St Lucia’s government COVID-19 ‘relief packages with essential supplies’ a national disgrace

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By Caribbean News Global fav

In the light of COVID-19 and the government of Saint Lucia emergency powers accompanied by “relief packages with essential supplies” illustrated in the caption for islandwide distribution; the executive summary and recommendations below warrants reading.   

But first, examine the government of Saint Lucia “relief packages” compared to opposition leader Philip J Pierre economic stimulus to combat COVID-19, health, social and economic crisis in Saint Lucia, delivered March 29, 2020, XCD$250.5 million. 

Also examine what Montserrat, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Barbados  rolled-out. 

Saint Lucia National Report of Living Conditions 

By: Kairi Consultants Limited [December 7, 2018]

Executive summary

The project involved the preparation of a National Report of Living Conditions and Programme of Action for Addressing Critical Issues and Priorities Identified in the 2016 Survey of Living Conditions-Household Budgetary Survey (SLC-HBS) for Saint Lucia. It was initiated in December 2017. The main objectives of the consultancy were to:

  1. Prepare a National Report which presents a detailed analysis of the living conditions in Saint Lucia;
  2. Develop a Programme of Action which sets out strategic options targeting impoverished population groups and for addressing critical issues/priorities emerging from the research and presents proposals for improving existing social development programmes, as well as investment projects to strengthen or enhance the effectiveness of Government, NGOs, and CBOs efforts to sustainably reduce poverty.

The project embraced a new approach on the part of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in its partnership with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission in the implementation of Enhanced Country Poverty Assessments (eCPAs). There were a number of limitations. It was expected that the data could be compared with the previous survey of 2006. The structure of the new questionnaire did not lend easily to a comparative analysis on all counts.

Another constraint has to do with the fact that it has not been possible to capture fully the context which generated the data revealed in the survey. There was some secondary information provided by some of the agencies that were interviewed. However, the assessment conducted in this exercise has not been complemented by a full Macro-Social and Economic Analysis, nor were an Institutional Analysis and Participatory Poverty Assessment which, together would have established the effectiveness of measures adopted in the most recent past, in determining and explaining the present reality.

The survey in 2016 has to be seen in the context of the macro-economic and social evolution of Saint Lucia after the Great Depression in the 1930s, and into the last half of the 20th century and then over the beginnings of the present millennium, which included the Great Recession of 2008/09. The colony that was formed under British control in the imperial age, secured self-Government and then independence in 1979. Its independent Governments pursued strategies for diversification and for a while there was success as the export of bananas was supplemented by the export of light manufactures and tourism services in earning the country foreign exchange and in creating employment.

However, changes in the terms of trade and the new rules system in international trade left Saint Lucia in the lurch, relatively uncompetitive in its exports except for tourism which has come to be the main source of foreign exchange earnings in an economy in which exports are a critical driver of economic activity. The Great Recession of 2008/09 exacerbated a trend that was already evident in 2006.

The country has only recently shown signs of growth, enough to reverse unemployment that soared to over 25 percent at one stage. The return to growth in tourism, an increase in the room stock and an associated increase in construction activity have been the main factors explaining this improvement. The Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) has also stimulated the real estate sector.

In respect of fiscal operations, the growth in total government expenditure outstripped that of total revenue, with notable dispersion occurring between fiscal year 2008/09 to 2012/2013. A large public-sector wage bill remained a key driver of the expanding public expenditure. Relative to other expenditure items, compensation of  employees is high when compared to social expenditure. An onslaught of natural disasters over the period has entailed significant economic costs in terms of investment in restoration of infrastructure, lost GDP, unemployment, poverty and collapse of fiscal revenues.

Limited information available from a Report of 2015 on the condition of children and families generally suggests that with the decline that took place in the economy at the beginning of the present decade, children, women, the elderly and people living in rural areas would have become more vulnerable or would have remained poor (UNICEF et al, 2015). Much of the poverty reduction thrust of the Government falls within the portfolio of the Saint Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF), which pulls together resources drawn from the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) provided by the CDB and the SSDF financed by the Government itself. In the more recent past, the focus of this organization has been on Education and Human Resource Development, Water and Sanitation and Drainage and Access to Communities.

The survey design of the 2016 SLC-HBS survey was based on a stratified, two-stage probability design of clusters of households, stratified by geography and the administrative structure of the country. The survey instrument was administered by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) to a randomly selected sample of 1,493 households, which represented 2.7 percent of the population of Saint Lucia. The poverty statistics derived from this 2016 SLCHBS covers the nine-month period from November 2015 to July 2016.Detailed information on these selected households and their members – including but not limited to employment status, occupation, education, income, expenditure patterns and housing conditions – was collected.

For the 2016 survey, there was an adjustment to the approach: the sex specific equivalence scale in assessing household food requirements was dropped. Moreover, on this occasion, the approach to poverty measurement extended beyond just monetary measures. A multidimensional poverty measurement was applied: it is based on the capability approach to measurement which argues that the quality of life should be conceived and measured directly in terms of ‘functionings’ and ‘capabilities’ instead of resources or utility as is reflected in the consumption expenditure-based measurement of poverty.

Households were measured on the basis of eighteen indicators and five dimensions: the dimensions utilised were education, living standards and security, employment, health, dimension and environment, climate change, and vulnerability. Households can be assessed on the basis of their level of deprivation, the most deprived being those that are deprived on all dimensions, as against those at the other end of the scale who have no deprivation on any dimension.

As a first step, a monetary measure of poverty was used, with poverty defined as “a pronounced deprivation in well-being”. However, it was extended to a more general level of the consumption of goods and services, to embrace access to proper health care, political freedoms, quality education and earning a living wage. The monetary poverty line was based on expenditure, firstly of food and of non-food. The tradition has been to use the minimum daily cost diet that provides 2,400 kilocalories for an adult, and adjust the food requirements for the size and structure of the household.

Recommendations in 2018: Strategies, policies and measures

Poverty continues be the result of a nexus of social, cultural, economic and political factors. However, action solely on any one front infrequently leads to preferred outcomes. The GOSL has demonstrated its commitment to poverty reduction as a crucial element of equitable and sustainable development. This commitment has taken the form of several policies and programmes instituted over the years aimed at enhancing social, economic and environmental opportunities for its citizens and mitigating the impacts of poverty on communities and households. The national development planning drive of the country has made significant strides in the last decade, culminating six pillars of long-term national development:

  1. Building Productive Capacity and Expanding Growth Opportunities;
  2. Strong Institutions that are a Platform for Growth and Development;
  3. Infrastructure, Connectivity and Energy – Key for Growth and Competitiveness;
  4. Adaptation for Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change;
  5. Social Transformation, Building Social Resilience and Social Capital;
  6. Enhancing the Labour Force Through: Education, Training and Workforce Development.

These six pillars can be integrated with the sustainable development framework. In this regard, the main recommendations, strategies and policy recommendations have been put forward in line with the three pillars of sustainable development.

Economic strategies, policies and measures

Economic diversification through the development of sectors of strategic importance holds the key to the reduction of poverty. The promotion of such diversification is therefore an essential condition of any policy proposal for the improvement of the quality of life of the poor, outside

of any redistributive measures that the Government or other partners in development can employ. Historically, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism have comprised the “tripod” of export sectors. However, one leg of this tripod has weakened in recent years – the manufacturing sector. Given the strategic importance of these sectors for an export propelled economy, the following interventions are recommended.

Manufacturing Sector

Concentration on the development of medium, small, and micro enterprises (MSMEs) and export development based primarily on a push to create a strong business clusters geared towards the export market and creating jobs and increasing household income. Special attention should be paid to encourage enterprise development in disadvantaged areas and social groups. There is need to provide support to small entrepreneurs, micro-enterprises and the self-employed by way of training, and access to credit. This is an effective means of assisting the poor to employ themselves and to contribute to the eradication of poverty.

Diversification of exports: beyond improving banana production, other agriculture, horticulture, manufacturing, and food processing.

Foreign Direct Investment: while attempts must continue to be made to attract foreign investment through fiscal incentives and other arrangements, it must be recognised that there resides an important potential within the domestic small-scale sector e.g. agro-processing.

Tourism

The tourism sector has continued to be an engine of growth for the economy of Saint Lucia. The sector has the potential to facilitate the process of poverty reduction throughout the country through less concentration on the traditional areas.

Quality Standards in Tourism Services: Ensuring that the owners/operators of hotels and guest houses are all trained to treat with the tourism needs of the country.

Community Tourism: The development of enabling infrastructure to ensure that small indigenous hotels, guest houses and inns will continue to be increasingly involved in catering for an expanding clientele, not only from the USA, but also from Europe and other source markets.

French Connection: Individuals working in the tourism industry should gain proficiency in French to encourage greater inbound tourism of individuals from neighbouring French Caribbean territories, and from France itself and from Germany, the latter being the largest source market in Europe.

Other tourism services: entertainment, festivals, French connection, community tourism, all inclusive, backward linkages to agriculture and fishing.

Agriculture

Renewed efforts at agricultural diversification paying special attention to the needs of farmers, marketing, support mechanisms, and access to credit. The diversification drive for the agriculture sector must be promoted to reduce imports and create new sources of foreign exchange earnings and employment.

Development of stronger backward and forward linkages between key sectors: links among agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing must be considered.

Upgrading the farming community is a central element of diversification of agriculture and of the diversification of the tourism product: technical training of farmers and support for them with technical and extension services including in the servicing of tech-packs, will be critical.

Labour

The industrial development of Saint Lucia requires an infrastructure for the training and retraining of the work-force to deal with shifts in the technology that might render some types of activities suddenly uncompetitive. There is need for the country to develop a consensus on wages. The relative cost and productivity of labour would determine the attractiveness of Saint Lucia for labour intensive manufacturing operations in the short to medium run. However, the need for improved productivity applies across the board to the tradable and non-tradable sectors as well. The development of the labour force and the improvement of the labour market is bound up with the upgrading of the entire work-force and has to be supported with institutional change that encourages workers to commit to self-upgrading on their own even when the state is unable to provide necessary support by way of training and retraining programmes.

Social strategies, policies and measures

Education

There are some measures that are needed for the expansion to be realised, mainly in the area of capacity building, but this has to be seen for both its short-term and longer-term implications. While it is obvious that the education sector has gone through a major and profound transformation in recent years, the workforce has not been upgraded to face the requirements of international competition, and the education system has not been able to respond fully to changes in demand. There is need to:

Strengthen and expand post-secondary and tertiary education opportunities and access. Continued effort towards increasing the provisions for tertiary and continuing education, the expansion of the training component of employment programmes, and the expansion of technical and vocational training are needed to further develop the education and training sector.

Develop initiatives to deal with education inequity and inequality. Gender sensitive initiatives should be implemented to treat with the education needs of vulnerable groups such as at-risk youth, young mothers and single mothers. Initiatives to close the performance gaps between the genders with a view to improve their participation in the labour market must also be considered.

Promote individual commitment to life-long learning and self-upgrading. Access of free Wi-Fi and understanding of the possibilities offered by such arrangements MOOCS can close the knowledge gap between the Saint Lucian work-force and competitors in the rest of the world, leading to institutional structures in Saint Lucia to improve productivity.

Health

Likewise, an effective system of primary health care such that the poor can be protected even in a situation of declining incomes from any undermining of bodily health is a necessary condition for capacity building. In this regard, potable water, universal provision of toilet facilities, the safe disposal of garbage, family planning services, and the inculcation of improved eating habits emerge as high priority areas. There are also infrastructural supports needed which contribute to the quality of life, and also provide an environment facilitative of capacity-building: housing, water, electricity, roads, and communications are among the most notable of these.

There is also the infrastructure that would afford some of the poor immediate opportunities for employing themselves: campsites, footpaths and trails would allow the involvement of communities that hitherto have not been able to offer eco-tourism services, but which have some of the other amenity resources. The promotion of individual responsibility for maintaining good bodily health has to be inculcated from early in life and would lead to control on the costs of health care in the country.

Children

To an extent, tackling child poverty will involve the strengthening of general poverty reduction programmes, e.g. those designed to reduce unemployment and stimulate job creation (see 11.2.1.1 above) and those related to improving access to education for at risk groups (see

11.2.1.2 above). However, there will also be a need to enhance the existing social protection system as it relates to children. This will involve both: (i) strengthening and extending current social welfare and social assistance programmes for children (social protection floors for the most vulnerable and poorest, and child benefits including the SFP), and ii) policies and programmes designed to address child related social issues such as domestic violence, family break-up, the physical and sexual abuse of children, substance abuse and criminal activity, all of which can compromise children’s life chances. These types of intervention will need to be both remedial (to reduce the adverse consequences in current impact and behaviour) and preventive (to reduce the likelihood of such effects and behaviour in the future).

Environmental strategies, policies and measures

The key objective is to achieve availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Additionally, it is important to reduce environmental health risk, protect the environment, and bring about a robust and more climate resilient water and sanitation infrastructure. There is recognised that toilet linked to septic tank/soakaway system would continue to be the dominant type of household sanitation facility in Saint Lucia. The following are recommended:

Extend and improve water infrastructure and service provisioning efforts that would result in more indoor delivery and a regular and safe supply in under-provisioned areas.

Improve household sanitation among poor households by providing special incentives and to facilitate development and upgrading of toilet facilities.

Pay greater attention and provide direct resources to the construction, upgrading and maintenance of home sanitation facilities that meet basic sanitation standards. Particular attention should be paid meeting basic household sanitation standards in poor communities, especially households located in Anse la Raye-Canaries.

Increase community environmental (public) health education by strengthening communication activities in communities, particularly in at risk and disadvantaged communities.

Encourage the development of household water storage and safe rainwater harvesting as mechanisms for building resilient.

The 2015 OECS Building Code provides home developers and owners in the OECS with the standards and guidelines necessary to construct and improve housing and related infrastructure to acceptable minimum standards of safety and structural integrity. The key objective here is to develop a housing stock that is climate and energy resilient and meets the OECS minimum building standards. The following are recommended:

Develop a robust legislative framework to ensure that the OECS Building Code becomes a key pillar of Saint Lucia’s regulatory mechanisms for built development.

Strengthen development control institutional framework through adequately staffing and equipped Development Control Authority that would ensure compliance with the built standards as set out in the OECS Code.

Awareness building, training and regulatory incentives are important strategies to ensure home builders to adopt formal building codes.

  • Develop programmes to assist low income families to build homes to code and to renovate informal housing to the acceptable minimum standards.
  • Make technical professionals (architects and engineers) and standard housing designs easily accessible to at-risk low-income households.
  • Raise awareness within communities and households and build knowledge as a key part in developing a disaster resilient housing sector. It is important to recognise that poor and non-poor households have different characteristics and capacities and understanding them would be crucial to effectively reach and expose them to the relevant information.
  • Promote green building practices to increase climate and energy resilience.

It would also be important to reduce asset vulnerability and the exposure of both poor and non-poor and at-risk households and communities to climate change and natural hazards through the following:

Conduct vulnerability assessment of communities prone to climate change and to different natural hazards and to earthquakes in the nation at large. Special attention should be paid to communities at risk to landslides, flooding and coastal erosion;

Introduce social protection measures which target low income households to enhance adaptive capacity and build resilience to climate change and natural hazards;

Develop and invest in initiatives that result in the reconstruction/renovation existing homes and infrastructure for poor at-risk families. Integrate such initiatives in urban locations to job creation and reduction of youth unemployment;

Address property rights and encourage investments in squatter communities;

Increase collaboration and work between the State and players in the financial and insurance market in developing and promoting products that can result in greater pick up rates of insurance; increase access to finance by non-poor households for home construction and renovation; enable clients affected by climate change and natural disasters to rebuild more resiliently; to encourage higher levels of savings by both non-poor and poor families; and

Continue climate change and natural disaster building awareness and knowledge, particularly in at risk communities, to the health-related impacts of climate hazards.

Concluding comment

The Government of Saint Lucia, through its various agencies, has maintained poverty reduction at centre of socio-economic policy. Its commitment to the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals ensured that in the elaboration of policy in the first decade of the 21st century, state and non-state actors employed measures founded on the evidence provided by the 2006 SLC-HBS. The country has recommitted to poverty reduction within the framework set by the SDGs.

Over the last two decades, it has reorganised its institutional structures specifically designed to treat with poverty. There has been effort at coherence in the machinery of the state in the development and application of pro-poor measures and collaboration among institutions has improved efficiency and equity in the structure of social transfers to the poor and the vulnerable. In spite of slow growth or even decline in the economy, there was a reduction in poverty and indigence over the ten-year period since the 2006 SLC-HBS, possibly because of the better performance of the institutions engaged in poverty monitoring and alleviation.

As a SID, Saint Lucia has had to address the problems of transformation in an international economy whose evolution conditions the capacity of the country to no small extent, to develop and provide the wherewithal for poverty reduction measures and approaches that empower the poor and vulnerable and improve their capacity to protect themselves from poverty. The socio-economic problems of transformation and diversification of a post-colonial economy andsociety have been compounded by the impact of climate change and natural hazards, that can render nugatory critical investments in physical infrastructure. The hurricane season of 2017 has been a warning of the enormity of the task of sustainable development for Caribbean SIDS.

The most recent SLC-HBS now provides a solid base for redoubling efforts with a poverty reduction strategy, but against the backdrop of the changed realities of the present decade. In the most recent past, the methodology for poverty assessment and analysis has become more robust with the development of the MPI. Moreover, the Enhanced Poverty Assessment Framework promoted by the CDB, allows for poverty assessment that is more encompassing and can render targeting more effective and efficient in treating with individuals, households and communities that are poor or succumb to poverty. The framework is most helpful in galvanising policy making in Caribbean economies and societies as they face whole society threats and whole society vulnerability that are created by the likes of Hurricane Maria.

Some of the recommendations outlined above involve continuing with measures that were initiated in the middle of the last decade of the 20th century. Indeed, in some cases, there is need merely for the tweaking of approaches – for example, human resource development.

Other recommendations which were made in 2006 might not have attracted policy response from the Government as yet, but remain most relevant nevertheless – for example, the land titling project.

This report in identifying measures to be adopted has sought to allow the lessons of experience and an assessment of deficiencies in previous approaches to guide policy making as the country tackles the problems of poverty reduction over the next seven years of the SDG framework and as Saint Lucia adjusts to a changing international economy that conditions much of what transpires on the domestic front, and all in the context of undeniable climate change.

The 2016 SLC-HBS has laid a solid data base from which to plan and to assess the country’s performance in combating poverty as a continuing development challenge into the third decade of the 21st century, and in the fifth decade of its efforts at transforming a social and economic construct created in the colonial period of the last millennium, into a viable nation state providing a high quality of life to its citizenry.

Read the full report here. 

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