In the first of his public tributes on the passing of Hunter J.Francois, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony referred to him as the “last of the great politicians”.
This assertion quite likely caused some discomfiture among the prime minister’s colleagues who consider themselves far worthier of the accolade. Interesting is the fact that by his acknowledgement of Mr. Francois’ status, Dr. Anthony implied he was not among the greats of local politics. Indeed, the prime minister clearly insinuated that what Hunter Francois leaves behind is relative mediocrity.
But one courageous admission deserves another. The prime minister might show what he is made of if at this weekend’s convention he should declare himself a failure, having proved himself incapable of delivering on his election promise of jobs, jobs, jobs. I, for one, will not hold my breath waiting for this announcement. Indeed, I expect the opposite, which will be a reminder that what the PM said of Francois was nothing but the truth, albeit an inconvenient one.
Youth unemployment has been identified as perhaps the most serious issue confronting the island, with the 2010 census stating that 40 percent of young people are jobless. While Labour had capitalized at election time on the situation, the Anthony administration has been unable, after three years, to ameliorate it.
Young unemployed Saint Lucians had thrown their support behind Labour in 2011, largely because they believed in the prime minister’s pledges on their behalf. What they got instead was an exacerbation of their unemployment problem: increasing numbers of families struggling to survive by whatever means, quite often demeaning.
Youth generally are discouraged in terms of their scope for furthering their education and for gaining employment. How can they feel they have a stake in their own country’s future if they are marginalized? It takes no complex theory to support that there has been a build-up of resentment for law and order under this administration. The crime rate and the acts of desperation—such as robbing churches, schools, hospitals and senior citizens’ homes—tells the dreadful story all too vividly. Young people have become switched off by the negativity and cynicism of election campaigns and indicate that no slate of candidates will attract them to vote in future elections. So much for better days!
Another brave admission that the nation would surely appreciate, even as government invents reasons for celebrating its three years in office, is that its economic policies have bled the country and brought the private sector to its knees. Even the hardest-working citizens are at their wits’ end how to make ends meet.
The disposable incomes of households have been severely reduced relative to the frozen salaries of workers, existing debts, plus VAT. Parents can no longer afford health and house insurance, or lessons and pre-school for their children. One only has to speak to schoolteachers to learn about the missed classes associated with an inability to pay for food and transportation.
The big questions that confront the average household each month: Do I pay water? Electricity? Seek urgent medical attention? What can I buy to provide a fairly balanced diet for my family?
The administration has failed poor and low-income families, miserably. Even as it boasts about increases in public assistance, VAT is taking it all back from the poor.
It is also timely for Prime Minister Anthony to admit that the private sector is edgy and disgruntled, as people feel an escalating sense of futility in their own efforts to spur business activity, especially in movement of their goods and services. Just last week the Chamber of Commerce dealt the government a telling blow, describing the island’s recent drop in the World Bank’s 2015 Ease of Doing Business rating as “a humiliating experience”. The drop to 100th place comes just three years after the island was ranked 53rd in the world, and number one in the Caribbean. Whatever changed the island’s upward trajectory seems to have begun three years ago, and has incurred the wrath of the Chamber.
Some banks are imposing strategic fees/penalties and restrictions on their customers, all aimed at pinching away at their funds until there is nothing left, then the accounts are closed. Technically the customer is deemed insolvent.
These unfortunate customer-targeted actions may be driven by upsurges in non–performing loans, especially mortgages. Interest rates are no longer competitive. Are the banks worried that they cannot remain profitable given the increasing toll on the financial sector? This situation is undeniable evidence of major weakness in the economy, weaknesses the Labour government wants public servants to pay for from their salaries, through a five percent pay cut.
The nation needs honest and brave admissions; enough of the sugar-coated, disingenuous speeches that have no feel for the people’s reality, narrated chiefly to accumulate political points; insults to the people’s intelligence.
Instead of celebrating in the face of all the struggles of this small nation of ours, this government should on the occasion of their third anniversary form a Complaints Panel to record the unresolved issues and the disappointments that the people of this country have had to endure under their stewardship. The truism that confession is good for the soul is not altogether without merit!