In the light of fiscal deficit, credit rating downgrade and extensive borrowing confronting Saint Lucia; an unsurprising sequence of events dating back to the advent of the 2016 general elections, it is fitting that Caribbean News Global (CNG) republish with permission the aforementioned article dated April 10, 2017.
Tomorrow is never assured but, while we endeavour to supercharge our life against adversity, increased dangers loom, knowing our future was handed over to the characteristics of arrogance and ignorance, and prime minister Allen Chastanet’s emerging format of narrow-minded nationalism that claims “government is a business”, “patrimony is the credit rating” and “the world is a selfish place”.
The widening perspective of this is characteristic of the difficulties that lie ahead and what we may face in protecting Saint Lucia from sovereign-obsessed powers while in the search for job creation and economic development.
In the meantime, it seems like auction time again, without transparency and accountability.
First, the cliché was “the country is broke”: “2017 is to tighten your seat belt and to embrace the change…” At a press briefing, two weeks later, “We have seen for ourselves that the country is broke.” Therefore, after the amendment to citizenship by investment program (CIP), Saint Lucia goes cheap. And although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Article IV consultation of March 24, 2017, stated: “The recent changes to the CIP could provide a welcome boost to fiscal revenues”, thus far no sign of this has materialized.
Second, The “Pearl of the Caribbean” project by Desert Star Holdings Limited (DSH), proposal to build Maria Island causeway is disturbing – the project is expected to have a free trade zone (FTZ) where investors can establish businesses and conduct trade and commerce outside of the national customs territory. Activities may be conducted entirely within the zone or between the Saint Lucia free zone and foreign countries.
Third, a dolphin park is now immersed in a much larger discussion on our sovereignty and patrimony.
Nevertheless, beyond the shores of Saint Lucia, the abolition of our sovereignty and patrimony seems in subjugation to geopolitical and economic diplomacy. Statutory Instrument No. 8 of 2017 International Business Companies (Amendment) Regulations is schedule for the House of Assembly, April 4, 2017, and the forthcoming FY 2017/18 budget.
Fourth, there is the Chastanet philosophy that “government is a business”. “The board of directors is the Cabinet, and then the senior management is the civil servants. I am frustrated by the bureaucracy and the politics that we have. I think it should be the responsibility of the legislator to hire a chief executive officer (CEO) who is actually going to run the administration. That CEO will also have vice presidents of all the different ministries.”
Obviously, this type of thinking is embedded in the code of unfettered capitalism seemingly design to mean, if government is a business and our patrimony is the credit rating, then can one conclude the patrimony of Saint Lucia falls within a series of commodities, available for the security exchange and stock market within the purview of the board of directors and CEO.
As previously noted, this ought to be a significant worry in relation to Chastanet’s thin covering of respectability, which apparently needs adult supervision, with his inability to understand the parliamentary system (executive branch, legislature and the judiciary), and learn how government really works.
Fifth, “The world is a selfish place,” prime minister Chastanet said, at the official opening ceremony of the Royalton Saint Lucia Resort and Spa.
“In controlling our destiny, it is with the understanding that patrimony today is measured in my mind by one thing and one thing only – our credit rating.”
More so, at the World Bank conference in Miami, prime minister Chastanet repeated his belief that “patrimony is your credit rating”.
This was made worse by his ability to not recognize his ignorance and vividly seems to have no awareness of the discomfort imposed on Dr Keith Mitchell, prime minister of Grenada, who politely chuckled, having received the brunt of this ideologically orientation and witnessed by a live audience.
In the simplest form, patrimony is ancient endowment inherited from our ancestor in a cultural format, historic buildings, estate or property.
Credit rating is an assessment of an entity’s ability to pay its financial obligations –referred to as creditworthiness assessed to an obligator (corporations, government as a whole,) or issuer. This applies to debt securities – bonds, notes and other debt instruments; it does not apply to equity-like common stock.
It also reflects the ranking of credit risk, based on analytical models, assumptions and expectations – an agency’s subjective judgement of an issuer’s business and management. And should not be used as the sole basis for investment decision and advice, but in conjunction with other pertaining historical and statistical information.
We should all realize that, if prime minister Chastanet wants to talk in terms of investment banking and the use of credit ratings relative to his insular and near-sighted forte, then he should understand the information that credit ratings are intended to project and their limitations, because even debt rated ‘AAA’ can default, illustrated by the global economic downturn that is still evident.
Perhaps it would serve best in addressing national policy, services and incentives for investment and a coherent socio-economic strategy for Saint Lucia.
IMF Article IV consultation, March 24, 2017 reads: “In the absence of corrective measures, financing difficulties will increase and force inefficient fiscal adjustment – typically by reducing already low capital spending – with negative effects on growth. At the same time, public debt will continue to increase with unsustainable dynamics.”
The political experiment that business experience is the answer to complex issues has actually burdened the country with abysmal arrogance and deepened partisanship. Equally, ignorance and denial is a malaise of the socio-economic overreach and unfettered capitalism that embodies the misguided notion “government is a business”.
In fact, government and business are separate and distinct, as church and state. An attempt at infusion faces an infinite scheme that undermines authority, legalises corruption, conflict of interest and ethics issues, challenges principles, emboldens propagandists and intimidation.
In the end, this propagates a general lack of respect, distrust for information that requires internal processing and general disregard for rules and protocols, to wit, strategy and execution becomes a mob.
That’s a big problem, already evident by the hot mess that passes for governance.
I rather suggest that prime minister Chastanet could lessen the effects of his awful symmetry and direct his attention to constitutional reform of government. It would serve best to focus state resources on a few initiatives (agribusiness and trade imbalance, economic and infrastructure development, healthcare and life sciences hub, STEM education) and do it well, instead of trying to capture too many metrics he does not understand.
Plan and adapt initiatives for implementation, learn policy and parliamentary procedures, our values and interests and to cultivate leverage, albeit this requires expertise too obvious to ignore.
As it turned out, Ernest and Young, is preparing the budget. Most of us can’t wait for a leaked copy, much less to witness a maiden delivery, destined to put a dysfunctional house in order in search of achievements.
Now, however, is not the time and place for economic or philosophy abstracts, to grasp the potential impact on our future, our sovereignty and patrimony, beyond our borders in violation of our democracy, over the long term with nothing to show for it.
China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea based on the nine-dash line claims sovereignty over 90 percent of the contested waters extends as far as 1,243 miles away from the Chinese mainland. The area is said to represent represents historic maritime agreements all but China have disputed.
It is suggested that prime minister Theresa May would be ready to go to war with Spain, over Gibraltar, a rocky outcrop with a population of 33,000, similar to Margaret Thatcher the 1982 Falklands War between the UK and Argentina.
The lesson is what more do we need to understand, in defence of our heritage and our national pride as a people, but to remind “nefarious merchants” who come to our shores to exploit us what kind of (indigenous) people we are.
In sum, experience reveals government is not a business nor should it contribute to ill-defined roles that stem from ideological roots dangerous to the conscience of the nation. It would suit most Saint Lucians for prime minister Chastanet to voluntarily stop the illusions, bridge the disconnect, put an end to the grand auction of our sovereignty and patrimony by getting the hell out of government.
If not, it is time to shift the focus on what must be done about it.