Sunday’s “Open Mic” with Michael Chastanet on DBS was no doozy. To make it clear, Mike is no talk show host, journalist or columnist, regardless of what you have heard before. The show too, after being on air for several weeks now, is no talking
point. I have watched now and again, but have never been drawn in past
the first fifteen minutes. However, this past Sunday I did manage to sit through “Mike’s show” only because of his guest. I have always had time for consultant engineer and member of the recently named Vision Commission John Peter, either through his contributions to various newspapers, his comments on topical subjects in the news and these days as a pastor (but that’s for another show).
But somehow, his contributions were just allowed to float in mid-air and not anchored by a less than astute host. A few things he said however, resonated, particularly his reference to our current economic crisis as a “war.”
On Monday, I called on Peters to clarify and expound on some of his comments on Sunday’s show, including the war reference.
“Well, when I say we are at war it is just that, a war, because in any war people will die. And so we are indeed at war because this economic crisis is serious, such that people will die. They will die out of frustration and suicide, they will die from malnutrition, and they will die from not being able to afford proper healthcare among other things,” Peters responded.
He had also indicated on the aforementioned program that the problems we now face have been more than a decade in the making.
Blame, he pointed out, should be apportioned to both sides, government and opposition. Asked by The STAR Monday what he would recommend as possible solutions, he said it had to encompass three areas; expenditure, assets and income.
“We cannot simply deal with the issue of government expenditure alone and leave it there. Cutting wages alone will not solve the problems. There are examples of countries that have gone that route and it did not solve anything,” Peters says by way of explanation.
“So my suggestion is that under the three areas, of expenditure, assets and income we can start by looking at assets. If we take assets, government has a number of factory shells for example just lying there. These can be converted into cash. We also have a number of government vehicles—if you pass by the Ministry of Infrastructure for example you see a number of them there. Do we need the current large fleet of government vehicles?” he asked.
“We also need to look at all areas of government expenditure, line by line, and see where we can reduce, not just wages but the overall cost of government including the rental of property for example,” he added. “Further, after you have done this you can now begin to look at how you can increase government revenue, increase productivity and so on.”
Peters also told The STAR that government under the present bad fiscal climate should prioritize in terms of the projects they now undertake. “Given our current fiscal situation I would not spend money on any north coast road project at this time or four lane bridges or even the Bois D’Orange Bridge,” he says. He also took issue with Saint Lucia agreeing to host the Commonwealth Games in 2017 which would cost the cash strapped host country a pretty penny.
“We have to build new swimming pools and facilities and we would have to spend millions just to refurbish the George Odlum Stadium alone,” he said. “Where are we going to find money for that?” he asked. Peters further stated that there were no provisions made for the games in last months estimates.
And then this final stance from John Peters when quizzed about the efficacy of commissions like the Vision Commission and the “Spending and Monitoring Commission” proposed by the PM in his offer to the unions.
“These are all exercises in futility,” Peters said emphatically.
“The constitution makes it clear how ministers deal with spending and cuts and so on. Governments are put in place to ensure that the country is run on good economic prudency and they surround themselves with the technocrats who should give them the proper guidance and advice. It’s as simple as that,” he ended by saying.