Obviously it never was a laughing matter that for some time now we’ve known we were in more trouble than we could possibly handle on our own—but pretended otherwise. It never was funny that we continued masochistically to inflict on ourselves potentially lethal wounds, while repeatedly placing our trust in the proffered remedies of charlatans who never gave a damn for anyone but themselves.
By the look of it, it’s just the way we’re made: suicide-bent, reckless and gullible beyond measure. We’ll set on fire our only shelter, perchance the larger home of our perceived enemy next door also goes up in flames. Which is another way of saying we live to spit at the sky.
Then there are the beggar’s genes we evidently inherited from lord alone knows whom or what (I suspect domesticated canines.) Few of us seem capable of imagining ourselves in a better situation, as averse as we’ve become to work or such toil as demands accountability. We are quite satisfied merely to get by, with as little sweat as possible.
Sadly, we’ve long been imprisoned with the notion that in our society only drug traffickers, thieves, corrupt politicians and betrayers of the public trust can rise above poverty, which explains the prevailing negative attitude to hard-working successful fellow citizens. Forget the contrary expressions, we’ve come to believe, not without cause, that crime not only pays, but pays big!
Not so long ago our politicians used to cite George Charles as a government leader who finally had to depend on the generosity of former opponent John Compton, only because he was never corrupt—conceivably their way of shamelessly saying they were determined never to discover themselves in similar straits. For such politicians, our integrity commission might as well never have been established.
Government after Saint Lucian government over the years has with impunity taken advantage of the public trust.
Whenever sustained citizen complaints have forced suspect administrations to set up commissions of inquiry, regardless of their outcomes, always the people had paid. Follow-up recommendations aimed at deterring repetition have never been taken seriously, let alone, publicly discussed.
And so we come to the latest insult to the national intelligence. Barely a month following his latest budget presentation, this is how the prime minister accounted for the dismal state of the nation’s economy:
“For some time now government has been spending more than it collects in revenue. The result is that government has had to borrow more and more money to finance its operations. Unfortunately more of government’s revenue has had to be directed towards paying salaries to public servants and repaying its debt. This, as most of you would agree, is neither healthy nor prudent. Sadly we have now arrived at the point where the operations of government cannot be sustained in the long run without some form of adjustments.”
Nothing new here. Saint Lucians have from the early 90s heard the same sorry story from our insatiable puissant HOGs. That our governments have nearly always taken in far less than they spend has never deterred them from bringing into the public service more and more of their respective talentless supporters in search of high-paying jobs that required no work.
There was never anything “unfortunate” about the practice; always it has been unconscionable callousness. John Compton had underscored the situation as far as back 1991: You pay out more than you take in, you end in bankruptcy. The present prime minister had himself spoken similarly in 1997. But see where his actions have landed us.
As if he were talking to imbeciles in no position to question him, the prime minister revealed during his latest address to the nation that his administration had started to address the “growing problem” last year—long after the horses had bolted—with what he described as “strong measures.”
Whatever were such measures, they did not touch any areas that might’ve discomfited the prime minister and his crew but also delivered some relief to the nation. He said his government had narrowed the “current account deficit to one million dollars, from $52.6 million in 2012/2013.” That achievement had been possible “because we undertook a strict streamlining of capital expenditure on goods and services, utilities, supplies and materials, and communication in addition to decreasing transfers and subsidies to statutory bodies and other government agencies.”
The government had also “realized better revenue performance due to a widening of the tax base through the implementation of the Value Added Tax.”
Hopefully, every Saint Lucian with a TV understood precisely what the prime minister was seeking to get across. Speaking for myself, I’d have preferred a more detailed accounting, specifics, and in language not borrowed from Paul Kruger’s “Weave a Wicked Web.”
I’d also have appreciated some justification for the further bloating of the public service payroll after 2011, egregious as already was the situation. I’d have appreciated some soupçon of expenses so far incurred thanks to Grynberg, to say nothing of an expression of remorse for the millions needlessly handed to Frenwell.
As for the fait accompli arrogance he demonstrated during the last budget by taking decisions in advance of discussions with the affected, while typical, should’ve
been explained and hopefully justified.
It made no sense to me that the demonstrated don’t-give-a-damn attitude, or incompetence, should further be encouraged. A company CEO in the prime minister’s situation would’ve been given his walking orders a long time ago, if not actually made to account for what totals up to a total betrayal of the trust placed in him by voters over the years. That he is demanding voluntary sacrifices from the victims of his policies shows, in our circumstances, palpable contempt for the hands that feed him!