POLITICAL Leader of the United Workers Party (UWP), Allen Chastanet, has described Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony’s 2015 Budget Statement as one that creates increased hardships for Saint Lucians.
Speaking to the media outside Parliament on Thursday morning, Chastanet said the government continues to make promises to the people, many of which they are not keeping.
“I think this is a very sad day for Saint Lucia,” Chastanet said. “I think this budget represents another nail in the coffin for Saint Lucians. This is a budget that – like the last three budgets – is full of promises that are going to be very difficult for the government to keep.”
Chastanet said the plight of Saint Lucians was the fundamental priority the government should be zeroing on. The government’s taxation and spending policies, he said, have only served to “reduce Saint Lucians’ standard of living.”
“(This) has caused unemployment to go up and the economy to contract for three consecutive years and has severely damaged the private sector of this country,” Chastanet stated. “You would have thought that in this budget the government would have recognized some of its own shortfalls and would have addressed them. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that they have not addressed any one of these issues.”
Chastanet added that government’s decision to increase the fuel surcharge and vehicle licence fees are detrimental to many Saint Lucians. His party voicing its opposition to the government’s policies in Parliament, he said, is often futile because “they don’t listen to anything.” As such, his party will be organizing a similar protest march as the one they did in January against the government’s fuel adjustment system, Chastanet said.
“I think there are issues in this budget which are equally damaging and will cause our party the same reaction. So we are going to be reorganizing our ‘Orange Campaign’. We think that there are several issues that our members and the people of Saint Lucia are generally offended by in this government,” Chastanet explained.
Chastanet further stated: “We need to stand up. The United Workers Party is ready to work with the people of Saint Lucia in orchestrating that. But we will see protests. We will see many activities to try to get the government to change its positions on these issues.”
In his Budget Statement delivered in Parliament last Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister said he was confident that this year will usher in increased opportunity and growth for the country.
“Barring any unforeseen circumstances,” Dr. Anthony said, “we will see positive gains in our economy. We will maintain a manageable fiscal deficit, far lower than what it was when we took office in 2011. Our public finances will be more secure and our debt more manageable.”
The commissioning of two state-of-the-art hospitals worth over $300 million in the island’s north and south, the delivery of clean drinking water to communities in the south, and a less bureaucratic delivery of public services among others, he said, augur well for economic growth.
Dr. Anthony said priority will be placed on improving the ease of doing business in the courts and at the island’s ports, the creation of a four-lane road link between Castries and Gros Islet, improved broadband network, pursuing renewable energy, and greater support for social programmes such as NICE.
“These are the desires and policies of the government. Our government was elected to deliver a better country and will strive even harder to do just that…We aim to deliver a country more sustainable, more at peace, more productive. A Saint Lucia that nurtures its young, a Saint Lucia that cares for all its people, a Saint Lucia that aspires for greatness,” Dr. Anthony said.
With negative economic growth of -1.9% in 2013 and -0.7 last year, government has come under fire from many for seemingly not doing enough to arrest especially high unemployment levels (around 24%) and cost of living. The 2015/16 budget, estimated at $1.464 billion, the Prime Minister said, should steer the ailing economy in good stead.