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St Lucia’s management of COVID-19 crisis

Dear Sir

The government and diehard supporters have been basking in self-praise over what has been termed “the excellent management of the crisis.” As evidence of this so-called excellent management, they claimed that Saint Lucia has not recorded any deaths from the virus.

Lost to the prime minister and his supporters is that there are many dimensions to crisis management.

  • Unlike many governments around the world, our government has ignored the hardship being experienced by its people. The government has provided very little by way of income support.
  • Unlike the case with several countries around the world, nutritional assistance to the vulnerable and marginalized at a minimal level;
  • Whereas many countries have strengthened their social safety net, our government has largely ignored the poor and marginalized.

The government’s focus has been on boosting activity in the tourism and construction sectors.

Many have expressed their view that it will take several years for tourism to recover to pre-pandemic levels. Besides, even though our vulnerability to tourism had been woefully exposed, the government has seen it prudent to place more emphasis on the sector at this time.

I am at a loss to understand the increase in construction activity currently. Projects that should not be of great importance [at this time] are being implemented. The government wasted its first four years in office and is now trying to make up for the lost time. I guess if you are a “product of Canada” you wouldn’t understand that because of leakages, the multiplier effect for construction activity is much smaller in the Saint Lucian economy, and than it is for one of the North American economies.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has documented how countries have responded to the COVID crisis. A constant theme is a reduction in capital expenditure. However, with counterintuitive thinking, the prime minister of Saint Lucia has decided that it is a good idea to boost capital expenditure at this time.

The prime minister has repeatedly said that increased construction activity [at this time] is the best approach for dealing with the unemployment situation. However, he is oblivious to the fact that men make up the overwhelming number of workers in the sector.

What it means that despite a large number of households are headed by women, the government has decided that they do not matter. The plight of women is of no concern to our government.

Even though our debt is already at an unsustainable level, the government has decided that it should increase its borrowing at this time. To quote the prime minister, “we cannot print money, so we have to borrow.”

No mister prime minister – we do not have to borrow as if there is no tomorrow. Some of the construction activity could be postponed.

The village tourism project could be postponed. Government borrowing at this time should be strictly controlled. The economic management of the COVID-19 crisis has been abysmal.

Carlton Augustine



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