It began with the Prime Minister (PM) of St Lucia, the Honourable Allen Chastanet, levelling with his people by telling them that the treasury is empty. It was a bitter pill for the St Lucian people, but we suspect that St Lucians appreciated their PM’s forthrightness.
Then, at the opening of the new treasury building last year, our Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, the Honourable Lennox Weston, was equally forthright when he said words to the effect that ‘We owe a lot of people money, and we don’t have the ability to pay them.’ We appreciated Minister Weston’s straight talk. It alerted us to this administration’s penury and nakedness.
Of course, Minister Weston ruined that moment of candor a few months later by engaging in fanciful talk of EC$500M in the kitty to help us weather the Covid-19 storm. Turns out, Minister Weston was talking through his pipe of tranquility. There is no EC$500M in our treasury at the government’s disposal. Just ask our PM, and the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst, and you’ll watch them squirm and struggle to come up with a plausible explanation for what the good Minister Weston meant when he made the grandiose feel-good pronouncement. It is not difficult to imagine that Minister Weston was reprimanded for talking out of turn. After all, the non-existent $500M has been the butt of jokes, and opened up the administration to significant ridicule, much like the bizarre campaign promise to build 500 homes in 500 days. Seems, this administration has a fetish with the number, 500.
Anyway, in another admirable moment of truth, our PM admitted that there aren’t any funds available to repair our severely damaged roadways in the near future. Of course, the admission was not a big surprise to anyone. We already knew that this administration was as poor as a church mouse, never mind its constant crowing. The PM shared that we are in such bad shape that we cannot foot the bill, which has been conservatively pegged at some EC$270 million. According to Browne, “We don’t have the type of money to fix the roads, so our people will have to endure with these bad roads for the time being. This is just part of the pain that one has to endure after a disaster . . . [we will have to] paddle our own canoe . . . The national and financial institutions continue to exclude Antigua and Barbuda on the basis of our high per capita income, but they are not looking at our vulnerability and our need . . . We have been excluded for several decades from receiving grants and any form of debt relief. . .”
Thereyou have it folks. To be sure, we are not buying any of the administration’s half-truths and malarkey. There are a host of other reasons why this rude and arrogant administration has been shunned by international lending agencies and donors, but those are for another discussion at another time.
Oh why, oh why did we spend like drunken sailors in a bordello in times of plenty – the times when we were supposedly achieving these phenomenal annual rates of growth? Why, oh why, did we loot the Medical Benefits Scheme of its handsome nest egg? Why, oh why, did we use taxpayers’ money to bailout a connected family and relieve it of its white elephant? Why, oh why, in this awful time of crisis, we cannot get a dime from YIDA, never mind that we are allowing them to pee all over the North East Marine Management Area? With impunity. And why, oh why, is the Citizenship By Investment fund being used like a piggy bank? Why . . . ???
Where, oh where, is our Ram Kirpalani? If you recall Ram Kirpalani was Trinidad’s most successful businessman of all time. He was of Indian extraction, and according to Chalkdust in, RAM THE MAGICIAN, “Everything that Ram put he hand on / Does swing from a shack to a mansion /. . . Please accept my sympathy / For dem fools you have Georgie / In your Cabinet and your Party / Every project dey touch, from road building to a paint brush / When de dam bust, de country losing money / Every chairman in our own State companies / Selvyn Ryan in Public utilities / Before dem man bankrupt we / Send all ah dem, quick Georgie / To take a course by Ram Kirpalani / . . . Bee Wee is an annual loss / Don’t talk bout de Transport Boss / Road project is one big crime / Pay de people dey overtime / If you can’t run de country, den call in Kirpalani / . . .. Ram never went to UWI / But he have a degree in money . . . “
Where is Ram Kirpalani when we need him? Those in high places have as much as admitted that we are broke. Remember, it was Minister Weston who candidly said that we are living hand-to-mouth, even before the onset of Covid-19, and certainly before this weather event. Maybe this is as good a time as any for us to ask for some help. Mayday! Mayday!
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