How Much Longer Before The Crash?

As a general rule the best politicians tend to let lying dogs sleep. Norman Mailer, one of my favorite authors alas now permanently in another place, had underscored the point in his 1966 book Some Honorable Men, wherein he covers a series of political conventions in the United States from 1960-1972.                 Newspaper journalists, he asserted, tended to dismiss a section of the breed as unworthy of their time.
Their reason was self-serving, wrote Mailer (whose own ambivalent relationship with journalists is well chronicled), what made one politician popular with the press and another absolutely unworthy of ink was that while the first could always be relied upon to deliver three money-making headlines in the course of delivering a single sentence about the day’s slight snow fall, the other predictably droned on incessantly about unending sunshiny days ahead.
It’s hard to nail Kenny Anthony to a category. At his last budget presentation in April he straight-facedly assured this hurting and near hopeless nation that tourism would be buoyant again in the next 18 months or so. Implausible as that was, some of us were desperate enough to ignore the contrary word from the SLHTA that resided in the belly of the beast and believe instead that our prime minister was privy to secret information—say, confidential agreements with China, shared tourism packages with Fidel and Hugo Chavez. Why else would our prime minister have promised us “better days?”
But then the prime minister seemed to go overboard when he went on to say, never mind everything to the contrary from the leading American economists and their European colleagues, the world economy would normalize in two years or so. Now, as I think about it, our prime minister could comfortably wear either of Mailer’s political jackets: he was at once headline-worthy outrageous and boringly optimistic.
That, or crazy or the world’s most obvious liar!
I was reminded of our prime minister’s largely underestimated chameleonic versatility as I listened to him being interviewed last week by the singular Andre Paul, for whom Christ is the answer to all questions unanswerable by him. Did our prime minister actually say “we inherited” our Sisyphean monster
deficit that was “not all the fault of the previous government?”
Did he actually acknowledge “we had a hurricane” and got “little or no help from outside so what this has meant is that government has had to borrow heavily to cope with the expenditure of Tomas?”                 Did he also admit, presumably hinting at our near-failed-state status, “we are in the danger zone.”
How refreshing to hear him repeatedly saying we, we, we, not in the royal-we sense and just as obviously not pejoratively referencing a particular political party or administration.
How encouraging to hear our prime minister using we in the sense of “we the people.” But then it occurred to me that he had also talked about having inherited our murderous deficit.
Did he mean to say the sitting government, his government, had contributed nothing to our present admittedly sorry state of affairs, and it was simply a case of the worst luck imaginable that he and his fellow incumbents had inherited the seemingly irrevocable economic problem for which only their predecessors were responsible?
I ask you, dear reader: is it not verifiably true that previous Kenny Anthony administrations had, like their predecessors when struck by hurricanes and other disasters natural and man-made—including the demands of an incurably vampiric public service way beyond this nation’s meager means—similarly borrowed, borrowed, borrowed?
Had our prime minister not admitted in his latest interview with predictably safe Andre Paul that his government, “with little or no help from outside” . . . had no other choice but to “borrow heavily to cope with the expenditure of Tomas .  . .” which had caused the national debt “to increase significantly?” Was the inevitable borrowing process with regard to Tomas not well underway by the time the latest Kenny Anthony administration took office last November?
It seems hardly worth mentioning that new governments undertake to repair whatever damage had been wrought by the old.                 When we the people decide to replace our government it is usually because we have permitted ourselves to be convinced the new candidates are better equipped to run the affairs of the state—and capable of fixing what their predecessors had broken.
Inherent in their oath of office is the new government’s collective undertaking to make things better for we the people, even for those among us who remain convinced the incoming government is as bereft of talent as the one it has replaced. Pointless later crying about the previous administration’s betrayals of the public trust, by which I also mean mindless borrowing, blatant abuses of office and so on—all of which was common knowledge before the most recent general elections and presumably among the prime reasons for electing a government that swore it had a sight-unseen bell somewhere by which to ring in better days.
Much worthier of mention is that new governments effectively do not “inherit” monster deficits.         We the people are the inheritors of the consequences of
tolerated repeated bad governance. That is why we the people are always the ones to pay the costs that are in effect tangible proof of the endless unpunished betrayals by successive untalented or corrupt regimes.
A new government’s most important inheritance—alas, a too often unappreciated treasure of incalculable value—is the faith we invest in our elected officials. It is this public trust that we the people take away from disinherited politicians and their self-interested surrogates who failed to keep their sworn promise to the nation and are hell bent on concealing that truth behind transparent fig leaves and crocodile tears.
During a recent interview with CNBC Warren Buffett offered the following with reference to America’s debt ceiling:  “I could end the deficit in five minutes. You just pass a law that says anytime there is a deficit of more than 3 percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.”
As I write the word from the local authorities is that our own national debt stands at some $2.3 billion dollars. Our GDP ratio hovers dangerously over 70 percent, with our horoscope predicting still more loans. But you can bet your VAT-threatened heart our own parliamentarians would refuse even to contemplate Buffett’s suggestion as an ostensible economic pain reliever, for the simple truth that the side effects on their political careers would be unbearable. But what if we the people should suddenly decide to make Saint Lucia’s economic health the national priority?
As Buffett pointed out in the earlier cited interview: “The 26th amendment granting the right to vote for 18-year-olds took only three months and eight days to be ratified. Why? Simple. The people demanded it. That was in 1971, before computers, e-mail, cell phones and Skype!”
Recently Standard & Poor, a major rating agency, reported that in the Caribbean economic growth and foreign direct investment had slowed while public debt continues to increase. The report says public-sector debt for the region has risen to 29 percent of gross domestic product, from 20 percent in 2008.
The debt ratio is over 100 percent in countries like Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, Grenada and Barbados. Incidentally, the ever-escalating VAT in the mentioned territories has had as much salutary impact on their economies as would the removal of a cup of water from Noah’s Flood!
When a caller to Andre Paul’s show questioned our prime minister about government expenditure in these days of want, he offered a particularly defensive response: “There is some expenditure we can cut back on but what are the consequences of that cutting back? We will have to fire people from the public service.”
Who knows if that was supposed to be reassurance to listeners at Government Buildings?
Had Andre been differently disposed he might’ve asked his guest why the first victims that came to his mind were public-sector employees? What about the political appointees, with their well-known failure records and carefully negotiated monster salaries? What about the several ministry advisors with no relevant track record to speak of?
What about the numerous trips overseas undertaken by government ministers that so far have failed to deliver a single project—or even the guaranteed promise of one? What about the overseas embassies that seem to exist mainly as holiday resorts for especially esteemed party hacks? Imagine the millions of dollars that might be saved thanks to a serious audit of the activities of these pleasure palaces?
I could go on and on with my suggestions for cost cutting with bearable consequences. But obviously that is not where our self-focused prime minister’s head is at. The order is for omelets but this chief cook and bottle washer is scared to death of breaking eggs. If only he were half as concerned about the short- and long-term future of employers and workers that made the private sector our nation’s generator of growth in actual better days!
Then again the gods have their unique way of dealing with those they wish to destroy. Hopefully, when it comes to we the people they will continue to be merciful!

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