News Americas, CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Weds. Nov. 19, 2015: In the shadow of imminent difficulties on the horizon, there is sufficient cause to the shenanigans of the Kenny Anthony-led administration on policy matters pertaining to value added tax (VAT); the proposed implementation of the citizenship by investment program (CIP); and what amounts to dithering over judicial reform for accountability on seemingly unashamed corruption.
Whatever the doubts, the current level of discord and insecurity sweeping the country, and getting worse with each passing day, stems on one hand from a mediocre government promising better days, but instead citizens continue to struggle with daily life, coupled with a U-turn on policy that is destined to impact nationalism and sovereignty.
Before the implementation of VAT, the terms “oppressive and punishing”, were expressions of eloquence. But what followed, on assuming office in 2011, was the sudden conversion of Kenny Anthony to conclude that the financial state of the country demanded the implementation of VAT, to the point of taking responsibility as a badge of honour, proof of courage. Notwithstanding frequent resolutions to the value added tax order that amend the Act.
However, this has not diminished what seems to be “economic war” on Saint Lucians by virtue of the policy of “tax terrorism” taking the economy from death row to permanent purgatory. Eventually, investors began taking caution to the situation that has already reduced government enthusiasm for early general elections.
But according to the general secretary of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), Leo Clarke: “While the Labour government has not been able to create growth and prosperity in the last four years,” he credits his government for creating economic stability.
Really, Leo? With the exception that this is not surprising, as such confusion and smokescreen are what pass for the essence of government in Saint Lucia today.
More so, what could have precipitated such hogwash, save for, if in the eyes of surreptitious politicians and economic players, that this is a model to deepen partisanship to provide cover, and to favour the donor class positioning on the economy to satisfy their own interests in anticipation of Arab-St Lucian dealings.
The harsh reality is such that after almost four years the circumstances of citizens and the country have deteriorated significantly and is nowhere near attractive to top tier public investment.
That is probably why the betrayal of conscience and the willingness to take risks with the propose sale of 500 Saint Lucian passports per annum via the desperate resort to citizenship by investment programme, lined as a revenue generating mechanism to cure the country’s declining treasury.
In “unusual secrecy” by the “standards” of the Kenny Anthony-led administration that takes pride in the exercise of responsibility to protect the public interest, citizens are none the wiser about the CIP program that was unveiled in Monaco recently.
Public support of the CIP program is very negative. Concerns stem from the lack of information on the process of due diligence and background verification; the future value of Saint Lucia’s passport; further loss of free-visa access to international travel; economic development and aspects of national security and sovereignty.
Recent public records list Walid Juffali, who runs one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest conglomerates, as Saint Lucia’s “Permanent Representative” to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), unknown to most Saint Lucians, as with Gilbert Chagoury, Saint Lucia’s ambassador to UNECSO and lately, Halla Walid Al Juffali, Honourary Consul in Saudi Arabia based in Jeddah.
While at it, is the post of the High Commission in London vacant?
The upshot on VAT, “tax terrorism” and CIP “the selling of Saint Lucian’s passport” as structured, is considered a catastrophic policy that is imposing serious burden on the country.
Saint Lucia’s reputation is under tremendous scrutiny, and as to whether the groundwork is being done for constitutional reform and to commit to a strong economic and foreign policy, often times inseparable from one another, with a defining vision, that the country is open and ready for business is left unanswered.
The outline of which is necessary to bring about domestic fundamentals that are required for market support and investment propositions to strengthen economic partnerships and produce real results in the near future.
This likewise facilitates the ability to solve transactions that cast a shadow of dark clouds while helping to diminish prolonged suspicion of corruption, courtroom drama and political theatrics usually exploited to accelerate ignorance.
Hence, the attempt by Kenny Anthony to ask Guy Joseph to answer whether he told Stephenson King that, if he signed the Hewanorra Airport Terminal (HAT) contract (at the time valued at EC450 million) to Asphalt and Mining Consortium (A&M) that he (Stephenson King) would get US$3.8 million, carries the interpretation of the failure to deliver on urgent legal reform, and the furtherance of responsibility that seem at ease to horse-trading for pre-campaign manoeuvrings.
No doubt this is a serious question if upheld by hard-core evidence of judicial findings and may perhaps amount to bribery. For that reason, if all the facts are available. why not make strong legal representation that asserts the serious responsibility to protect the public interest on possible matters surrounding Asphalt and Mining (St Lucia) Company Limited; albeit Guy Joseph’s response: “Categorically, that this is a lie, this never happen…there is nothing I know that is further from the truth.”
As a point of reflection, what is the status of the town and village councils “forensic” report? Will anyone be held accountable? Or is this just another bluff that exposes a dysfunctional justice system, giving rise to administration after administration parroting ostensibly corrupt acts against each other as an exhibit of scandal?
Resolve on these matters is important, not just for keeping political promises and for accountability and transparency in government, but to give support to the collapse of the rule of law and freedom to access data and information.
But in recent times pessimism has exposed the Achilles’ heel to act in the best interests of the country and to conclude that Kenny Anthony’s magic is nowhere to be found. Then again, the historical precedent for political and economic illegalities beyond the circus composite that melt away in the warm Caribbean sun is dismal.
Things are not nice and acute worry is echoing all over, fueled by the fondness for five year cycles, with fights over tactics, emerging from a lack of vision that is not solving problems, but adding to them. Along with political theatrics to retain power by turning systemic blindfolds into upheaval and betrayal that end in disastrous results.
Faced with the policy objective to forge greater appeal and strength, there is a need to have realistic information that is guided by clear analysis. But that will require new thinking to discover new solutions for the future well-being of Saint Lucia.
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant. He is an advocate for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality; the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) www.lpmstlucia.com critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at ma*******@ro****.com