Monday, July 15, 2024
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HomeBusinessEconomySt Lucia government botched policy

St Lucia government botched policy

By Caribbean News Global contributor

TORONTO, Canada – The symptoms of botched policies, more recently on health, crime, the RSLPF and VAT continues to plummet the island – ‘Gangster paradise– in an ever-growing loss of confidence and leadership in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government of Saint Lucia.

2.5 percent levy moved from July 1 to August 2, 2023

“Stakeholder consultation on the proposed health and security levy is continuing. The government of Saint Lucia is determined to ensure the public, consumers and the private sector are adequately informed about and prepared for the implementation of the levy,” said, the office of the prime minister, OPM. “Once implemented, the health and security levy is expected to annually generate at least XCD 33 million for the government of Saint Lucia.”

Since the announcement in the 2023/2024 budget address and now, there has been little consultation, transparency and practical application to the introduction of the 2.5 percent levy.

Consumers have been and remain unclear on what items the levy will apply. Businesses are none the wiser on the government accounting requirements and reporting to the inland revenue.

On the eve of the government’s expected introduction of the 2.5 percent levy for health and citizen security, Chamber of Commerce aired concerns, and recommended January 1, 2024, for possible commencement.

More concerning as reported the “ministries technocrats” revealed that the levy will not have a “specific designation”. This is a remarkable indifference to the prime minister and minister for finance policy statement that the 2.5 percent levy is for health and citizen security.

Thereafter, the prime minister, minister for finance, economic development and the youth economy, and minister for justice and national security, reluctantly announced that the new policy will now come into effect on August 2, 2023.

The Office of the Prime Minister in a statement June 28, 2023, said:

“The health and security levy is a necessary measure to ensure that the burden of economic recovery is shared equitably among all stakeholders. […] The government will continue to roll out its Universal Health Care programme and improve the quality of health services at our institutions. The police will continue to benefit from the reinstatement of the training vote, equipment, and vehicles to assist in citizen security. The government remains committed to prudent fiscal management, sustainable growth, and the well-being of all citizens.”

In keeping with the public, private and business arguments, it is notable that the executive branch of government was “out-played” by their red crystal ball.

It would have been better to be upfront and level with the people of Saint Lucia – making the case of a country facing severe challenges  – and simply return the VAT to 15 percent.

However – the policy statement boasts 18 percent economic growth. Unemployment is reported at 19 percent and youth unemployment at 25.9 percent and a budget surplus of XCD29M was also reported.

Meantime, the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) “have decided to withhold services provided at the outpatient clinic at MHMC.  […] unresolved issues, including gratuity payments due to doctors, whose contracts ended on 31 March 2023.”

Beyond spin, countless affirmative and practical situations give reasons for a 15 percent VAT. Conversely, the botched implementation solidarities sidestepping external advice, skillfully and resource personnel.

Regretable, the divide between policy implementation, management and communication endures the botched implementation of the health and security levy.

Together, these form part of the wider issues of public management and the below-par national security apparatus of Saint Lucia.

Waive interest, fines and penalties on VAT deductions owed to the government

Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre’s decision to conditionally waive interest, fines and penalties on Value Added Tax deductions owed to the government will collectively save Saint Lucia’s business community more than XCD 150 million,” said OPM.

The policy decision on VAT deductions owed to the government pivots yet again on systemic failures of public administration and enforcement. This continues a downward spiral of public accountability and endurance of laws. It keeps open the floodgates that make legislators prone to the corruptible and doing others’ bidding.

It robs the public of government services, economic development and reduces the country’s viability as a serious jurisdiction for doing business – when it becomes acceptable to collect VAT on behalf of the state and not remit to the government. Meanwhile, the government cajoles businesses – rather than apply the law.

Dennery Carnival Mass shooting – July 2, 2023

In the thrust of Carnival celebrations and community events, health and safety should be paramount. But as witnessed, the continuance of a deplorable health sector, lawlessness and homicides are unabated.

Last weekend witnessed a repeated episode of five homicides –and one suicide. Depending on who is counting, Saint Lucia records 43 homicides …

Same old RSLPF

“The RSLPF continues to receive the equipment, resources and tools needed for modern-day policing and law enforcement efforts. The prime minister has increased the motor vehicle feet of the police force after delivering five new motorcycles to the high command,” OPM advised. “Since 2021, prime minister Pierre has committed more than XCD 45 million to strengthen the country’s chief security agency for a safer and more secure Saint Lucia.”

Meanwhile, the custody suite (a detention facility for persons arrested by the police), will be rebuilt and completed in 2024. The infamous structure was demolished by the previous administration. Also, work on the Vieux Fort police station and the Halls of Justice is expected to commence this year.

Amid improved equipment and increased resources Saint Lucia’s police force is beyond repair. Moreover, allegations of sexual misconduct/harassment continue to cloud the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, (RSLPF) unable to protect its image and mandate. The shuffling of commissioners of police is a farce.

Insights

“… VAT will be removed on the following building supplies for two years: plywood, lumber, steel, cement, and galvanise. This strategic policy by the government has been well received by the public and will drive demand in the construction industry. This new economic activity will be supported by the construction of four hotels accounting for investment of XCD 341.6 million; a feat which eluded the administration of now leader of the opposition, Allen Chastanet.”

“[…]” “The government remains committed to prudent fiscal management, sustainable growth, and the well-being of all citizens,” OPM.

“Prime Minister Pierre has successfully negotiated for modern, non-intrusive scanning equipment from Taiwan for use at Saint Lucia’s air and seaports. The upgraded scanners will further enhance security measures and bolster efforts by local law enforcement agencies to intercept illicit items at the ports.”

It remains to be seen if the silence of the government is free from assumptions about the crime wave, public finance and economic development. And albeit competencies that compound the issues as exemplified, current national situations conflate the pedigree associated with politics and governance.

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