What is it that everyone except our politicians seems to know? The harsh realities of life in present-day St. Lucia, that’s what. Why do our politicians refuse to acknowledge their limitations, cerebral and otherwise?
Their first order of business should be to allow the collective wisdom and experience of the technocrats to kick in. It is their job to advise the people we elect to represent us, to steer the executive away from dangerous decisions, whether or not fiscal.
It is clear our politicians are interested only in being popular for the sake of elections. But popularity is no guarantor of good policy decisions. Most of our ministers, past and current, allowed themselves to be directed by their egos.
There is little evidence that our government is working in harmony with its public sector managers. They seem concerned only with inventing ways and means for incoming administrations to reward special party supporters.
We can go back as far as 2002, to the rationale for a retreat: “The government of Saint Lucia has organized a Retreat for the Cabinet of Ministers and all Public Sector Managers. This is in an effort to define a strategic focus for the government’s new term in office, and to develop objective and subjective guidelines and norms for more effective functioning of the various ministerial teams, in contributing to the achievement of the strategic focus and vision.
“The two day Retreat which begins here on Tuesday, May 21, 2002 will review the critical issues facing the government of Saint Lucia; agree on the modus operandi for the political and managerial directorate; clarify the role and functions of the individual ministry/agency teams; identify the potential barriers to achieving the vision; develop a plan of action for the next five years and reaffirm commitment to Public Sector Reform. A total of fifty persons comprising all Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Department within the Public Service of Saint Lucia will attend the sessions in addition to some members of the private sector.”
The dividends behind those retreats remain largely hidden, if not completely invisible, given the pathetic performance record of this administration.
It is the job of senior government officers to protect ministers from themselves; to be protective buffers between their fanciful campaign promises and the realities of governance.
Public sector managers–technocrats?are not paid out of the public coffers to be the yes men of the government. They are expected to demonstrate pragmatic and data-oriented problem-solving skills. But when they are confronted with narrow-minded, overly sensitive personalities whose pettiness knows no bounds, how can it be a surprise that the public sector experts tend to be silent and invisible, all to the detriment of the nation?
The prime minister’s recent public appeal for solutions to the nation’s fiscal problems, not to mention his own proposed remedies, speaks volumes about his assessment of the talents of his technical advisors and public sector managers. It begs the question, did they sound the alarm in vain or are they party to the puppet show?
Did the technocrats fail to forecast that Saint Lucia’s economy in 2014 would be on the brink of collapse if government’s pattern of borrowing and management of public funds were not reined in and more frugally managed? Did they not advise the government against forcing on public servants a four-percent increase in 2013?
It truly baffles the reasonable mind that those trained and experienced public sector economists, with the interests of the state at heart, would have advised the prime minister to impose on public sector workers a four-percent salary increase, and a few months later to further advise the prime minister to take it back? Did nobody see where all of that would lead?