In a press release issued last Friday, the prime minister’s press secretary asserted that UWP leader Allen Chastanet had been less than truthful when he claimed on TV that the Kenny Anthony government had in just two-and-a-half years increased the public debt/GDP ratio by 17 percent and also by 14 percent.
Chastanet’s statement was “patently false,” wrote the press secretary Jadia JnPierre-Emmanuel, otherwise that would mean the government had borrow EC$400 million, which it had not.
Additionally, “A 17 percent debt increase would mean the public debt had risen from $2.3 billion in 2011 to $3.0 billion at December 31, 2013. She said the debt/GDP ration at the end of December 2013 stood at 74 percent and not 89 percent as Chastanet had claimed.
The press secretary also challenged Chastanet’s assertion that since the return of the Anthony administration some 4000 had been lost. While she avoided stating the number of jobs actually lost, the press secretary insisted that since 2011 over 3000 had been created under the NICE program.
On Monday Chastanet convened a press conference to confirm what he had earlier said during a short TV interview last Friday. He began with the reminder that the campaigning Kenny Anthony had promised upon reelection “better days and jobs, jobs, jobs,” but he had barely taken the oath of office when he changed his tune. Now he was advising people to “tighten their belts.”
Soon afterward, Chastanet recalled, “the prime minister set off on a shopping spree’ to benefit members of his executive and other Labour Party supporters.
“I indicated that the debt to GDP ration is now estimated to be at 89 percent,” he went on. “I went further to say there was a 14 percent increase this year and approximately 17 percent increase since this government assumed office.” He cited his source, the Caribbean Development Bank and distributed related documents among the attendant press corps.
By Chastanet’s account, “the economy of Saint Lucia is estimated to have contracted in 2013, based on declines in construction and the financial sector activity that were not fully mitigated by the uptake in tourism.”
GDP increased in all BMC’s, led by Saint Lucia, up 14 percent to 89 percent, said Chastanet. He added: “At the last House sitting some were led to believe Richard Frederick had a bomb to drop. But the only bomb by the prime minister when he revealed his efforts at raising $260 in bonds had yielded only $40 million.”
Moreover: “Saint Lucians were never given a satisfactory explanation for the prime minister’s decision to increase the government’s overdraft from $20 million to $35 million and then to $55 million.”
Turning to a CARICRIS document Chastanet said that while the government had sought to improve its financial situation via a Value Added Tax, the regime did not have the anticipated enhancing impart on current revenue.
For every dollar the government gets, Chastanet observed, “89 cents go toward debt payment, leaving the government with just 11 cents to run this country.” This, along with no new investments or policies to suggest the government is serious about private sector growth paints a dismal picture, said the UWP leader.
Then there was the IMF document published in 2013 that warned the government of Saint Lucia’s deteriorating fiscal position. “instead of dealing with the issues,” said Chastanet, the government had resorted to attacks on his good name, including declaring him a liar.
“I challenge them to prove their allegations,” said Chastanet, before citing a passage from the Ramsahoye Report, referencing Frenwell: “We consider the loss that the government and people of Saint Lucia suffered in this matter was the result of maladministration.”
The NCA affair as well as cost overruns incurred by the last Labour government led by Kenny Anthony were also referenced. Said Chastanet: “It is time the government fessed up about the real state of the economy. It’s blueprint for growth has been a dismal failure.”
He predicted a major downfall in government earnings and warned that the opposition is “preparing to put forward a formidable debate” come Budget time.
Also at Monday’s press conference was the MP for Castries Southeast Guy Joseph. Look out for his own revelations in Saturday’s STAR.