Prime Minister Phillip Pierre has refuted claims made by the Leader of the Opposition who stated that the government has indulged in excessive borrowing to undertake its socio-economic policies.
“The Office of the Prime Minister has debunked an egregiously false and irresponsible assertion that has been propagated by the Leader of the Opposition,” a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister read in part.
The statement noted that PM Pierre leveraged public borrowing to advance his administration’s ‘people- first agenda’ and that public borrowing is and will continue to be a common practice and ordinary function of any government.
“Public borrowing must be guided by a thorough process of evidenced based policy planning and transparent stakeholder consultation to minimize wastage and ensure the relevant intervention programmes and projects meet its objectives,” the statement read.
The government release added that the prime minster employs prudent fiscal management practices in addition to multi-stakeholder consultations to ensure the ordinary Saint Lucian remains the primary beneficiary of any public borrowing during his tenure as Head of the Government of Saint Lucia.
According to the release, in the 16 months since the St Lucia Labour Party led Pierre Administration assumed office, the Legislative arm of the government has sought the permission of the Lower House of Parliament to authorize public borrowing on three separate occasions.
“It is important to note that in the first two instances, the Lower House met to repurpose and reactivate some of the funding negotiated by the previous Administration, to instead, support social safety net and other socio-economic development programmes,” the statement read.
Last week, Opposition leader Allen Chastanet insinuated that the SLP administration borrowed XCD 277.1 million last month.
In his missive, Chastanet claims the persistent borrowing that the SLP administration “promised Saint Lucians would not happen, has been unprecedented over the last 16 months.”
The United Workers Party (UWP) led by its political leader Chastanet, contends that, on July 10 the SLP administration put forward a resolution to borrow a total of US$49.5 million or EC $ 134.4 million for budgetary support.
“There are absolutely no records from the Parliament office, including the Hansard from any Lower House debate in the last 16 months, nor are there any records in the offices of the Ministry of Finance or the Office of the Prime Minister that can remotely substantiate or legitimize this irresponsible fabrication,” the government release declared.
The release adds that as supplementary support for the 2022/23 Budget, PM Pierre, for the first time on November 22 sought the permission of the Lower House of Parliament “to borrow approximately XCD 14.06 million from the Caribbean Development Bank’s Special Funds Resources to finance social safety nets for vulnerable households affected by COVID-19 and XCD 9.99 million from the Bank’s Special Development Fund 10th Cycle Loan Facility to invest in the island’s MSME sector.”
Additionally, the statement adds that between July 26, 2021 and November 22, 2022 the approximate sum of public borrowing “does not amount to XCD 505 million.”
In an effort to clarify the matter and allay fears of reckless spending of public funds, the statement adds: “The Prime Minister encourages the general public to seek out information on government affairs from official government publications and from trusted media sources.”
The Office of the Prime Minister reiterated that there is nothing, which even remotely legitimizes any claim that the Lower House of Parliament sought permission to borrow “XCD 277.1 million” in October 2022 as Chastanet claimed.