Should We Not Be Scared In St Lucia?

Dr Ernest Hilaire is the Member of Parliament for Castries South

By Dr Ernest Hilaire

The parliamentary sitting in Saint Lucia of October 30 was quite depressing. With another family facing tragedy, our thoughts were with these families. The premature end to the business of the day was just as well; it was an all round frightening day. My condolences to all the families suffering from the tragic loss of life in the last couple of days.

Before the sitting of parliament ended though, you got the impression that the government is pushing along a trajectory that they know is fraught with danger but hoping, just hoping that it pays off.

Guy Joseph knew that and, in his usual style, was crying foul when he knew he was about to commit a foul. Guy claimed we were trying to scare Saint Lucians about government borrowing and using scare tactics. Really!

Just think about the following.

According to the Estimates 2018/19, this government has borrowed EC$196.6 million in 2016, EC$241.2 million in 2017, and is expected to borrow EC$300.9 million in 2018. A total of EC$738.7 million for the Allen Chastanet government by the end of this financial year.

You will recall that the prime minister also announced that he would be borrowing US$150 million (EC$406 million) from the Taiwanese. He said that US$100 million was for the airport redevelopment, US$25 million for road repairs and US$25 million for school repairs. This was NOT included in the Budget Estimates and does not yet factor in our debt burden.

We also heard two weeks ago that the government was seeking a loan from a consortium of local banks of US$75 million (EC$203 million). Now can someone tell us just how much will the airport cost? It was going to be US$100m (EC$270 million) now it is US$175 million (EC$475 million) and it has not even started yet!

Last week, Guy Joseph announced on Rick Wayne’s show that Allen Chastanet is such a good negotiator that he negotiated an additional US$50 million (EC$135 million) from the Taiwanese. It will be used for roads (again) and a new wing at St Jude.

That means a total of US$200 million (EC$540 million) from the Taiwanese for this year!

When added to the loan from the local banks for the airport, we now have US$200 million plus US$75 million which is US$275 million or EC$745 million. These are additional loans for this year that are not in the Budget.

When added to the projected Budget borrowing which is in the Estimates for 2018/2019 (EC$300.6 million) it means we will be borrowing EC$1,045.6 million or just over EC$1 billion THIS YEAR ALONE!

And if the projected borrowing is achieved, by the end of this Financial Year in March 2019, Allen Chastanet would have borrowed $1,483.7 million or $1.48 billion since coming into office.

Should we not be scared?