We ignored the writing on the wall and now . . .

No doubt about it, shopping in St Lucia will never be the same.

Count on it, even before he has arrived at my second paragraph some wiseass will be asking: “Where he goin’ widdat? We hear alladat arreddy. Tell us something we eh know.” It’s the national reaction to inconvenient truth: Several years ago when a certain prime minister was caught in the company of a young schoolgirl with his Calvin’s around his ankles, was the nation outraged? Sure it was. Even the clergy was shocked. But hardly for the reasons you might imagine. True, admitted the popular voice, the prime minister was a married man with his own school-age brood. But he had been good to the young student; he’d bought her a car, paid her rent while attending school overseas, not to mention the visas he had helped her acquire with falsified official documents while pretending at different times to be her uncle or some other close relative. What could be wrong with that? What especially drove the nation bonkers was that their generous and beloved prime minister, having shown the under-age schoolgirl such kindness, had been made to look a roué by a certain unconscionable newspaperman who had insisted on underscoring the prime minister’s various abuses of the highest office in all the land. One particular clergyman was moved to say the prime minister deserved better, after all the good work he had done for the nation, including the Pigeon Point Causeway. But the line most often heard was: “We knew all of that, nothing new!” In his own defense, the prime minister had said: “Look, I have no secrets, everyone knows my politics is womanizing. So what?” And as if further to prove his point, a few months later he won the year’s general elections with the mandate of his career. So are precedents set! Still I am moved to repeat for the millionth time that neither the present prime minister nor his immediate predecessor was ever in a position to do anything about the world economy and consequently are helpless in their circumstances. If there is no water in the dam, if it is bone dry, pointless expecting water to flow from taps connected to that dam. But in a land that believes absolutely in miracles, that remains convinced we, not the Jews, are God’s chosen children, who listened? Who cared? The attitude of the deaf, mute and blind followers of Kenny Anthony (henceforth to be referred to as the DMB) was: “Kenny will put something in place.” If you dared to ask about that arcane “something” you would more often than not be dismissed as a prophet of doom, hateful of Kenny Anthony or a damn scumbag supporter of the UWP and its gang of crooks! Which was a not so subtle way of saying you, too, were a crook! The DMBs on the Stephenson King’s side simply blamed everything on the world economy. “The man can’t work miracles,” they said. “If Obama can’t do anything about the economy, what can you expect from King with no resources?” Meanwhile election fever was heating up and the election promises were sounding more and more absurd. It didn’t help that obvious millions of dollars were being wasted on booze, tee shirts, billboards, new vehicles, nightly libelous TV commercials and handouts, handouts, handouts for the asking. Where were those millions coming from? Tom Chou, you say? Okay. But was Chou also bankrolling the other side? Bottom line: both sides seemed to have money to burn, recession or no recession. At any rate, that was the generated impression. Somewhere there had to be even more dollars. Otherwise, how would the coming better days to be financed? When one side pledged to invest hundreds of millions in private sector job creation, the people howled with joy. En rouge! En Rouge! So, naturally, the other side had to make its own impossible pitches. Meanwhile, there was the manifesto promise that whichever party won the big prize it would have no other choice but to implement VAT. Of course, we’ve all heard the joke about what to do if you want to keep something secret from black people: put it in writing! Yes, I agree, absolutely nasty racist joke. But it also happens to be true, judging by how few of us realized there was something about something called VAT in the party manifestoes. Even when the elections were over and the new prime minister, who hated VAT in opposition, underwent a change of attitude upon assuming office, we thought nothing of it. You’re licensed to talk all kinds of rubbish when in opposition. Besides, VAT was inevitable, we said. Whoever won the elections would have to implement it . . . we were the last in line to do so blah, blah, blah. For several weeks we heard the silliest VAT jingles, in horrible English and in Creole. Some people even made a habit of calling the talk shows to say how much they loved VAT, without the smallest clue how this VAT would be implemented, let alone its possible impact on local business and life in general in the worst of economic times. A near 5-year election campaign had gone by without anyone asking what items would be VAT-exempt, what percentages would be added. Ah, but just a few days before VAT goes irrevocably into effect we hear the crying and the gnashing of teeth. This week MP after MP began their VAT addresses in the House with these words: “I will be very short.” Even at this late moment most businesspeople still haven’t a clue about VAT; few are prepared in any way, never mind the unending political propaganda. It remains now to wish the government luck in its determined efforts to squeeze blood out of stones and the people even more luck with their efforts to stay alive, literally and metaphorically. One thing you can count on: Kenny Anthony is as determined to keep his job, jobs, jobs promise to his troops as he is to get the perceived haves to foot the bill. In all of this, not one person of influence—including the church leaders—has seen cause to comment on government wastage that has been going on for years and years, job duplication, the non-stop borrowing or the other public sector burdens that have brought us to our knees and made VAT—which will change nothing—absolutely inevitable. For years we refused to hear—now we surely will feel. All of us!

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