A word of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Se­na­tor Adrian Augier

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

I’ve shared with the pub­lisher of this news­pa­per, and with oth­ers, my aver­sion to the lo­cal run-of-the-mill ra­dio and TV talk shows. I much pre­fer read­ing a good book or tak­ing in an in­ter­est­ing CNN in­ter­view. I re­main con­vinced that an in­stance of su­pe­rior in­sight, call it a mo­ment of il­lu­mi­na­tion, is more likely to reach me in one of the week­end jour­nals. I en­joy pe­rus­ing re­gional and in­ter­na­tional news­pa­pers, far more than lis­ten­ing to wannabe so­cial climbers spew­ing shal­low un­truths. I like the writ­ten word be­cause it has been more of­ten than not care­fully weighed.

Thank­fully, one does not have to wait long be­fore a gem de­taches it­self from its crude sur­round­ings and forces us to take no­tice. We pay at­ten­tion be­cause its qual­ity touches our bet­ter spir­its. I’m re­fer­ring to the in­sight­ful con­tri­bu­tion by Se­na­tor Adrian Augier dur­ing the last sit­ting of the Se­nate, and also fea­tured in last week­end’s STAR. Augier’s “Make Saint Lu­cia Grow Again” pitch is the stuff of eru­di­tion and firm grasp of con­cept. It would do both Houses good to study that ad­dress.

Ev­i­dently Se­na­tor Augier had bor­rowed into Don­ald Trump’s “Make Amer­ica Great Again,” then tweaked it to fit his call to stop grow­ing gov­ern­ment at the cost of the cit­i­zenry. “Make Saint Lu­cia Grow Again” re­minded me that the for­mer gov­ern­ment had al­luded to growth in the econ­omy as it frit­tered away tax­payer dol­lars on un­sus­tain­able short-term gov­ern­ment jobs. Eco­nomic growth sus­tain­abil­ity is the key to the new Min­istry of Fi­nance, headed by Allen Chas­tanet. Its work has en­cap­su­lated Augier’s adopted slo­gan on the econ­omy as a chal­lenge to be rig­or­ously pur­sued.

By now the island’s politi­cians should have learned that eco­nomic growth is not a one-card trick, or a one-horse race. It re­quires sus­tained ef­fort from all sec­tors of the econ­omy and the so­ci­ety; in par­tic­u­lar, the pri­vate sec­tor and young en­trepreneurs. Some per­sons have put their all into their busi­nesses and have been burned by ex­ces­sive tax­a­tion im­posed by the last gov­ern­ment. Eas­ing the tax bur­den is surely a com­mon­sense way of help­ing busi­nesses grow and ex­pand. But there are some politi­cians who ap­pear de­ter­mined to fol­low a failed so­cial­ist/ com­mu­nist path of so­cial and eco­nomic devel­op­ment. Busi­nesses, es­pe­cially wholly owned or joint ven­tures must be as­sisted to grow and ex­pand by sen­si­ble tax­a­tion. The failed sys­tem of over-tax­a­tion is worth pon­der­ing as there are still some who de­fend it, ei­ther be­cause of weak-mind­ed­ness or an in­abil­ity to ac­knowl­edge fail­ure.

Tax-funded pro­grams such as STEP are bound to fail, sim­ply be­cause they are not sus­tain­able. These “make work” projects will never show a re­turn on in­vest­ment. Or­ga­nized in­struc­tions that teach STEP work­ers how to fix a weed whacker or a chain­saw would be a vast im­prove­ment on the sys­tem. STEP can be sus­tain­able, if it were to in­clude pro­fes­sional land­scap­ing, tree plant­ing and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion and the grow­ing of fish in streams and ponds. There is how­ever, an im­por­tant twist to “Make Saint Lu­cia Grow Again.” It in­volves swal­low­ing the bit­ter pill known as belt-tight­en­ing. Growth in­volves time, ef­fort and sac­ri­fice. The Min­istry of Fi­nance and its en­tire staff plus the Cab­i­net must be con­vinced that small sus­tain­able steps are the best way to make Saint Lu­cia grow again, socially and eco­nom­i­cally. Point­less dream­ing of some res­cu­ing Mes­siah from abroad, to para­phrase Adrian Augier.

The poor can­not be ex­pected to be sat­is­fied with liv­ing hand to mouth with no ex­pec­ta­tion of respite while a self­ish and in­ward-look­ing gov­ern­ment spends wildly on party hacks re­gard­less of in­evitable con­se­quences. There is al­ways a heavy price to pay for bad gov­er­nance and un­sus­tain­able spend­ing. This is as true for gov­ern­ments as it is for business. It is no se­cret that some tal­ent­less politi­cians have driven their coun­tries into the hands of the IMF even as they grow fat at the peo­ple’s ex­pense. What kind of gov­ern­ment chokes the life out of its pri­vate sec­tor? Who suf­fers most when busi­nesses are forced to shut down? Who but the same peo­ple some politi­cians claim they love and whose pain they claim to feel?

What­ever one may think of the Chas­tanet-led UWP gov­ern­ment it is cleared not in­tim­i­dated by red devils. The new prime min­is­ter wears as many blue and yel­low ties as he does red ones. As for re­fus­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with op­po­si­tion politi­cians, Allen Chas­tanet has made a point of do­ing the very op­po­site. He treats his House op­po­si­tion with de­served cour­tesy. Per­haps the most im­por­tant change that has taken place since June 2016 is the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the gov­ern­ment to fix the ju­di­cial and le­gal sys­tem. Peo­ple will fall in line and wait their turn for a fair trial if it is seen that the sys­tem is work­ing fairly for ev­ery­one, with­out dis­crim­i­na­tion. If it is seen that gov­ern­ment is work­ing to grow the econ­omy for the ben­e­fit of all Saint Lu­cians I be­lieve the good peo­ple of this country will throw their sup­port be­hind gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives. That is the es­sen­tial dis­til­late from Se­na­tor Augier’s Se­nate speech. I pray he con­tin­ues to share his in­sights and schol­ar­ship in sub­se­quent sit­tings of the Se­nate, and that the STAR con­tin­ues to fea­ture his ad­dresses. Ed­i­tor’s note: The au­thor is a for­mer agri­cul­ture min­is­ter.

Se­na­tor Adrian Augier’s ad­dress at last week’s Se­nate ses­sion con­tin­ues to at­tract great re­views from Saint Lu­cians at home and abroad.

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