Has God done to Kenny what He did to Saul?

New PM Kenny Anthony appeared on TV twice this week to spread the gospel of forgive and forget!

Unemployment in the UK is the highest it’s been in seventeen years. One hundred and twenty-eight thousand recently joined the jobless ranks. The number of public sector workers has dropped to below six million, the lowest since 2003.  Unemployment among those aged 16-24 has increased by fifty-four thousand to 1.03 million. With fewer and fewer people able to take vacations (especially in the unrealistically expensive Caribbean) Thomas Cook has shut down 115 shops, with just under 200 more expected soon to close. Some 600 employees have been sent home. The travel agents say they had no other choice.
The situation is similarly dismal throughout the rest of Europe and in the U.S. where for some time now, and despite the unpredictable cold, desperate citizens have occupied parks and public buildings in protest against their living conditions—not to mention the political decisions that they say are responsible. Public amenities are disappearing at the speed of light, as more and more Americans end up on the street with their hungry children. Suicides are up, as are marital break-ups. Just this week Dr Phil devoted a whole program to the phenomenal effects of the worst recession in a hundred years!
In Saint Lucia, meanwhile, we continue to adhere to the bird-brain notion that what we don’t know doesn’t exist, therefore can’t hurt us. We talk more about the “changed Kenny Anthony,” the Jazz Festival and the annual arrival in Rodney Bay of yachts owned by multi-millionaires—the fruits from which are more imagined than real, for most Saint Lucians, at any rate—than about our own recession-related predicament. Now that the elections are over and our politicians have no further use for statistics as campaign weapons, we are likely to hear even less about our own joblessness and the multiple attendant consequences—good enough reason to re-examine the respective manifestoes, perchance to remind ourselves of their promises to the nation.
Lead among the election pledges was “job, jobs, jobs.” Since such promises are on this Rock of Sages made largely to the inebriated and to those who hear no evil, there were no related pesky questions, such as jobs for whom? Not even from the press, whose jaded personnel, let’s face it, have heard it all before, and from the same oozing orifices. So now, consider this small sampling, first from the United Workers Party manifesto.
“A UWP administration will develop detailed programs to pursue the following specific priorities: reduce unemployment and poverty by generating jobs in tourism, information and communications technology, green energy, construction, manufacturing and agricultural sectors and the professional and business service areas. Increase the productivity of key towns and villages through infrastructural improvement and targeted investment . . .”
What key towns and villages? And what about the non-key areas? Specific priorities? How do you generate jobs in a tourism sector with no money-spending tourists?   Elsewhere on the list of UWP promises there is this: “Reform the domestic business environment with a focus on increasing the efficiency of conducting business.” Come again?                 What business environment? When did we acquire the ability to raise the dead?
Then there is this mumbo-jumbo: “Rationalize government expenditure to enhance efficiencies,” and “modernize and transform the agriculture sector to capitalize on opportunities in niche products with export potential . . .” What niche products?  What special markets are we hinting at? Alas, no such questions were asked, let alone answered during the campaign, maybe because they never asked to be taken seriously. The UWP now has five years during which to contemplate the fall-out from its insult to what is usually referred to tongue-in-cheek as the “national intelligence.”
The Red Zone’s manifesto was somewhat more, er, creative, on the matter of employment: “The private sector must remain an integral part of the new economy   . . . the private sector must continue to lead the way to provide jobs, generate public revenue, and earn foreign exchange to drive economic growth. The new economy must be a private-sector led economy.” (My italics)
Did I miss something? Is it not implied that the private sector already is “an integral part of the new economy?” What, then, to make of  “the new economy” that must be a “private-sector led economy?” Has no one else noticed the private sector on which so much depends is itself close to expiring?
As if by way of offering an explanation, the SLP manifesto self-consciously promises elements of the new economy “will involve continued investment in the development of high-end tourism products such as adventure tourism, nature-based tourism, cultural tourism, conferences and community tourism.” Obviously, there’s not much new here. Which brings to mind Einstein’s line about repeating failed procedures while hoping for miraculous new results. Is that all our comatose tourism needs? More investment of scarce money? Who will be the resuscitator-investors? The government? Private sector entities? The hotel formerly known as Hyatt and others bent out of shape by the recession?
Still on “the elements of the new economy.” The new government has promised via its manifesto to place “a deliberate emphasis on high-value agriculture, focusing on the food industry, agro-processing and horticulture.”
High-end tourism, high-value agriculture. How high were the folks who wrote this stuff? There are at least three budget addresses dating back to John Compton’s heyday, in the heady time of King Banana, when the last-quoted promise was made, almost word for word. In the radical days of George Odlum and Kenny Anthony, even Allan Louisy talked about locally canned fruit and banana chips and baby food and all kinds of good things to be made in St Lucia from the banana tree.
I was taken aback by the following, lifted from the 1957-1962 Labour Party manifesto: “We aim in the next five years to be able to feed ourselves . . . to improve the production standards of all food crops grown and produced in Saint Lucia . . . to foster a comprehensive nutrition program including research and mass education on an all-island basis and to institute research in processing and preserving fruit and fruit crops . . .”                 Yes, you read that right: the quoted section was taken from the SLP manifesto of 1957. Then again, the party had also promised in the same document to “do everything possible to see that Federation is the success it deserves to be.” (Hopefully, not all Saint Lucians are ignorant of the Federation’s history.)
We’re still talking the same ole talk, never having walked the walk. Alas, in Compton’s day, in the time of Louisy-Odlum-Kenny too, the idea of food processing was at least feasible. We had guaranteed green gold. As for our ability to feed ourselves, obviously little has changed since 1957!
On Wednesday evening I studied the advertised reformed Kenny Anthony being interviewed on HTS by Teddy Francis and his DBS echo—or was it Teddy echoing the other guy’s questions? Forget about eyes that see not.
To first-time beholders of the prime minister, that is to say, visiting Martians and others recently arrived at the voting age and therefore not yet quite as cynical as the once-bitten-twice-shy, Kenny must’ve come across as contrite, humble, forgiving, absolutely in control of his immediate environment, deep!
No surprise that on Thursday morning my friend from Atlanta, Georgia, who did not catch the whole program, put to me the following question: “Rick, you know the prime minister better than I? How genuine do you think he was last night?” Who am I to judge? The best I could do was remind my friend of Kenny Anthony’s first addresses immediately before and upon becoming our prime minister for the very first time. He came across then as humble, forgiving, determined to heal the nation, not further divide it, ready to reach out to detractors, whether UWPs or no-Pees . . . Who could have imagined him composing George Mallet’s historic 1997 Throne Speech? Oh, but I am reminded that elsewhere I gave my own promise to stay away from such unwholesome recollections, at any rate until the new government is up and running. Besides, people are not leopards; surely some of us can change as Saul had changed, albeit miraculously!
Yes, so even as the prime minister was telling Teddy Francis about his Cabinet ministers and their need to make a living (in all fairness, even though he may have contradicted earlier statements, he did say government was not the place to go to if your plan is to be rich!), I wondered about the following from his manifesto: “Our tax base is too small to allow government to provide the services demanded. On top of that the new regional trade agreements will cause us to lose significant import tariff revenues that are currently paying for
many of these services. The other countries in the OECS and Caricom have already faced that reality. Saint Lucia cannot continue to hide. Where VAT is concerned, we do not have a choice. We must introduce it.”
Then there are the welcomed promised various tax breaks. With our admittedly handicapped government rendered even more broke, how to provide “the services demanded”—among them police protection for citizens, healthcare, water, education, not forgetting jobs, jobs, jobs.
How to explain the size of the new Cabinet, as large as Stephenson King’s had been, when earlier Kenny Anthony had hinted at one smaller? How to explain a public service attorney general as opposed to one politically appointed? Might the most significant difference be salary-related?
Then there is the 100-ton elephant in the room. On Wednesday evening the prime minister revealed his government’s intention to create “a planning institute” for the purpose of accommodating the well-known talents of Ausbert d’Auvergne, once publicly denounced by Kenny Anthony himself for his alleged close connections with convicted international drug barons, a relationship that had landed a trusted relative behind bars, according to SLP propaganda. And that’s only a hint of the garbage piled, fairly or unfairly, at d’Auvergne’s door. There was also d’Auvergne’s curious association with Charles Fleming, the central figure in the so-called UN scandal, not to say the Blom-Cooper inquiry—initiated by the Anthony government soon after     taking office in 1997.
The consequent burdens had crippled d’Auvergne’s efforts at launching his own party in time for the 2006 elections. Instead, he had returned to his old boss in a failed quest to contest for the UWP what he said
was for him a safe seat, then held by Marcus Nicholas. Then party leader Sir John knew differently. He had personally expressed to me his own determination, for undisclosed reasons, to keep his former permanent secretary as far away as possible from a government ministry. If his campaign proved successful, Sir John told me, he hoped to place d’Auvergne in a top diplomatic position in Geneva “where he could best put his talents to work for Saint Lucia.”
Imagine my surprise less than a week after his election victory when Sir John rattled off for my information the list of important portfolios he had entrusted in the hands of d’Auvergne. It will
remain conjectural whether the sick and secretly moribund old man changed his mind at the behest of d’Auvergne himself or at the sweet persuasion of his wife who, as they say, has always had “a soft spot” for d’Auvergne.  Soon after Stephenson King replaced Sir John as prime minister, Kenny Anthony launched a two-year campaign centered on d’Auvergne’s unsuitability for public office. Pressured by five of his Cabinet colleagues who felt the unelected d’Auvergne held too much sway over the new prime minister, not to mention their own portfolios, King finally saved himself by demanding d’Auvergne’s resignation.
It was hardly a surprise to hear the former senator speaking defensively of Kenny Anthony on the matter of Jack Grynberg, some five months before the 2011 elections. The former sworn enemies were later photographed hugging in public minutes before they affixed their signatures as party leaders to a document related to campaign behavior. On reflection one is inclined to suspect Kenny’s advertised new attitude was part and parcel of a calculated accommodation of Ausbert d’Auvergne, with whom he shares certain bitter experiences. To echo his expressed sentiments while discussing d’Auvergne with Francis on Wednesday evening, Kenny too had committed sins later forgiven. Why then should he not forgive those who had trespassed against us?
Even if the olive branch he offered was real, not faux, still there were associated problems. Not the least of them was the fact that the people had forgiven Kenny Anthony his sins, if only after they booted him out of office for five years. The first is that the people had forgiven Kenny Anthony his “sins,” if only after they had booted him out of office. These same forgiving people had also made it abundantly clear just two weeks ago that they wanted at this particular time no part of d’Auvergne. They had not permitted him even the dignity of holding on to his deposit. So what was in their sound that Kenny misunderstood?
To be fair, Kenny Anthony is free to forgive whatever sins he chooses to forgive. But I dare to say only in his personal capacity. He should remember the sins allegedly committed were sins against the people. The people alone have the right to determine when to return public-service sinners to office. After all, it is their money that pays government salaries, not Kenny Anthony’s private account.
On a personal note: I welcome the prime minister’s new-found ability to forgive and forget, if so far only in his personal interest. Can we now dare expect him to forgive whatever he holds against Richard Frederick, in the public interest? Or must Frederick first
publicly denounce Stephenson King? For what it’s worth, the people have more than three times embraced the Central Castries MP, despite the countless unproven transgressions placed at his door by Kenny Anthony. As for the famous revocation, the jury is still out on that one, hopefully considering its circumstances.
It remains now to be said that by the look of things, the one hundred million dollars that the new government pledged to invest in the private sector “immediately upon taking office,” in the best interests of the unemployed, may be a while coming. By all the prime minister told Francis, some borrowing may be involved. (Surprise! Surprise!) And anyway, it has apparently not yet been determined exactly how that money is to be invested. Hopefully, it won’t be long before the plan is unveiled.
Judging by all he said on Wednesday evening, it seems the prime minister is not fully acquainted after all this time with what really is going on with regard to financing Project Hewanorra Airport. In all events, the one thing we can all count on is more borrowing-in-hope. The usual election guff notwithstanding,
it remains as unclear today as it was before November 28 what precisely is our government’s strategy for pulling us out of this mess that threatens to overwhelm our nation. Obviously, to rant and rave in I-told-you-so mode is counterproductive. We are all in this quicksand together.
Imitating pigs at the trough will only hasten our demise, not our survival. If he never keeps another promise, Kenny Anthony had better be sincere this time around about his twice-declared readiness to embrace all who are not indelibly tainted and are willing and able to work—whether SLPees, UWPees or No-pees—in the common interest!
Otherwise, we all soon perish!

Share your feedback with us.

Comments are closed.

← Go Back | Commentary Back to Top ↑
THE STAR Newspaper
Magazines available in THE STAR Newspaper
2Nite Magazine for Saturday October 1st, 2016 ~ Issue no. 204
2nite Magazine
Sports & Health Magazine for October 1st, 2016 ~ Issue no. 112
Sports & Health Inc

Lifestyle & Archives