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COVID-19 response: St Lucia’s opposition leader advances strategic outlook

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia –  Countries worldwide are rolling out economic incentives to assist citizens bridge the gap pending ‘a return to social and economic normalcy’ in the era of COVID-19.

Regional governments have executed several measures, practical and scientific guidance to their people. Taking the lead is Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Antigua, and Barbuda.

Regional opposition parties of note are NextGen SKN and the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), levelling with the people providing sound medical, technical and economic policy propositions.

Addressing COVID-19 on a domestic scale has exposed the ill-defined and preparedness of the Allen Chastanet administration, caught unprepared – adds to the much talk of individual and collective responsibility, and the challenges that will be exceptionally hard to manage.

Prime minister, Chastanet’s statement on COVID-19 Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and the lack of substance to medical, social and economic packaging, substantial to substantiate economic continuance and/or reboot the equivalence of at least one to three percent of GDP, is consistent with his degree of seriousness to statesmanship, and consistent to explain mindset and mantra.

Considering required guidance to the hardships and challenges COVID-19 pandemic has implored – individual and collective empowered noticeable absent the government of Saint Lucia to learn valuable lessons about preparedness measures, disaster scenarios, emergency plans, and strategic outlays beyond the political spectrum. (see related below)

Besides, the inadequacy to compilation of a real National Task Force to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic (social, medical, security, legislative, economic, etc.,) underscores the lack of thought process, capacity building, and execution to ensure stability, a level of protection and to present a critical test of the task at hand.

Therein lies adherence to the domestic application as prescribed by opposition leader Philip J Pierre to lean on his expertise, not the least of which as a management consultant to impact knowledge to a prime minister with a double degree, albeit empty on economic specifics and application in time of need.

Opposition leader Pierre in just over four days outlined in two addresses to the nation, concerns, action points and policy that escapes a prime minister who proudly states, “ I don’t listen” and “I let the jackasess bray” has employed this policy in a critical test of his COVID-19 stewardship.

Leaders have the responsibility to be upfront, maintaining control of elements critical to people’s well-being. In the eloquent tone and gravitas of Pierre – he continues to signal the understanding of domestic and the worldview required to guide the people of Saint Lucia. And in this case, his leadership on COVID-19, to advance a strategic outlook.

The following is an extract from opposition leader Pierre’s second address on March 18, 2020. The full address is available here.

We continue to urge the prime minister not to politicise the national effort and we pledge once again to uphold the spirit of bipartisanship. In this regard, we are pleased that we have been invited to participate in joint meetings. However, final decisions are made at the Cabinet-level and we are not represented there. Many recommendations and ideas have been shared with the government over the last few days.

For the benefit of our citizens, we feel obliged to make public the opposition’s approach to dealing with some of the pertinent issues. Our country cannot afford to pay the price of being late in our decision making we must act always to protect our people. We believe that the prime minister may still be in the mode of defining the problem and speaking around the critical imperatives which we must face. We need to hear a definitive path that we must all follow.

We cannot lose if we are over-prepared but we can regret if we are only “just prepared”.

I, therefore, wish to make some specific suggestions:

  1. We must not continue to host National Emergency Management Advisory Committee (NEMAC) meetings with almost 100 persons in a room and who happen to be the key decision-makers in Saint Lucia. In any event, this is against the calls for responsible social distancing.
  1. We should not wait for the first evidence of in-country transmission of the virus to institute aggressive social distancing measures. Consider instituting a ban on places where the public assemblies; or as a first step set a limit on the maximum numbers who should be allowed to congregate publicly at least for 14 days in the first instance.
  1. Let us undertake an extensive public education campaign in both English and Kweyol to ensure that all citizens are fully briefed on how to respond to the threat of the virus and what to expect over the next few months. For example, if we don’t say at which hotel the infected persons stayed why is it strange when staff at all hotels start speculating that it may be their hotel? When we state that an infected person had a flight history out of France and a British newspaper then informs the world that this person was a British pilot who came in from the UK on a BA flight, won’t our citizens become distrustful?
  1. We need a special education campaign for the youth. From the available evidence, they are the ones least likely to be affected but they are the ones who are most mobile, active and fearless. They are most likely to be interacting on playing fields, blocks, bars, and streets but all return to homes afterward where they can infect the older members of their families. We need to be more consistent and clear in our messaging.
  1. We must announce a preliminary minimum package of benefits to workers who will be displaced by the economic fallout. Already hotels are closing and small businesses are feeling the pressure. The Government must not allow individual hotels and businesses alone to determine how workers will be compensated. It has to be a national consensus. The prime minister must make some policy statements on mortgage deferrals, higher statutory sick pay, pay for workers laid off, and help for the self-employed example, taxi drivers, vendors.
  1. We must announce a policy statement on the payment of utility bills at this time.
  1. We must announce plans for the Civil Service to allow those persons who can work from home to do so. (For example)
  1. We must consider a deferment of installments on income tax due by large and small businesses for this year.

COVID-19 pandemic may have a silver lining. Many actions fall on the ability of leadership to listen and learn from experts, individual and collective empowerment of people; and the strategic application of decision making. 








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