The current crisis of governance in Saint Lucia, orchestrated by new prime minister Allen Chastanet, is perhaps more serious than the setbacks that occurred in the 1979 leadership crisis.
The thinking of the current administration led by Chastanet has its origin in 2009 when as minister of tourism he did nothing to preserve the wellbeing and dignity of nine single mothers employed in the rangers (tour guides) program of the Soufriere Regional Development Foundation (SRDF), and the town/constituency councils, that are the epicentre for political undertakings, which has turned into an ongoing court action for breach of trust and misfeasance in public office.
Then, on November 26, 2011, two days before the general election, his gross incompetence approved and celebrated the demolition of the Soufriere Bridge and, in return, lost his quest to become the member of Parliament.
Later, on August 23, 2013, there was the battle of the Soufriere Bridge amid unruly behaviour, arrogant demeanour and a false sense of entitlement after a verbal altercation erupted at the opening of the reconstructed bridge.
Fast forward to July 28, 2016, under the guise of a tour of Soufriere/Fond St Jacques, in the presence of the project financier, Taiwan ambassador Ray Mou, construction managers and workers, media, members of the business community and cabinet ministers, prime minister and minister of finance Chastanet intruded to put on hold the reconstruction of Soufriere Square and by extension the Soufriere Enhancement Project.
This unethical action most certainly embarrassed all participants and magnified the crisis of trust, confidence and credibility alongside the prime minister’s twisted perception of the constitution of Saint Lucia, to expose his misguided rhetoric that “tourists will not like it under the current design” thus confirming his ill-defined development caricature, and far too frequent assault in keeping with the aspirations of a petty dictator.
The proper course of action is to create public policy to reflect the desired vision to the reality that exists, and not the unstable construct of profound disrespect as executed by the prime minister, a new low in the continuance of identity politics and defining characteristics for political instability in a turbulent economy.
Therefore, I don’t have to be a New Yorker to “know a con when I see one” ~ Mike Bloomberg.
The prime minister’s intervention in the Soufriere Enhancement Project bears cost factors and potential legal action well beyond the initial cost of EC$12,205,972, scheduled for the project completion, if the estimates of expenditure for the year of 2016/ 2017, at page 468, as noted by the leader of the opposition, Philip J Pierre, is decipherable to the office of the prime minister’s cosmic comprehension of finance.
This reckless and irresponsible behaviour extends to the inability to think of the consequences that lie ahead to the stoppage of construction work on the St Jude’s hospital project, various constituency development projects, the Soufriere Enhancement Project, future termination of contracts and appointments under consideration.
There are many undertones to the prime minister’s quick return to Soufriere/Fond St Jacques, one of which is to reclaim the so-called “Hummingbird beach project”, the last remaining open beach access in the town, and the hidden development agenda for the Soufriere waterfront that went unfulfilled to special interests and “Friends of Soufriere”.
Still, the prime minister’s behaviour gets weirder and weirder, from outright contempt for and frequent departures from civil society precepts, party ideology and discipline to settle for animal farm doctrine and scattershot idealism through political expediency, to sign an agreement between DSH Caribbean Star Limited and key agencies of the government of Saint Lucia, including Invest Saint Lucia (ISL), the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) and the Development Control Authority (DCA), to build the island’s first and only international standard integrated development (in the shadow of La Paradis) described as the ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ valued at over US$2.6 billion to occupy a 700-acre site and set to commence in 2017.
Prior to the 2016 general elections, he argued relative to the Citizenship by Investment (CIP) (locally termed “Cash in Pocket”) program that government should focus on transparency and due diligence, and that government guarantees were unacceptable, meanwhile trying to dampen his conflict of interest.
But, within two months of assuming office, the ill-defined Chastanet-led administration plans to amend the CIP Act and modify legislation, after signing an agreement with DSH. An action that embodies far too many vulnerabilities and apprehensiveness, including an existential threat to the Caribbean region and beyond.
Such measures only mean that the change in administration was an exchange in the hypocrisy of circus clowns that are adverse to the best interest of preserving Saint Lucia’s patrimony and the environment, which continue to exhibit foreign policy and national security intelligence flaws, and the recurring inability to negotiate the best possible deal and obtain full value for the country’s limited resources.
As a matter of fact, you can’t fix dim-witted and one can’t be a change maker and an advocate for the status quo – the result will be an unstable government!
Real leaders don’t succumb to manipulation or become persuaded to “demonstrated harm” in a doomed search for quick fixes to economic stagnation and/or a façade that puts the interest of corporate friends first and the rest of the country under siege.
Real leaders stand-up for futuristic industry and ideas, sustainable job creation and get smart with genuine prosperity through science, technology engineering, maths (STEM), and climate change adaptation initiatives.
However, Chastanet’s false logic and accounting incompetence offers an insane alternative to target middle class workers that insults the intelligence of the wider population by presenting bad math to equate eight ministries, 17 ministers, 22 permanent secretaries, attrition, contracts cancellation and the policy of no new hire, except cronies, to savings in recurrent expenditure that will not be visible until the next budget cycle.
Note: The Saint Lucia Gazette issue 32, August 8, 2016, lists 22 permanent secretaries.
At the same time, local government commissioned 13 new constituency councils, mayors and deputy mayors that mirror campaign interests and point to quid pro quo, totally ignoring calls for local government elections and reform.
These semantics validate silo oriented governance that exemplifies chaos and apprehension associated with “dump leadership” and cabinet meetings where the value of specifics with limited validity, overshadows the value of extensive wisdom necessary to meet the current socio-economic crisis and strategic thinking required to map out the future to reach full potential.
Indeed, Chastanet’s maneuvers bring to mind “mark-to-market” accounting and inflated practices associated with the collapse of Enron in 2001. A practice that led to schemes through the formation of silos, clusters and subsidiaries that hid losses and made earnings and executives look good and more profitable than they really were.
In sum, the immense challenges that lie around the prime minister’s irregularities, incompetence and lack of credibility that raised eyebrows before (Tuxedo Villas, Black Bay Lands, airline deals, massive mobile phone bills) are still cause for concern, to wit, the recently reinstated legal action against him for misfeasance in public office that extends beyond our borders.
Given the pervasive culture of corruption and as a priority to restore Saint Lucia’s sense of purpose, values and to rebase law and order to influence the future, could the overriding chant at the Republican National Convention “Lock her up”, read in the local political environment “Lock him up”?