By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia, (CNG Business) – Leader of the opposition and the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) Philip J Pierre in his rebuttal to the estimates of revenue and expenditure for 2021/22, as tabled by minister for finance Allen Chastanet, termed the document “unrealistic.”
In a lively rebuttal, Pierre was interrupted frequently by Chastanet, a mediocre finance minister, unable to accept reality, facts and truth.
Moreover, the social and economic review was not presented. This is unprecedented and another indictment of an incompetent administration, and according to financial insiders, “ I suspect the picture is dismal.” Added to the finance minister not making the print version of his presentation of the 2021/2022 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure before the House of Assembly, available for scrutiny, as of writing, March 17, 2021.
What is he afraid of – given that earlier this week, Caribbean News Global (CNG) examined the estimates and termed it a “gangster capitalist” document – consistent with a patchwork of uncertainty.
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Pierre directed his attention to Saint Lucia’s debt to GDP at 102 percent, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) report and the government’s excessive borrowing with little to show. Meanwhile, the people of Saint Lucia struggling amid COVID-19 with the worse record among members of the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean, (OECS).
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Opposition leader Pierre, lamented that the estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2021- 2022 “is out of touch with the realities plaguing Saint Lucians,” and “the fact that people are desperate and in need of a caring government that will put their needs first.”
Throughout Pierre’s rebuttal, the finance minister was unnerved by the analysis, on edge to control the message and called on the Speaker of the House to address what he described as a Manifesto, more suitable for the Market Steps, [the university of the people].
“The truth hurts”, Pierre retort. Emphasizing “the reckless spending over the last five years has left us with a debt to GDP ratio of 102 percent as cited by CDB,” further irritating Chastanet’s listening ability.
Pierre admonished finance minister Chastanet that “Saint Lucians and future generations are now burdened with debt with nothing to show for this government’s excessive borrowing. With over EC$400 million borrowed in the name of COVID-19 relief, very few Saint Lucians have benefited.”
Turning to the governments’ response to COVID-19, the opposition leader expressed his concern for the state of healthcare, the alarming number of COIVD-19 related deaths, more than the entire OECS combined and the increase in the number of persons who cannot meet basic healthcare costs.
Opposition leader Pierre attributed this to a direct failure of the Chastanet-led administration who scrapped Universal Health Care (UHC) plans of the SLP upon assuming office in 2016.
Pierre further noted the unconscionable sum of “$18.2 million for consultancies when wellness centres remain ill-equipped, medication shortages and the morale of healthcare workers is at an all-time low,” stressed that, “St Jude hospital remains incomplete after being under construction for seven years by the United Workers Party (UWP) administration who destroyed two buildings and have spent over EC$79 million; the hospital is nowhere near completion.”
Pierre affirmed that “a new SLP government cares for people and would ensure that Saint Lucians receive much-needed support during this economic crisis.”
“I cannot support these estimates. We (SLP) cannot support these estimates,” said Pierre, who called on the government to “dissolve this honourable house and call general elections for the people of Saint Lucia to decide on the fate of their country.”
The five-year term of the UWP administration expires July 12. General election is constitutionally due this year.