An Analysis of Opening Statements 2012-2015 - Part 3
Atruism is a statement that is so widely accepted, or so evident and factual, that questioning its validity is considered foolish. A truism does not need to be supported by any other evidence. It is accepted as “true.”
Here are a few truisms that are bound to pop up sooner or later in K’s speeches: The apple never falls far from the tree. A fool and his money are soon parted. A friend in need is a friend indeed. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Dickens open his epic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, by making many statements about society, without any further evidence. These statements are truisms: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
It almost sounds like K at what he considers his very best: “Increasing taxes is not always the answer”, yet in one fell swoop he increased taxes on everyone by 15% with the introduction of VAT (which, by the way, is a good and just tax).
Warming to the subject, K goes on to say, “However, over-taxing any economy discourages economic growth”, a truism if I ever heard one; but K quickly progressed to an even truer truism, namely, “Increasing taxes is never popular.” Where does he get these pearls of wisdom from?
As winter follows fall – a truism on my part – K delivers the next platitude, “Government is very much aware that increasing taxes cannot be a solution by itself. It must be balanced and tempered by reductions in overall spending. The tax dollar is a burden on the entire State, and the State must earn the money it collects by providing quality services.” Of course, as we are dealing with platitudes and truisms – or lapalissades, as the French call them – K feels no obligation to actually address the issue of poor governmental services in return for higher taxes.
Instead he reminds the country that all is not what it ought to be. “Mr Speaker, I want the country to know where we should be and where we are right now.”
The picture K paints is pretty dismal. “If we are to merely maintain our already high unemployment rate so that it does not increase further, we would have to grow by about 3 percent per annum.”
Well that has not quite happened, as we all know.
“Our unemployment rate is 23.3 percent. For this Government the target would be a maximum unemployment rate of ten percent,” Neither has that. “Our debt level is around 73.6 percent of annual economic output. We would like that to be around 60 percent and lower.”
Well, “If wishes were fishes we’d all swim in riches” as the old saying goes. The rate has actually increased quite seriously. K is going to have to come up with a better solution.
He goes on to say, “Our overall deficit level this year is 5.7 percent of GDP. We would like it to be in the region of 3 percent and lower.”
Yeah, well, No Comment; no point in embarrassing a guy.
But then K comes up with a slam-dunk of a truism, “Mr Speaker, each of these challenges requires solutions.”
Well, I never … But he’s not finished yet, “We must seek solutions through economic competitiveness, resilience and fiscal stability.” What else is new?
There’s plenty of hot air left. “We do not have the luxury of time to solve them sequentially. Solutions will not be reached if we do not address all three challenges simultaneously and methodically.”
Well, ok, yes, I get that, but then K spoils the moment and adds, “Our fiscal problem will not go away just by growing our economy.”
Well maybe not, but nobody has actually suggested that that it the case anyway. So why make this an issue? Except of course for the minor point that “growing our economy” would go a helluva long way towards solving our problems.
The trouble is that in saving, saving, saving, K is actually shrinking our economy, which is just about the worst way of combating our fiscal problems.
But don’t be too hard on the guy. He’s never been in business and has never had to fight for survival in the cutthroat world of commerce. Generally speaking his wages have come from taxpayers’ money.
Instead of suggesting ways out, K offers a whole boatload of truisms, “If we were to reduce our debt-to-GDP ratio to the prudential 60 percent level by the year 2025, we would have to grow at an average of 10.5 percent per year from now until 2025. It would mean that foreign direct investment would have to be 55 percent of annual output, every single year.”
Lord knows what the required growth rate would be now after three years of Kenninomics!
K is always willing to listen; you have to give him that. But he is not altogether convinced that anyone other than himself truly understands the economy.
“It seems that everyone has an idea on what can be done, and this is good and healthy. However, I know that sometimes there exist many who are unaware of what the realities are.”
He particularly objects to some suggestions and quotes a few: “Let’s close down our Embassies. We have too many Foreign Missions doing nothing at all.” “Let’s make fewer overseas trips.” “Let’s cut the salaries of the senior management and reduce the number of consultants.” “Let’s save more on utilities and telephone use.” “Let’s reduce waste in the Public Service, like the use of Government vehicles,” and “Let’s engage in debt-for-nature swaps.”
K then takes a look at some of these suggestions. He insists that the total cost of all seven Embassies (and numerous Consulates, which he does not mention) is a mere $12 million annually. Of course he does not specify what sort of dollars he is talking about. If it’s USD, then the cost suddenly becomes interesting at XCD 32,000,000.
With respect to fewer overseas trips, K indicates a reduction from $700,000 to $500,000. He admits that many overseas meetings are funded by external agencies with the inherent risk of compromising our independence and sovereignty; the jolly jaunt to Taiwan recently to open the new embassy and hand out postcards bearing K’s photo to St Lucian students being a case in point – we would not wish to become too dependent on Taiwan, would we now?
K stresses that stripping the Public Service of its entire senior management will not resolve the problem. Maybe not, but making them more efficient might. Getting people to work on time and limiting “stepping out” time would be a good start.
As I mentioned in Part Two, K just loves gadgets: “With respect to vehicle use, this Government has been bold and innovative. We expect the Automated Vehicle Fleet Monitoring System that we recently instituted to have a medium-term impact of increasing efficiency and reducing wastage in the use of the SLGs.”
Yeah, well, we have all noticed the marked reduction in SLG vehicles outside Domino’s Pizza Parlours at lunchtime and the new infrequency of police trucks dropping off their girlfriends to go shopping at JQ’s, haven’t we? There are even fewer trucks taking families to the beach on Sundays.
Time for another truism: “paying our debts is a must.” And just for good measure he piles on a few more: “Defaults on debt payments will only lead to further hardship because we would damage our reputation and make it difficult for us to borrow money in the future.”
Actually, you should pay your debts because you have signed an agreement to do so, not because you plan to borrow more in the future. The idea is to reach a point where you do not have to live on borrowed money, but K doesn’t get that, obviously.
“Nor is it conscionable to hold back on NIC contributions and pensions.” Now why does that truism come across as a threat? Am I getting paranoid?