It was not the most appropriate word, not by a long stretch. At its core the coincidence of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago abolishing Value Added Tax (VAT) on food items less than 24 hours before the government of Saint Lucia would assault its own citizens with that tax. Funny came to mind. The demonstrated lack of compassion on the part of the SLP government, more interested, it seemed, in raising revenue than in keeping an election promise. VAT caught many in Saint Lucia off guard. Funny may not have been the most appropriate word but the blank faces on otherwise smart people after VAT began to bite was funny. Doctors and the poor alike criticized the unconscionable 15% VAT on medicines.
Disappointment and disbelief were etched on the faces of many business people some of whom had warned the government against imposing VAT on medicines, reading glasses and dentures. A senior citizen who has given yeoman service to this country lamented that VAT was “Violently attacking the poor!”
Saint Lucians and citizens of sister countries in the Caribbean now look in envy at Trinidad and Tobago where the worrisome VAT on some food items has recently been lowered. The measure has been welcomed by citizens of the twin-island Republic.
The Kenny Anthony government and its party hacks went dead silent when VAT began to crush the private sector and other people. In pain and disappointment Saint Lucians are re-discovering that politicians must be judged on what they do, not on what they promise. New Labour introduced a new strain of hypocrisy to the island. People were misled; fooled. They forgot how to shout and protest when their government lied to them.
Many are asking what has become of the additional revenue from VAT. The SLP government cannot answer, will not answer, because it has frittered it away. It spends foolishly, making people increasingly dependent, not independent.
As another general election looms, will it answer the people’s cries? The government is determined to continue its old ways, wasting people’s taxes. Wastage suitably describes the management style of the SLP government.
One wonders how long the UWP will take to eliminate VAT in Saint Lucia. In Trinidad one did not have to wait long for an answer. Within weeks of a change of government, a new budget attacked VAT, reducing it on some food items.
Saint Lucia needs to abolish VAT completely. When citizens contribute equitably according to their means, economic and social progress moves at a faster pace.
It would be interesting to see election banners and stickers saying: “Jail the thieves!” Or “No more bull, No More Lies.” The question arises: Are there any within the SLP red brigade (en rouge?) with the gonads to say, “To hell with the multi-faceted clown prince.” Who will put country before party? Does anyone in the SLP have the gonads to call a spade a spade? When will the lies and bluff end?
The economic news from Saint Lucia is less “funny” than regrettable. It exposes the mediocrity and bad management of the SLP leadership. Offering temporary STEP jobs instead of teaching unskilled workers new skills for a better future is a crime crying to heaven for vengeance. Perpetuating the pattern of the plantation economy built on cheap labour and an ignorant workforce is still the preferred model.
Persistent darkness will be the legacy of a government that has lost its compass and sold its principles to rich Saudis. People must wake up lest VAT, the Grynberg contract, the secret appointment of Saudi ambassadors, IMPACS and corruption in off-shore leave others laughing.
I was amused while observing the SLP attempting to steal UWP legacy. The SLP genuflects at the stone image of John Compton in Constitution Park. Some SLP believe that people have short memories and that they can lie to the electorate again and again and hope to get back in government. Perhaps the last thing on the minds of the suffering people is that they are being fooled again. The SLP still believes its party hacks will say and do whatever they are told.
One is tempted to ask whether the former UWP leadership had miscalculated the erection of the stone monument. The shameful attempts by the SLP leadership to fraternize with the deceased Sir John Compton, whom they had so despised in his lifetime, must have turned many stomachs. Did anyone take the SLP leader’s remarks on the occasion seriously?
Finally, the UWP cannot afford to be back in its attitude to the issues that matter to the citizens of Saint Lucia. It must stand up and defend its record of achievements in the social and economic advancement of our nation.