Saint Lucia
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A Government Steeped in Hypocrisy

HOWARD Dean, a former Governor of the State of Vermont and a former Democratic Party candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America, in a 2005 interview on the public affairs television programme, Meet the Press, enounced, “Hypocrisy is a value that I think has been embraced by the Republican Party. We get lectured by people all day long about moral values by people who have their own moral shortcomings.” Dare I say, the St. Lucia Labour Party epitomizes hypocrisy in politics and government.

Before the last general elections, the St. Lucia Labour Party complained repeatedly about the government policy of Direct Awards also referred to as Direct Procurement. Direct Procurement is defined in the June 2021 Public Procurement Manual of the Procurement Administration Unit of the Department of Finance, Economic Affairs & Job Creation of Saint Lucia as, “A method of procurement, used in accordance with guidelines in the Manual, where competitive offers are not solicited and the procurement is sourced from only one supplier.” The Opposition SLP raised objection to the process which they claim lacked transparency, was of debatable legitimacy, and failed to adhere to international best practices. They vociferously accused the former UWP administration of nepotism and corruption in its administration of the awarding of government contracts.

As justifiable as their objection to the practice of direct awards may have been, one cannot be faulted for being very ambivalent about the sincerity of the SLP’s protestations upon discovering that the Direct Awards process was established as a policy of the Government of St. Lucia by none other than, the former Prime Minister Kenny D. Anthony and a St. Lucia Labour Party Administration.

The hypocrisy of the St. Lucia Labour Party in response to the previous administration’s issuing of contracts through the Direct Procurement method must be exposed. At the very least, we must ask the Minister of Finance how many Direct Awards have they issued in the last twenty-six months, since they assumed office. Mark my words, very soon the hypocrisy of this SLP government will become embarrassingly and glaringly clear as the people will learn of a new Direct Award of US $40 million or EC $109 million for the construction of a four-story building in the debris of the former prison, Custody Suites, on Upper Bridge Street in Castries. This means the government will have to borrow an additional one hundred and nine million dollars to implement this project. Whether they fund this project through a loan from a financial institution or a funding agency, or via a Build-Own-Lease-Transfer (BOLT) agreement with the designated contractor, this project will increase the total borrowings of the Philip J. Pierre administration to approximately $1.2 billion in only two years of being in office.

Recently, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, a sterling civil society organization, advised the President and his fellow members, that they should come forward on behalf of the taxpayers of St. Lucia and in the interest of the financial sustainability of this country, to ensure that this government prudently invests the EC $201 million loan from the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), borrowed for the completion of the St. Jude Hospital Project.

The people of this country should not permit the Philip J. Pierre administration to squander the limited funds available to the people, by investing four times the amount in an 80-year-old hospital structure than it would take to complete a new, modern, purpose-built structure. We should insist that the government be judicious, shrewd and fiscally responsible to use the savings from this loan for the payment for other significant projects.

On another matter of interest, what is the rationale for clearing a plot of land for a horse racing track in the south, (whether it is at minimal or no cost to the government), when the nation already has access to a top-class, horse-racing track in the same area? Why is the Desert Star Holdings Horse Race Track closed? Does the closure have anything to do with a change in government policy by this St. Lucia Labour Party Administration? Why the deafening silence from our government on this important and once very contentious issue?

The SLP administration should note that the people of St. Lucia did not elect them to play petty partisan political games. The people did not place them at the helm of the Government of St. Lucia to sabotage the projects began by the former administration by making irrational and uneconomical decisions. Our country isn’t blessed with a burgeoning treasury. Therefore, we expect our government, irrespective of its political ilk, to invest the state’s limited funds wisely.  Has the Prime Minister and the SLP gone off their minds?  Are they aware that fifteen years down the road our children and grandchildren will be saddled with billions of dollars of loans with no collateral to show for these investments?

Mr. Prime Minister, are you and your government for real?  Is it because the funds in question are the proceeds of a loan that you think it is valueless and inconsequential?  Have you not noticed that a number of tradesmen and professionals have left our shores in search of employment overseas?  Are you aware that what we are left with, is a country crippled by high unemployment, the proliferation of the sale of unlawful goods and illicit drugs and firearms, and the escalation of gang warfare in our urban and rural communities.

Mr. Prime Minister, soon you will have borrowed more than one billion, two hundred million dollars with little to show the people for it. There are so many worthwhile projects on the table, which if undertaken by your administration, can enhance the overall state of the nation. Maybe some of your business friends within the St. Lucia Labour Party, will share with you the truth about the sorry state of affairs in St. Lucia, to make you understand the downward trajectory of our Fair Helen. Hopefully, it will not be too late for you to rein in the train wreck, that you’ve created which is causing great despair and hardship for St. Lucians and steadily destroying the future of our country.