Building a Better Saint Lucia
Just for the heck of it I read the 2011 St Lucia Labour Party Manifesto on the long flight from Hong Kong to London last night. The cover itself was quite revealing: It purported to be a Blueprint for Growth by Building a Better Saint Lucia symbolized by a handful of soil and a three-leafed seedling; the mixed metaphor was a giveaway. The slogan ‘Better Days Are Coming' – without saying when – was, better yet, an easy promise to make. The Foundation comprised nine areas of improvement: Restructured Economy, Creating Jobs, Support for Local Business, Encouraging Investment, New Policy Measures, Tourism, Agriculture and Fisheries, Creative Industries, International Financial Services, and basically anything else you might think of.
Well if you call a ruined economy a ‘restructured economy' I guess Kenny kept that promise. As for ‘Creating Jobs' well they were another of the PM's well-kept secrets that were probably hidden where the ‘Support for Local Business' languished. ‘Encouraging Investment' became ‘Selling off Citizenship'. ‘New Policy Measures' – unspecified of course – were assigned to the ‘your guess is as good as mine' category, and as for ‘Tourism' - check the hotel occupancy! As far as ‘Agriculture and Fisheries' are concerned, just look at all the imported fruit and vegetables on supermarket shelves, or try to buy your favourite fish from the evershrinking pool of local fishermen (sorry, we are supposed to say ‘fishers' these days in recognition of all the ladies employed in the industry – smile please).
Two SLP Pillars rose majestically from this shaky Foundation: ‘Our (SLP) National Security Programme' and ‘Our (SLP) Human and Social Development Programme'. The first promised the ‘Strengthening of the Police' but that was before Kenny went on the attack and did his very best to alienate the police force, of course. It seems that the police force has never been held in such low esteem by the citizens it is mandated to protect. Whose fault that is, I wouldn't care to say, except of course to mention that few if any prime ministers have maligned their police forces as U-No-Hu has done. (We must not forget the China-Taiwan diplomatic relations flirtations fiasco that insulted and angered both potential allies.)
Then came ‘New Modern Legislation' (as opposed to old, outdated legislation) which perhaps should more correctly have been designated ‘airy-fairy-unspecified legislation' or ‘we'll see what is most expedient' – like VAT. Just a quick word about VAT: I think it is a great, fair tax if applied wisely, but the way Kenny introduced it was, to say the least, misleading. He indicated that VAT would alleviate the following problems: ‘All children, from birth, get access to quality education; all citizens have access to affordable health care; high-risk groups get effective social protection services; the population is serviced by an efficient public service . . . ' Has any of this happened, or come close to happening, since the introduction of VAT? Of course not, the money just disappeared!
Here's another whopper from the Manifesto of 2011: ‘When our Party was in office we provided a cushion to consumers from high prices of petrol and cooking gas. Once again, this will be the basis for our policy on fuel costs.” Well, I seem to recall, until recently, record high prices on fuel, but people forget so easily, as Kenny well knows, during a ‘year-before-the-election' year.
Then came – wait for it – a ‘Stronger Justice System'. Honestly, has our justice system, if it exists at all, ever been in such a shambles? At times it has seemed that the PM and the Director of Public Prosecutions, let alone the legal fraternity and sorority, have been at odds – not to say ‘war' – with each other. What a way to strengthen the justice system!
Finally, probably because they had a line to fill, nothing else, the National Security Programme promised to tackle unspecified ‘Social Issues', which presumably means that society is much better now than five years ago. Of course, Kenny has travelled abroad so much in the past five years he cannot be blamed for not knowing how society has deteriorated back home.
The second Pillar to rise from the Foundation: the ‘Human and Social Development Programme' of ‘Education, Health, Social Transformation, Housing, National Heritage and Sports'. (I'm sorry to go on about Foundations and Twin Pillars but they were there in the Manifesto – clear evidence of Kenny's obsession with a blinded and battered Samson tearing down Saint Lucia's Philistine Temple of Dagon – the Fish God, and a cold fish indeed – willing to destroy himself and everything around him rather than succumb to opposition.) Well, Education has not improved and cannot be improved by temporary cash handouts; the Health system is a disgrace despite the best efforts of doctors and hospital staff; Social Transformation – what transformation? Housing? The people in power already have their houses; National Heritage has, as they say, been around a long time – that's what Heritage means; and as for Sports, well maybe Darren and Levern really could captain the country better!