Sunday, 22 June 2014




(Peter Thomas is a non-partisan, a true teacher and a small island futurist who administers Not For Party But For Country on Facebook. He is also a philosopher, a comedian and the most subtle, serious and enduring pain in the ass that mainstream St Lucians face at the present moment. For more by Peter Thomas, visit Not For Party But For Country on Facebook.)

Our country’s economy and financial situation is perilously perched and it behooves us all to play our part to rescue it from the brink. Of that I am sure to get unanimous agreement.

The government has made the case and presented prescriptions to trim and stabilize the public sector wage bill in its effort to reduce a growing current account deficit, one of many troubling economic metrics.

Some would argue that relitigating the “how did we get here?” question would be futile and counterproductive however, contextualizing our present predicament and the government response would no doubt further indict the present administration.

The last administration could have been characterized as our B-team who brought their C-game trying to navigate the country through a global economic meltdown the likes of which the world had never experienced since the great depression.

Our economy sputtered for the better part of the UWP term and even up to its merciful end projections for a recovery of the nation’s and the global economy were still very doubtful.

The country had experienced a natural disaster that decimated the struggling banana industry, hamstrung the languid tourism sector, and caused untold damage to our vital infrastructure.
The public sector unions had strong armed a bungling administration and its milquetoast leader to fork over 14.5% in salary increases which by any measure the country could ill afford.
While all these were going on rampant allegations of corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse were being leveled at the then administration which was eventually confirmed in the Taiwanese Funds Scandal report.

Yet none of these facts seemed to dampen the audacity of the UWP administration, and with the complicity of the departments of Treasury and Statistics, to propagate a false narrative that not only had Saint Lucia weathered both economic and meteorological storms but the country had experienced an unprecedented 4.5% economic growth.

Of course, the then opposition, the present administration, rightly rubbished that claim.

Any sensible citizen would have thought that all these aforementioned ominous signs and happenings would have served as a discouraging augury to the incoming SLP administration that the country was about to experience some strong economic and financial headwinds and that the watch words should have been prudence and austerity.

But why would a self-interested government let all these facts get in the way of securing an unassailable position for itself in the next elections by ignoring its base and its political operatives?

So in true liberal fashion they went about displaying inexplicable cognitive dissonance by engaging in an orgy of tax, borrow, and spend which exacerbated an already bad situation.

Perhaps the thinking was to have done otherwise would have unmasked the “better days” election ruse too soon thereby damaging the leader’s credibility and the party’s re-election chances. There is no doubt that the former was unavoidable and the latter, well the jury is still out on this one.

The government surely must undermine the people’s ability to think and recall. It was not too long upon being elected to office that the government had to fight back demands of the public sector unions for additional salary increases that bordered on the ridiculous by recitation of a litany of economic woes. However, none of that seemed to have offered sufficient pause even when it was clear that pursuing their narrow political agenda would further undermine the economic and financial stability of the country.

We cannot undo the mismanagement, maladmistration, and blatant corruption of the past but we would be derelict in our duty to our country by providing tacit approval to any government by being silent in the face of politically expedient spending that places our fragile economy in further peril.

The blowback that the government is experiencing from the public sector unions comes from arrogantly bypassing traditional consultation and negotiation and instead putting the unions on notice via they budget presentation that they have to give up 5% of their pay or else. Not very democratic you say?

In addition the unions are not entirely satisfied that the government has done all it can to rein in spending and consider other cost cutting measures that do not necessitate retrenchment and salary cuts.
The union leadership sees a major disconnect between government rhetoric and their actions which gives them reason to question the credibility of the Prime Minister.

There is a growing perception that the public sector worker is being made a scapegoat for the irresponsibility of former and present administrations. Their salary is being seen as low hanging fruit and they feel bullied to share a disproportionate amount of the burden while some others are getting off scotch free.

In addition they resent the attitude of “hurry up already” displayed by some on the government’s side. Their cautious and studious deliberations are being interpreted as stalling tactics and intransigence even though there is a lot to be digested.

The union leadership has to make a decision that balances the needs and concerns of their membership and the wishes of the government.

Ultimately they will have to come to the table with pragmatic and sensible counter proposals that at least provides the best chance for a mutually acceptable solution.

This is a situation we cannot wish away.



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