By Caribbean News Global
TORONTO, Canada – Delivering remarks at the first press conference for the year on Monday, January 18, 2022, prime minister and minister for finance, Philip Pierre emphasised that “the budget will seek to transform our country and citizens in preparation for the changing global environment.” Albeit the challenges of COVID-19 and the implications of rising crime he also emphasised that “the government of the Saint Lucia Labour Party is undertaking their responsibilities with unfazed determination, unresolved enthusiasm and unflinching commitment to put the people first.”
The 2022-2023 estimates and appropriation bill is constitutionally due by April 2022.
“We are focused on improving the lives of the people of Saint Lucia, restoring good governance in the management of the country’s affairs and we will put constitutional and other mechanisms in place to make it unthinkable for future governments to engage in the malfeasance and corruption of the last five years of the United Workers Party (UWP) rule,” adding “We will bring discipline and transparency to the unfinished government’s infrastructural projects so that they do not become milestones of debts on the country and conduit for the personal gains of some members of the former UWP government,” prime minister Pierre said in his opening remarks.
Prime minister and minister for finance Pierre announced that “on assuming office we have discovered, that the fiscal and economic situation of the country was far worse and its economic development far more badly retarded, than we had imagined when we crafted that manifesto. The stark reality is that we are dealing with disastrous public finances, an economy damaged by incompetent management and pushed into further decline by the COVID-19 pandemic, a huge sovereign debt of unprecedented levels, and the enormous mess of an unfinished St Jude hospital and the Hewannorra International Airport Re-Development projects.”
However, said a convincing prime mister and minister for finance: “We are not intimidated by the magnitude of the task that the people of Saint Lucia entrusted us with. Be not afraid, for we in this government are up to the challenge, […] to restore Saint Lucia to a level of financial stability and to create an enabling environment for wealth creation and employment, particularly among the youth”.
Charting the way forward has began said prime minister Pierre, citing cabinet and officials of the ministry of finance are now engaged in the preparation of the 2022-2023 estimates and appropriation bill constitutionally due by April 2022, to accomplish:
- Maintenance of an adequate macroeconomic policy framework:
- Implementation of an overall economic and reform programme:
- A policy mix of revenue-enhancing and expenditure containment to positively impact and improve fiscal and debt sustainability:
- Policies to improve the business environment, ease in doing business, and increased local and foreign investments:
- Good governance transparency and accountability in the management of the finances of the country:
- Outlawing of the reckless practices of the former minister of finance when he sanctioned nine months ago, an advance of $7 million of taxpayers funds for vaccines that have not been received by the people of Saint Lucia:
- Educational and social enhancement projects for the people of Saint Lucia:
- Implementation of the Youth Economy and creation of an enabling environment for the growth and expansion of small and medium-sized businesses:
- Adoption and mitigation measures to deal with climate change.
“My government is sensitive, concerned, and worried about the covid pandemic raging in Saint Lucia the region, and the world,” prime minister Pierre, added. “ Our economy is suffering from COVID fatigue. The UWP government maximised the concessionary borrowing for COVID-related spending while callously leaving behind an unfinished St Jude hospital and under-resourced Owen King European (OKEU) hospital.”
Meanwhile, St Lucia endures a COVID-19 Storm, prime minister Pierre noted that, with these swift and frequent changes in the behaviour of the COVID-19 virus, it is no surprise that all governments are struggling to come up with effective policies to deal with the social and economic impacts of the pandemic, he said on Monday.
“For governments like ours,” the prime minister related: “It’s impossible to keep up with the almost daily changes in these countries. One day we hear of a change in the isolation period; the next day is a change in the testing window.” However, the ministry of health evaluated the management of the fourth wave to strengthen the response measures in the fifth wave. However, the fifth wave was accompanied by a new variant – Omicron,” to which “additional response measures were put in place in anticipation of the increase in infections, including strengthening of public health measures; strengthening of the immunization program island-wide; enhanced testing capacity to manage increasing cases by increasing procurement of reagents and test kits; respiratory hospital improvements; procurement of equipment and supplies and, confinement hours were reviewed.”
In addition, the prime minister continues to encourage Saint Lucians to get vaccinated. New data, published January 18, 2022, reports 50, 592 individuals have been fully vaccinated. Another 6, 089 are partially vaccinated 5, 569 have received their booster shot. The number of active COVID-19 cases in the country is 3, 337. Currently, there are 30 positive cases of COVID-19 admitted at the respiratory hospital, of which two of them are severely ill. The total number of COVID-19 deaths in the country is 245 and COVID-19 related deaths are 72.
The social ills of crime continues to raise the stigma of a lawless society recording two homicides to date (January 17). “There are just too many guns in the hands of citizens who should not be carrying them,” prime minister Pierre stated, while “calling on the management of the police to do more and use available legal methods to take control of our streets and communities,” […] get those unlicensed firearms guns off our streets, and expecting to see some police initiatives to bring the level of violent crime under control,” amid of a record number of homicides in 2021.
To compound this situation, the Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF) currently has 327 individuals on remand compared to 127 in its penal population. And to the astonishment of many, the office of Saint Lucia’s Director of Public Prosecutions has not prosecuted a single murder case since January 2020. (The Pierre administration came into office July 26, 2021.)
According to the director of Public Procession (DPP) Daasrean Greene, “there are over 90 persons awaiting trial for the offence of murder while we continue to struggle with the difficulty of finding appropriate housing for our courts.”
It is problematic to understand the incomprehensible admission of the inability to solutions, given the authority and influence, hitherto, protected to compensation at the expense of taxpayers.
Meanwhile, prime minister Pierre has the task to “clean-up injustices that were wreaked upon [our] country by the maladministration of the last UWP government” and “rescuing [our] country from an economic and financial disaster, following five years of reckless borrowing and spending and an unprecedented level of corruption”.
The prime minister affirmed that his government is “unmoved by the shameless, provocative, and seditious utterances of those who refuse to accept the democratic will of the people when they were voted out of office by a landslide only six months ago.”
With the observance of the 43rd Anniversary of Independence under the theme “Douvan Ansanm-Celebrating Our people”, February 22, 2022, prime minister Pierre, “called on all Saint Lucians at home and in the diaspora to join in the exciting journey of inclusion, tolerance, compassion, and wealth creation that will lead to transformative change for our people.”