An Anal­y­sis of Open­ing State­ments 2012-2015

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Regina Porter­house

Open­ing state­ments set the tone of an ad­dress, which is why we have cho­sen to ex­am­ine them.

Since the UWP lost the elec­tion in 2011, K, the present in­cum­bent, has de­liv­ered four Bud­get Speeches, which means he prob­a­bly has only one more to go be­fore he next faces the elec­torate, so let’s see how he mea­sures up to his own goals.

In 2012, af­ter wad­ing “through tur­bid, if not murky, wa­ters” K pro­nounced “We have come to bring bet­ter days to Saint Lu­cia, to find that path to­wards suc­cess, sus­tain­abil­ity and so­cial sta­bil­ity. We have, come … to im­ple­ment the com­mon will of the peo­ple. We have come to build a state that is strong, sta­ble and sus­tain­able.”

So I guess we are all by now en­joy­ing suc­cess and so­cial sta­bil­ity, and that the changes in­tro­duced, like VAT, re­flect “the com­mon will of the peo­ple” – I do, how­ever, fer­vently hope that the PM does not in­tend to “sus­tain” the sad state we have got into since he came to power. Well, he has just one year to go be­fore his man­date is up in 2016, so some­thing had bet­ter change.

In 2013, K turned to tra­di­tional de­fen­sive prac­tices em­ployed (whoops best to avoid that word in this day of high job­less­ness) by failed regimes the world over, namely, telling the peo­ple how bad things are on the other side of the fence. This is what he had to say:

“The Eu­ro­zone is com­ing apart at the seams … The Eastern Caribbean Cur­rency Union is com­bat­ing high and widen­ing fis­cal deficits, el­e­vated debt and anaemic rates of eco­nomic growth. In 2010, the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF) ap­proved a US $1.27 bil­lion dollar loan to Ja­maica, to sup­port their re­form ef­forts, which, to a large ex­tent, were derailed. Ja­maica had then to turn to the IMF once more, and this time, the mea­sures re­quired by the IMF are harsher, more painful, more ex­act­ing, more ex­cru­ci­at­ing.

“Closer to home, in the ECCU, St. Kitts & Nevis and An­tigua & Bar­buda have fol­lowed in the ear­lier foot steps of Do­minica and have turned to the IMF for as­sis­tance to un­der­take ad­just­ment pro­grams.

“Th­ese pro­grams called for debt re­struc­tur­ing and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ex­pen­di­ture cuts, in­clud­ing wage freezes, out­sourc­ing of gov­ern­ment ser­vices, cor­po­ra­ti­za­tion of state owned or­ga­ni­za­tions, de­creased spend­ing on goods and ser­vices and pen­sion re­form. Gre­nada is also show­ing signs of fi­nan­cial dis­tress, ev­i­denced by the re­cent de­fault on the March in­ter­est pay­ments of its sovereign bonds.”

But of the plight of Saint Lu­cia – not a word, not a word, not a word! Ac­tu­ally, no words were nec­es­sary. What he said, ba­si­cally de­scribed the Saint Lu­cian sit­u­a­tion. Just re­cently, I heard a ridicu­lous promo for the K-gov­ern­ment that pro­claimed, as a suc­cess, the fact that Saint Lu­cia had just ne­go­ti­ated the big­gest loan ever in the coun­try’s his­tory.

Our sad state com­pels us to bor­row more money than ever be­fore, and that is hailed as a suc­cess? In­ter­est­ing eco­nomics …

In 2014 K ad­mit­ted that the ef­forts of his first two terms in of­fice from 1997, and the two years since re­gain­ing power in 2011 had not been suc­cess­ful or sus­tain­able: “This has been … the most chal­leng­ing Bud­get ad­dress since my first ad­dress in this Cham­ber on Novem­ber 4th, 1997.”

How­ever, K did re­as­sure us that he had been “guided by the phi­los­o­phy es­poused by Africa’s first elected fe­male Head of State, Ellen John­son Sir­leaf, Pres­i­dent of Liberia and the 2011 No­bel Peace Prize Lau­re­ate,” (as if we cared) which might ex­plain his some­what novel ap­proach to harsh eco­nomic re­al­i­ties. Ac­tu­ally, the lady got her prize for fight­ing for “the safety of women and for women’s rights to full par­tic­i­pa­tion in the peace-build­ing work” – noth­ing to do with eco­nomics, but it does show how “in­ter­na­tional” K is, and what a model of demo­cratic suc­cess Liberia is!

K more or less ad­mit­ted that his words in a bud­get speech were mean­ing­less. Ev­i­dently Pres­i­dent Sir­leaf said, “His­tory will judge us not by what we say in this mo­ment in time, but by what we do next to lift the lives of our coun­try­men and women. It will judge us by the le­gacy we leave be­hind for gen­er­a­tions to come.” Well, yes, K will be judged by how well he has lifted our lives and the le­gacy of debt he leaves be­hind him.

Then comes 2015 when K sud­denly dis­cov­ers that he is “blessed.” Out of nowhere his “mes­sage … is that we are on the right path, but we must com­plete the job to se­cure a brighter fu­ture for all Saint Lu­cians.” Did the promised “Bet­ter Days” ar­rive with­out my notic­ing them? Did things get bet­ter dur­ing 2014? Well maybe they did for those who spent their ex­pense ac­count days off is­land, but for the rest of us 2014 was pretty dire.

He goes on to say, “Af­ter as­sum­ing of­fice in 2011, I was con­fronted by the stark but hid­den re­al­i­ties of our state’s public fi­nances.” Is that why he had prob­lems find­ing the 100 mil­lion dollar in­jec­tions into the econ­omy within days of his elec­tion victory? Wouldn’t any sane, re­spon­si­ble politi­cian do a lit­tle re­search be­fore mak­ing such rash prom­ises? He should have known the econ­omy was in a poor state – that is, af­ter all, what he cam­paigned on!

K goes on, “I was con­fronted by … ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment and a debt-toGDP ra­tio climb­ing ever higher by a widen­ing fis­cal deficit.” So what? Has any­thing changed?

“Gov­ern­ment rev­enues were in­suf­fi­cient to meet salaries, wages and the cost of ser­vices to the public.” Again, is there any­one in the coun­try who does not be­lieve that for­eign loans and Tai­wanese money are, in re­al­ity, pay­ing public sec­tor wages de­spite the opac­ity of Salome’s Seven Veils of Se­duc­tive Trans­parency that cloak the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance’s jug­gling acts?

K added, “For­eign di­rect in­vest­ment had abated”, but failed to add that for­eign in­vestors con­tinue to flee or shun the coun­try, per­haps be­cause of his in­abil­ity to curb crime and cre­ate an at­trac­tive in­vest­ment en­vi­ron­ment.

K in­di­cated that he “had to re­duce ex­pen­di­ture, even dispensing with fund­ing for some cher­ished pro­grams” which ap­par­ently, in his mind, has re­sulted in the coun­try be­ing “stronger and bet­ter than we were be­fore.” So the fewer the pro­grams, the lesser the fund­ing, the bet­ter off we are? This might ap­pear to some to be in­dica­tive of the ut­ter contempt with which politi­cians view their con­stituents. If they keep say­ing the same thing, in the end, it be­comes ac­cepted as true. Soon we’ll all be beg­ging him to stay on and con­tinue the Bet­ter Days he has brought to us.

And to cap it all, ex­pe­ri­enced busi­ness­man and en­tre­pre­neur that he is, K as­sured his peo­ple that although he “must in­tro­duce some new fis­cal mea­sures, th­ese will be man­age­able for cit­i­zens and com­pa­nies.” “Com­mon cit­i­zens” by the way, have no say in any­thing th­ese days. K knows best, and brooks no dis­sent! Among prim­i­tive tribes, there can only be one Chief!

In 2012 it was “we must man­age dif­fer­ently, we must be vi­sion­ary, we must be will­ing to cast aside non-en­rich­ing tra­di­tions, di­vi­sive and re­gres­sive at­ti­tudes and im­proper prac­tices. We must im­bue our­selves, each one of us in our own way, with a zeal, a drive and a love of coun­try. Our am­bi­tion, our col­lec­tive will and de­sire, must be to be “sim­ply the best” in ev­ery­thing we do.” Such hy­per­bole, which means “ex­ag­ger­ated state­ments or claims not meant to be taken lit­er­ally,” forms the core of most of K’s speeches.

K went on to say, “We must be ever mind­ful of how easy it is for us to be­come ir­rel­e­vant. (Well, aren’t we? On the world scale?) We must de­fine our rel­e­vance in this world. (Nice one!) We must com­pete more than we ever have, cre­ate more than we ever have; and yet co­op­er­ate more earnestly than we ever have. (And we can’t even feed our­selves to judge by the im­port bills.)”

Hallelujah! But he did go on to say he would “fo­cus on how we can re­de­fine and re­con­struct our eco­nomic space to pro­mote much needed growth, how we can en­gen­der con­fi­dence in our so­ci­ety, to be more pro­duc­tive, ef­fec­tive and par­tic­i­pa­tory, while main­tain­ing so­cial peace.”

Con­fi­dence? More pro­duc­tive? So­cial peace? Has all this hap­pened with­out my notic­ing it? Help me some­one, please.

In 2014, pre­sum­ably af­ter much soul search­ing dur­ing his two-and-a-half years in of­fice, K ad­mit­ted that he was still seek­ing “a path of higher and sus­tained growth and em­ploy­ment … sus­tain­able, ful­fill­ing jobs, par­tic­u­larly for our youth … and steer­ing the coun­try’s public fi­nances away from a fis­cal cliff; and the re­silience to bounce back from fu­ture eco­nomic and nat­u­ral shocks.”

Time and again, in an ap­par­ent at­tempt to mask to­day’s fail­ures, K harps back to his per­ceived suc­cesses of yes­ter­year.

“I re­mem­ber the enor­mous chal­lenges we faced in 1997, when the Labour Party had just formed Gov­ern­ment for the first time in 15 years. We found a rapidly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing ba­nana in­dus­try, a man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor in decline, wor­ry­ingly high lev­els of un­em­ploy­ment and a tourism plant that had stag­nated.”

Has any­thing re­ally changed? Were the claimed changes brought about dur­ing his first ten years in of­fice so frag­ile and un­sus­tain­able that five years of UWP rule com­pletely de­stroyed them? And now, in K’s third term, is the ba­nana in­dus­try any bet­ter off? Is the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor on the up and up? Do we have a vi­brant tourism in­dus­try?

Per­haps my mem­ory is play­ing tricks on me, but isn’t it a fact that in 2006 a dis­sat­is­fied coun­try booted out K & Co? It was never a ques­tion of K leav­ing a fab­u­lously suc­cess­ful econ­omy be­hind – surely they were ejected from of­fice by a dis­sat­is­fied elec­torate!

But of course, the elec­torate might have been wrong. Per­haps they were too stupid to re­al­ize how good they had it, just as they are to­day too sim­ple to re­al­ize that “bet­ter days have come.”

Kenny An­thony Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter of Fi­nance: in ret­ro­spect how much

weight do his words carry?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.