By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia – Addressing the 70th annual conference of delegates of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) in a virtual format Sunday, November 15, 2020, the political leader of the SLP described the “country’s current problems are on account of misguided leadership and bad governance,” stated “COVID-19, in addition to creating health challenges for our country, continues to pose worrying economic challenges with the economy projected to shrink by 26 percent by the end of the year according to the government’s own estimates.
“Saint Lucia’s economy has performed the worse in the entire Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)” namely St Vincent 5.55 percent to 7.8 percent, St Kitts 8.1 percent, Antigua 10.8 percent, Grenada 8 percent and Dominica 4.7 percent, all lower than that of Saint Lucia.” Pierre further illustrated that “regrettably but not surprisingly, we are now experiencing the effects of abuse of power, vindictiveness and misguided government policy decisions. Many of the ills of the society today, in particular crime, have been exacerbated by the current administration’s disregard for the rule of law and good governance.
“These self-imposed problems can all be corrected by a labour party government which will be inclusive, accountable, transparent, fair, and fiscally responsible. Our fortunes as a country can change if we give attention to adherence to the rule of law, respect for institutions, respect for the fundamental rights of the citizens and good governance,” he said.
St Lucia’s economy
To illustrate the economic and social environment that “confronts us when the SLP attains office,” Pierre stated:
“According to a recent World Bank Report in October 2020, “the economy of Saint Lucia is expected to contract by 18 percent this year, 2020.” The report goes on further to say that “income losses are widespread with the poor having been impacted to a larger degree”.
“It is interesting to note that the report stated that as of September 2020 “the direct health impacts of COVID-19 have been limited”. With the recent rise in the number of unprecedented cases of infected persons, [171 cases, 2 deaths, 110 active cases, as at November 15] the health impact of COVID-19, when factored, is expected to create a more depressing economic outlook than the World Bank’s October prognosis. As if to show up the relative poor management of the Saint Lucian economy, the same World Bank report indicates contraction in the following neighbouring economies: St Vincent 5.55 percent to 7.8 percent, St Kitts 8.1 percent, Antigua 10.8 percent, Grenada 8 percent and Dominica 4.7 percent, all lower than that of Saint Lucia.”
Gloomier economic forecast for St Lucia
Pierre highlighted that the relative gloomier economic forecast for Saint Lucia compared to its neighbours can easily be accounted for by 4.5 years of wasteful and unnecessary borrowing and spending:
“Already, Saint Lucia’s national debt before COVID was $3.4 billion and with further borrowing to come because of the demands of COVID-19, the ratio of Saint Lucia’s debt to GDP will be well passed prudential limits (65%), with early estimates indicating a ratio of 90 percent by next year. In spite of this gloomy outlook of the country’s level of indebtedness, the government continues with the inherently costly route of granting contracts for capital works by direct award.
“These direct awards will increase the national debt even further and burden the taxpayers of the country more than ever. As in the pre-COVID-19 period, this United Workers Party (UWP) government continues to consistently pursue misplaced priorities by engaging in unnecessary borrowing and wasteful expenditure.”
Pursuant to corrective measures, Pierre outlined the Saint Lucia Labour Party policy statement in debt, recognizing, “that managing the economy during COVID will call for fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability, […] will pursue economic policies, which will protect lives and livelihoods. We will ensure that in reopening our tourism industry, we will exercise care in minimizing the risk of COVID-19 infection to our citizens and ensure a level playing field in the industry. All players in the industry have a right to participate. COVID or no COVID. That balance of fairness must be found,” he said.
On the need to embrace, the principles of good governance and greater regional cooperation to tackle the new challenges of increased economic uncertainty Pierre addressed the prerequisite to “work with CARICOM, the OECS and the wider region including Cuba to tackle the challenges of food security, market access for agricultural products, manufacturing, regional transport and tourism.”
“We continue to maintain that the unjust embargo against Cuba and Venezuela should be lifted,” he said.
“We thank the government of Taiwan for their continued support and regret the fact that opposition parliamentarians are still not included in the benefits of the Constituency Development Funds,” chastised the government style of foreign investment that has little to do with the real development of [our] people and more with the narrow interest of foreign investors facilitated by misguided government policy.”
The political leader of the SLP affirmed that a labour government “will put the interest and wellbeing of the people of Saint Lucia at the centre of its economic policy, providing for the sustenance and improvement of livelihoods, the protection of the poor and marginalized will be given the highest priority,” Pierre, gave the assurance that these principles consist of truth, respect for each other, fairness, the rule of law and inclusiveness, so that all citizens have real hope for a fairer and better life.”
“Our party presents to the people of Saint Lucia a distinct difference from our political adversaries by the principles we uphold.” Pierre asked the people of Saint Lucia for the opportunity “to serve as prime minister of Saint Lucia to shape and lead a different country, in which its leader upholds truth, not duplicity, shows humility, not arrogance, exercises prudence in the use of state resources, not recklessness, communicates responsibly not glibly and is accountable not unaccountable.”
“Our mission is to save our country from further economic and social decline and commence the journey that will allow for the authentic development of our people,” Pierre said.
The full text of the address by Philip J Pierre at the 70th annual conference of delegates of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) delivered virtually, Sunday, November 15, 2020 is available below.