Has political BS replaced our national dish?

Parliament at the time of the 2012 Throne Speech: Does anyone ever take seriously what government says, even when  delivered from the lips of the Governor General?

Parliament at the time of the 2012 Throne Speech: Does anyone ever take seriously what government says, even when delivered from the lips of the Governor General?

When will politicians quit treating we the people as contemptible idiotic suckers for punishment? The answer couldn’t be more obvious: when we the people quit behaving like contemptible idiotic suckers for punishment!
Consider the most recent UWP press conference. It starred three of the opposition party’s most articulate (others less charitable than I might prefer to say “most garrulous!”) representatives: MP Guy Joseph, Senator Lenard Montoute and the former tourism minister Allen Chastanet, currently head honcho at the family’s Coco Palm Hotel.
Now keep in mind the issue on the minds of most thinking Saint Lucians at this particular time: the angry war of words between the public sector unions and the self-declared intransigent Kenny Anthony administration. For over a month the nation has been subjected by both sides to useless talk, useless in the sense that nothing so far publicly expressed can possibly have positive impact on our comatose economy, our dead and dying private sector, our immediate future.
Quite obviously the government and its alleged servants are locked in a lose-lose war game that predictably will be paid for with the lifeblood of this bleeding nation’s citizens, regardless of age, and for the foreseeable future.
So what did the earlier mentioned threesome choose to address at their press conference? To be absolutely fair, passing references were made to the sorry state of the economy but only with regard to the prime minister’s February 27 address to the nation, when he blamed his immediate predecessors for all our economic troubles—particularly for having given in to the CSA’s demands in 2009 for a 14.5% wage increase.                 That he and his then opposition party had been among the more effective agitators was apparently neither here nor there!
“We were forced to do what no government should do,” said the prime minister, who was for the third time returned to office in November 2011. “We were forced to borrow to meet the cost of salaries and other recurrent expenditure.”
Additionally: “By the end of March 2013 our debt will increase to 78% of our GDP. Today, for the first time in our fiscal history since Independence in 1979, the Caribbean Development Bank has included us among a list of seven countries in the Caribbean with a high unsustainable debt!”
Yes, a high unsustainable debt, for which the prime minister clearly held the previous government solely responsible, in consequence of having bowed to that earlier mentioned 14.5% wage increase.
Evidently the UWP’s presumed three wise men were more interested in challenging the following assertion by the prime minister: “When we got into office in 2011 we found several consultants all over the public service. In the Ministry of Finance alone, I found 42 officers on contract, with titles ranging from director to analyst to program manager.”
Some of the officers were paid monthly salaries between $16,000 and $20,000, he revealed, “when the highest basic salary allowed under the current salary scale is $12,831 a month.” By the prime minister’s account, “the UWP government was paying its consultants basic salaries 55% above the amount permissible under our salaries structure.”
This was how Allen Chastanet chose to address the absolutely shocking disclosure: “The United Workers Party calls on the government to highlight the 141 contracts he says were issued. Tell us the titles of those contracts, the names of the people who received these contracts . . . Let us not forget that after Hurricane Tomas there was aid money coming in. Special programs had to be designed and consultants were needed for this. People were hired in the prime minister’s office under the Economic Recovery Act.”
Consultants were also hired for the St Jude Hospital project, said Chastanet. He added that could “run through a litany of examples but suffice it to say the United Workers Party fears no repercussions.” Which of course was fine for the UWP but not necessarily we the people who always suffer the repercussions, regardless of the transgressors.
An attendant STAR representative asked the obvious question: “Wouldn’t the opposition know or have access to information contrary to the prime minister’s televised assertions?
Chastanet: “I don’t think we would be able to review all of that . . . but then what does the prime minister classify as a contract? For instance, the chief engineer in the communications and works ministry was on contract. Is he included in the prime minister’s list? It is important when they make statements that the clarify them.”
He said the system was in any event nothing new. “If you have programs that are not meant to last very long you do not bring them into the public service.”
He cited the situation at the tourist board, “a statutory body where there is the issuing of contracts. There are some people who will not fit within the public service regime,” said Chastanet, immediately bringing to mind a certain Mr. Hepple, “because of the salary constraints. But you need their services and you can bring them in on a temporary basis.” Alas, Chastanet did not define temporary as it related to the tourism ministry.
“I believe the information was thrown out there to suggest the United Workers Party had a plan designed to accommodate UWP operatives,” said
Chastanet. “That was not the case. We have nothing to hide, so please bring out the names, say what contracts you’re talking about and we will address them one by one.”
Obviously it would be suicidal to hold our breath while waiting for those names to be brought out into the open. The former tourism minister would have better served the nation had he simply presented all the information at his disposal that related to contracts in his time. Were there so many names that the former minister faced a mission impossible when it came time to publicly account for his stewardship? What then was the purpose for the particular press conference, if not to “clarify” his position?
The MP Guy Joseph could do no better than proffer uninvited advice to the prime minister. “There are a lot things just being thrown out there that are not clear to me,” he said, as if there had been any doubt about that. “I am not sure the prime minister has made the transition from leader of the opposition to prime minister. He has the information at his disposal . . . As prime minister of a country, if you are in sensitive negotiations, if you are going through a process, it is important you put information out there that can be trusted.”
It is equally important that when accused by the government opposition politicians prove to we the people the invalidity of the accusations. On the matter of consultants and others contracted by the former and present governments, we the people remain none the wiser—even as we grow rapidly poorer in consequence.
If as the prime minister implied the previous government had hired hacks at rates way above current scales, does that mean certain laws were in the process contravened? And if that be the case, shouldn’t the lawbreakers be brought to justice in the name of we the people? Shouldn’t they be required to the return the people’s money?
What does he mean when the prime minister says “141 officers assigned to various projects across the civil service were not appointed by the Public Service Commission?” Is that regular procedure? Then what purpose does the PSC serve?
The prime minister went on to say that when Stephenson King was “busy appointing consultants across the public service no one cared or chose to care, speak or protest.”
Was he saying the people knew what was going on and sanctioned it by their silence? Or were we all deliberately kept in the dark? More pointedly, were we the people informed by either government or opposition? What did the opposition say when all this implied under-the-table hiring was going on?
Will the now prime minister simply shrug off his responsibly by saying he didn’t know? And if he didn’t know, why didn’t he know? After all, when in opposition he was paid by taxpayers to know and provide the nation with details of government business. Even now the public has been served no reliable information on the consultants issue.
As if to deny his own contribution to the nation’s economic situation, the prime minister said: “The number of persons who have been employed by our government since assuming office pales in comparison with the astronomical level of hiring under the UWP.”
So what? Did he not exacerbate the situation by making the already “astronomical” even more astronomical? Or did the present government first drastically reduce the excess baggage before hiring its own presumably smaller, altogether essential, and far less expensive contingent?
Especially intriguing is the following from the prime minister’s February 27 address: “The position of Special Advisor on National Security was created by absorbing the position of Director of Special Initiatives, which the Stephenson King government had created for Ausbert Regis and which we had to upgrade from Grade 20 to 21 because of the ruling of the courts that king’s government had acted unlawfully, in contravention of the Constitution when it transferred Ausbert Regis. The net effect was an increase of $36,000 per year.”
That was hardly the situation. The judge had merely ordered the return of Regis from his Special Initiatives position to his office as police commissioner, with minimal damages awarded. Nothing in her ruling indicated a transfer from the force. How could it have have been otherwise when in the first place Regis’ suit had been based on the premise, albeit false and presumptuous, that the PSC was not authorized to move him—that he and the Director of Public Prosecution shared the same hands-off status?
It can hardly be a secret what was the Labour government’s relationship with the police commissioner before 2011 and how it had undergone a sea change, especially close to election time. Neither is it classified information the identity of the lawyers who had represented Regis in his suit against the King government and their association with the current prime minister.
At least one of them was a front-line campaigner for his reelection. The other publicly and with evident pride acknowledged he had “negotiated with the PSC” on behalf of his client. In short, the prime minister had chosen to accommodate the former beleaguered police commissioner as his special advisor on national security for more money than he had received in his earlier
capacity, when the day’s administration was highly critical of his performance. The government had even found cause to launch an investigation into his on- and off-duty operations.
Now consider this, again from the prime minister’s address: “Almost every one of the other positions that have been filled outside the Public Service Commission has been against existing budgetary allocations for established positions or to replace people whose contracts came to an end. So in effect the net cost of the engagement of so-called consultants by our government is less than $300,000, significantly less than the salaries of the two highest-paid of the several consultants hired by the UWP government.”
Again, so what? How did the country benefit from the addition of new consultants to the inherited old battalion? What is the nation gaining from the further investment of more than a quarter of a million dollars? Who are these people more recently engaged as consultants by whatever name? What exactly were they hired to do? Could the country have managed without their consultancy services at
this particularly rough
time? Could the country have done without King’s consultants?
Neither King’s men who convened a press conference last Thursday that was effectively a bridge to nowhere, nor the speech delivered last month by the prime minister provided information that might’ve indicated how borrowing over the years for public salaries had brought this effectively uninformed nation to its bleeding knees. True, it’s common knowledge that the devil resides in the details. But what’s the use of such information if our knowing representatives in and out of parliament, for their own selfish reasons, refuse to reveal the devil’s precise location? The more things change . . .
At one point in his address, having alleged that the $300,000 paid the more recently taken on board consultants was “significantly less than the salaries of the two highest-paid of the several UWP consultants,” the prime minister stared into the camera lens and smirked: “The numbers do not lie!”
If only the same could legitimately be said of our politicians!
Meanwhile, amid persistent rumors that our hospitals and pharmacies are fast running out of remedies, our witch doctors too, we the people seem content to gobble up the daily-served contaminated political manjé cochon, as if indeed it were the finest quality roast pork tenderloin!

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