such ought not to see the light of day, even when their approach is withering to adversaries. This is a sign of manipulating the democratic process! A situation that is deep-seated; a relapse of the plague and misery of the 1979-1980s era.

Therefore, before the point of no return is reached, it is preferable to learn from experience and to have the wisdom and foresight to change that direction.

Destiny is on our side!

Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant. He is an advocate for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality; the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) www.lpmstlucia.com critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at malphonse@rogers.com                                                                          

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