The dogs of war are off their leashes

Not long after Dr Ubaldus Raymond had announced his resignation as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, there were many expressions supportive of his decision. There was also criticism of the current administration over the airwaves, for frustrating a St Lucian with a PhD in Development Economics from Howard University.
Too late, damage control experts were hurriedly recruited, some of them  political mercenaries, in my opinion, brought in to tarnish the departing senator’s reputation and cast doubt on claims that in office he had been ignored and under-utilized. Support for Dr Raymond continued regardless. But that was hardly the end of it: suddenly there were calls  from stuttering, inarticulate individuals who had apparently been coached to paint Dr Raymond as an ingrate and unappreciative of the kindness shown him by the prime minister. Some even offered praise to Dr Anthony for making life in St Lucia, well, better than it had ever been.
Laughable as were these sentiments, and immediately forgettable, I was  nevertheless disappointed when a leading local journalist, with whom I shared an amicable relationship despite our politics, launched in one of our papers an attack on Dr Raymond that I thought a bit overdone.
Among his expressed opinions: “I always held that Dr Raymond was more of an academic than a politician.” Meaning what? Is one to be better admired than the other? Might not the same be said of Kenny Anthony, Vaughan Lewis, Robert Lewis et al. Haven’t academics and lawyers nearly always formed the core of St Lucian and Caribbean politics?
The article was filled with similarly absurd observations, no doubt meant to suggest Dr Raymond should have been more grateful to Dr Anthony for landing him a job for which he clearly was not qualified, his PhD notwithstanding.
From what planet is Earl Bousquet writing from, anyway. A government of ministers, elected or otherwise, is not a team of boy scouts to be pushed around by an over-strict scoutmaster.
With vulgar and pygmied minds, too many of our Caribbean prime ministers abuse their office, carrying on like dictators towards colleagues and citizens at large. Despite our annual observance of Emancipation Day, we still hold on slavishly to too many things from our colonial past.
The Americans were bold enough to offload colonialism a long time ago.    They have substituted a wider, inclusive democracy in which the powers of a President are circumscribed. No U.S. President has plenipotentiary power such as our prime ministers enjoy and abuse. In the United States it is really the people, the Senate and the Congress that are the prevailing instruments for determining the fate of officials equivalent to our ministers of government.
Most despicably, the earlier cited writer further played into the psychology of insularity which pervades the English-speaking Caribbean by searching for negative stories in the Turks and Caicos Islands about Dr Raymond appointment as Chef Economist. He even sank so low as to report a writer in the T.C.I. wondered whether the people of the T.C.I. will support the appointment of a foreigner over a local.
We the people can only wait and see who will be vindicated in this political war of words meant to sully the image of a distinguished man, once a colleague in the SLP and now painted as an enemy of the state.
In his analysis of St. Lucia’s economic programme  Dr Raymond argued that the government’s budget was flawed: instead of relying on G.D.P. figures, the government’s focus should instead be on growth. In his submission to the Senate he argued that the government’s focus should be on growth, because the real economy is measured by spending, in which consumer spending is the largest component. Where there is increased spending, there is growth in the economy. When government pursues policies that reduce or restrict spending, he observed, the economy contracts. With increased spending by consumers, businesses hire more and create more jobs. The rationale behind the conclusions of these economic principles are self-evident in their logic.
Dr Raymond also criticized the expansion of government and the public service sector in terms of recurrent expenditure which he said in the budget accounts for almost 70%, vis-à-vis a smaller proportion allocated to infrastructural development. I can well imagine a senate rat quickly taking that little bit of cheese to his thin-skinned boss.  So why is the present administration increasing the levels of government at the top, with extra personnel recruited, earning salaries equivalent to what is earned in developed industrialized countries, when what we have here is a bicycle economy?
Based on those assumptions we can ask dispassionately, is VAT at this juncture of the state of the world economy going to stimulate the St Lucia economy and create growth in St Lucia? Does it represent a heavier burden of taxes? VAT will increase the price of goods on sale in the country. This will influence the purchasing power of citizens who will then buy less. The government cannot turn a blind eye to the impact of VAT on the increase in the cost of living and the effect on employment that will result. The excuse being given by the administration is that it is an imperative that we cannot delay any further, because of regulations from the WTO, the World Bank, and commitments made to Caricom.
In the current global economic crisis what does a sensible economist recommend? A worker’s fortunes are very largely tied to the enterprise by which he/she is employed. The fundamental principle of economics is that prices are determined by demand and supply, and the elasticity of that product. All profit making firms will make decisions based on the margin of revenue and costs. But where governments attempt to change free market conditions by such methods as VAT for increased government revenue for recurrent expenditure, then businesses will start laying off employees.
Just let us look at what is happening in Europe, in particular Spain, Greece, Italy and France, and England with double dip recession. VAT is a European construct introduced by the European countries as the panacea to enrich government coffers and cure their economic ills. VAT was pegged at 15% and in some countries has risen to 18%, yet feature unemployment rates of 20 + %. VAT has not prevented those countries from going on the brink of bankruptcy. How do we expect the end result to be different in St Lucia?                 Government and its bloated bureaucracy are not a productive sector and do not create wealth. Government is best to create the environment in which business flourishes. Businesses will have no alternative but to lay off workers. There is no enthusiasm for the introduction of VAT in St Lucia therefore this will manifest itself in further delays. Mark my word.
No one should be under the illusion that people who hold political office are more powerful than the electorate. I reiterate that the number of votes that divided the two parties between victory and defeat in the last election was a measly 3,284 votes, with three seats being won by the victorious party by less than 100 votes. The Gros Islet seat was won by 2 votes, Babonneau 7, and Choiseul 85. Yet the leader of the administration is behaving like the Colossus of Rhodes.
As the resignation of Ubaldus illustrates, no man should believe that he can control the lives of others. Based on this statement it is evident that Dr Anthony is more concerned about the exercise of political power and the control of those around him. He has a limited perspective in which only men who fawn and do not challenge him will flourish in his administration.
He does not have the vision of the good and democratic society in which various views contend, and that he should Marshall the academic and intellectual talent in the country for the benefit of the state regardless of one’s political persuasion.
I am moved in my determination to express my views without fear in this country by the example to the entire world set by the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei. As the Chinese artist showed, one man standing up for truth and principle, can stand up to the mightiest oligarchy and totalitarian state in the world, armed to the teeth with the most destructive weapons and largest military force in the world to subjugate its people, and defeat it. He was beaten, isolated, jailed given a huge tax bill of $2.4 million US, yet he resisted with the threat of the loss of his life, until ultimately he was expelled from his country. World opinion was on his side.
It is beyond the power or competence of any politician or leader in this country to order our police force around and direct the police to arrest any citizen for expressing his legitimate political views. What we have here is an underdeveloped economy, incapable of competing in any area with more developed and efficient economies in the world.
The government is showing signs of desperation for promises made have not materialized. The development of St Lucia will always be stifled and never reach the heights it is capable of, when St Lucians with requisite qualifications are marginalized and fawns that genuflect to the leader are generously rewarded despite their evident limitations.
Instead of attacking and trying to besmirch the reputation of Dr Raymond, he should be used as an example to the insufficiently educated who are fodder for politicians in this administration and used to do menial jobs such as cut grass and branches along our highways. The lesson from Dr Raymond is that through hard study, sacrifice and determination, you position yourself to get the offer of a prestigious job in any part of the world so that you can never become a doormat for any politician, and become the master of your own destiny.

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