Some people have set themselves up on makeshift pedestals so high up in the air it is impossible for them fully to appreciate the nitty-gritty details of life on the ground. Their reality is only as perceived from their lofty position.
And so we are lumbered with self-proclaimed leaders in ill-fitting made-in-China cheap suits making war on windmills; riding around in carnival carriages placed before wooden horses, applying misunderstood big-city panaceas to mis-diagnosed failed-state bruises, convinced as they are by their over-rated and overpaid voodoo economists that what’s reportedly good for the relatively enslaved and their unaccountable leaders (we’ve taken to referring to them as our non-traditional friends!) must also be good medicine for the home-based poverty-stricken and helplessly polarized.
Meanwhile, blinded by misplaced loyalty, their trusting subjects recognize just two colors. From their manipulated respective perspectives, nothing can possibly make sense that is red or yellow.
Consequently this no longer fertile land of ours has been for eons a nation constantly at war with itself, deaf to all advice from within or without—unless it somehow coincided with the popular viewpoint.
Those bold enough to have said aloud that the land that gave us birth was disaster bound unless it faced up to the truth, however inconvenient, were one way or another silenced. Many were denied access to government controlled media, tax-funded and otherwise; effectively suppressed.
Others, their personal circumstances, by means both natural and unconstitutional, rendered no longer in harmony with their Saint Lucia-wealthy lifestyle, chose the coward’s way out: shamelessly, they enlisted in the army of their former tormentors; they too became tormentors!
If earlier gambling had loudly been declared by church and state as hazardous to the nation’s soul; if in its Christian heart abortion had always been equal to murder, an unforgiveable sin crying out to heaven for vengeance; if churches were considered “houses of God,” therefore never to be defiled . . . the new license changed all of that—in much the same way it would in more recent times transform VAT from “an oppressive law, anti-poor and anti-government” to the mother of all cure-alls.
Leaders that earlier had convinced the nation to treat party opponents as the state’s enemies, in their own interest abruptly discovered good reason to desert their troops—and utterly without shame.
Floor crossing acquired the status of culture, like juk-fouye and kootoomba and mamai la de whye and la woz. Not even Lent proved safe from the promoters of reorganized bacchanal.
Meanwhile, imperceptible to eyes trained only as the emperor-with-no-clothes directed them to see, Nature was taking its inexorable course, slowly but surely—attended by near-laughable ironies.
A voice from 1991 crying in the wilderness: “Many of the industrialized countries have been forced to take stringent measures to restore their fiscal and international trade accounts, to stimulate investment and generally to rejuvenate their economies . . . The lax lending policies pursued in the past by major banks, domestic and international, and in particular the Savings & Loan Associations of the USA, have undermined public confidence in the banking system, leading to a contraction of investment funds; this in turn has adversely impacted countries such as St. Lucia that depend heavily on outside capital for their development.
“I draw this to the attention of Honorable Members because the countries seeking investment are many, and with physical and natural resources many times in excess of those of St. Lucia, they are more likely to attract scarce investment capital.
“With as many as 3,000 young people entering the work force annually, St. Lucia needs a private sector investment of $75 million annually to accommodate them . . . most of this investment capital must come from outside. To compete for this capital, St. Lucia must offer a highly trained, highly productive and highly motivated work force or we will be trampled in the crush, attracting only the low pay, low tech, footloose industries with no stake in, and no loyalty to, our country or its workforce.”
Additionally: “It is expected that by the year 2000 the workforce in industry will double to 12,000. It is for this reason that in planning for the 21st Century, government has decided to invest so much in technical education so that the industries we attract will not be the low-tech, low-pay, footloose industries we attracted during the early days of our industrialization, but those in the higher range which can use the skills of the people we are training at our technical, vocational and comprehensive schools.”
Yes, the year was 1991. The voice in the wilderness belonged to prime minister John Compton, himself hardly without fault, let it also be said.
Who knew most of beneficiaries of his education policies would turn into ticks hopelessly addicted to the blood of taxpayers?
In 1995, with looming union problems over pay increases, Compton faced the following choices if demands were to be met: “Reduce recurrent expenditure through massive retrenchment in public services; increase taxes; increase customs duties and consumption taxes.”
His government’s offer: “A cost of living increase for all public servants amounting to 6% over a 2-year period, to be incorporated into basic salary; a revision of wages and salaries for those who did not benefit, or benefitted inadequately.”
His government, he said, could “go no further without damaging the economy.”
Speaking diplomatically of public sector abuses, including abuses by ministers: “This is another area of potential abuse and must be closely watched.”
So too, “unauthorized hiring of persons by permanent secretaries through delegated authority; reducing the size of the public services through retirement and other forms of attrition.”
He added: “In these days of belt tightening, the maxim, ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’ is very appropriate and should be remembered.”
Rings a bell? Obviously, the maxim was soon forgotten. In 1997 Kenny Anthony announced he knew precisely how to achieve “central government saving of 2.5 per cent of GDP for the fiscal year 1998-99.” His formula anticipated government savings “this fiscal year to be about $84 million; public sector savings of 7 per cent of GDP” and other miracles of wonder.
Of the private sector (recently false-promised $100 million for investment in jobs, jobs, jobs), he said: “We are determined to encourage the private sector to venture out into higher risk/higher return projects, particularly those that are consistent with economic diversification and employment generation. Therefore where new pioneering projects are concerned, government will consider its role to be that of a joint-venture partner, bringing to the investment table concessions and considerations within its purview, which can enhance the financial, economic and social returns to the economy.”
This one’s a doozey: “In pursuit of efficiency, effect-iveness and economy, the administration will once and for all deal with the problem of vehicle abuse decisively.”
A private company owned by government initially “will be incorporated to own, manage and rent the majority of vehicles now owned by government. All vehicles will be vested in this company, except those engaged in emergency services and others designated for specific use.’
The new-fangled company would provide rental services to the private sector. Government would also rent from the company “and will account for expenditure on rental expenses under the reformed program budgeting. The replacement of vehicles will no longer be a capital cost of the government but an expense of the company.”
Uh-uh! Now, dear reader, wrap your head around the following: “I have concluded that along with the other steps the government has taken and is taking in relation to the police, we need to provide more focus and dedicated ministerial oversight.
“This will permit more rapid decision-making on matters of importance to the operations of the force and assure the police of committed, consistent and strong govern-mental support for the tough actions to ensure law and order.”
Tough actions? Law and order?
The above is taken from a Kenny Anthony address dated January 11, 2004. Days later, Vaughan Lewis described Saint Lucia as a “country in crisis” with “a government in denial.”
Considering where we find ourselves today, shouldn’t an office be set up immediately for the present advisor to the same “government in denial,” say, a ministry of prophecy?
The biggest question now facing the government of carriages before horses is what next to do about the public service. Throw more scarce tax dollars its way? It is clearly a problem beyond the government’s best brains and countless consultants.
Forget about the Micawber principle advocated by John Compton. Let’s recall the following by George Elliott (who was actually a poet named Marian Cross!): “There’s no real making amends in this world, any more than you can mend a wrong
subtraction by doing your addition right.”
I need only remind the prime minister that whatever he chooses to do today won’t be nearly as important as what he and his predecessors had yesterday failed to do!