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Sunday, June 19, 2016




From the perspective of the Saint Lucia Labour Party the just concluded General Elections was a bombshell. The pollsters didn’t see it coming. The supporters didn’t recognize it as it approached. Like in 2006, it came and it hit us hard.

In 2006 we had to demit office after two terms.  In 2016 we were kicked out after only one term - a term that could have taken us well into 2017. In 2006 we had a background of nine years to feed off. That was not the case in 2016, but coming into office in 2011, when we reversed the results of 2006, the UWP gave us a lot to feed off.  Few would deny that the administration of 2006-2011, with allegations of corruption, greed and associated malpractices, did not deserve to lose. 

Perhaps having won, we did not accept that in those circumstances, we had under performed. UWP candidates, whose names were prominent where allegations were rife, either won, or lost by relatively small margins.  By contrast, the administration of 2006 – 2011 did not have to address a single incident of corruption or associated malpractices.   The dominant issue seemed to be VAT – a tax that is common the world over, and a tax that the UWP themselves was committed to implementing.   

So where did we go wrong? I believe that not having appreciated that we under performed in 2006, we allowed complacency to creep in, perhaps unnoticed. After all, we had a majority that allowed us to ride roughshod over the opposition if we chose to. So we continued working, admirably in the eyes of many, but with obvious distractions as expected in the world of politics.

While VAT was the dominant issue it is difficult to accept that VAT alone could have done such damage. True we were told that the UWP would immediately reduce and ultimately abolish it. We were never told by how much it would be reduced initially, or when we could expect eventual abolition.  But with an electorate littered with illiteracy and steeped in tribalistic loyalty, it made its mark.  Perhaps the education that preceded its implementation or that was continued after its implementation was inadequate.  We should always remember that every individual has one vote, and every effort should be made to engage everyone, particularly in a case like VAT where everyone will be affected at some point. To tell the rest of the world that VAT killed us is in my view laughable. But it contributed; and we can only blame ourselves, that the pro -VAT argument did not reverberate convincingly on the eardrums of all.

Once we begin to understand our politics we recognize that each party has a solid base. Once the base is properly massaged, we expect it to remain solid or increase. Recent results invite us to revisit that view.  It may well be that our base was not being properly massaged. Massaging in my view does not necessarily mean granting favours or ensuring particular individuals being placed in advantageous positions.  It means visiting the base at acceptable intervals, demonstrating our appreciation for their efforts, informing them of opportunities for progressing, giving them the arguments that allow them to defend the party and its policies at appropriate times, and ensuring that they are aware of developments as they occur.

Of course factors beyond our control can lead to erosion. I believe however if the base is properly massaged whatever the influences, erosion will be minimal.  The Labour Party must now consider whether too much erosion has occurred and why.  While UWP candidates were winning by margins exceeding one thousand votes our best result came with a margin of six hundred and twenty votes, in a seat that we last won with a majority of over a thousand votes.  Seats we expected to win by over a thousand votes were either lost or barely won.

We talk about “swing”.  I can understand swings that eat into our base but leave us visible.  But this one was a hurricane that left us homeless.  It is not an easy task finding the pieces and rebuilding. I trust we can see the lessons here that must be learnt.

Roaming through the constituencies long before election was called. I detected a common cry:  new entrants or what someone calls “soft converts” were being well massaged at the expense of proven stalwarts.  I clearly remember one stalwart lamenting the fact that a soft convert had got a decent contract and promptly subcontracted it to his “old friends” Stalwarts are then expected to sit idly by and pretend to be unaffected.  That cannot contribute to maintaining a base. It doesn’t mean that there must be blatant discrimination. It simply means that we cannot afford to ignore our stalwarts.

Many have suggested that people just wanted Kenny out. If that be the case one ought to be able to identify that act or series of acts that so offended the nation that the nation reacted so vociferously. I daresay, that where these exist, the writing on the wall would be so legible, the partially sighted would have no difficulty reading it.  But we didn’t see it coming!

Every leader is bound to make unpopular decisions at some point.  Many will accept the necessity recognizing that it may well be in the best interest of the country.  Many will use it to advance their personal interest. The conscientious will say it is better to do what is right rather than what is expedient.  But the nature of our society is such that where what is right is what is done, the consequences may not flatter us.

So what was so offensive about Kenny’s leadership?  I have often wondered why politicians wish to remain in office beyond a certain period particularly in societies like ours where it seems to be fair game to insult and even assault the politician.  From the politician’s perspective it is that thankless task that necessitates much sacrifice and can lead to near or total bankruptcy. But to many persons the politician is responsible for every ill that emerges while he is in office.  To most persons the Prime Minister is the chief culprit.  Whatever the problem, whatever the source, rightly or wrongly, he is the cause.  How long should one be allowed to carry that burden?

People do people get tired of seeing the same faces in office or hearing or repeating the same names. It gets to a point where the most insignificant incident is interpreted as a disaster.  I clearly remember just before retiring from politics, someone said to me he would not be voting for me again because I had made enough money and should give someone else a chance.

 I couldn’t believe the reasoning.  I knew politics had done nothing to enhance my finances.  In fact, the opposite was true.   But this constituent actually believed his vote had somehow enriched me. That kind of thinking together with the stress and disadvantages that come with politics clearly suggest that we should always keep an eye on the clock.

As I see it Kenny Anthony has had a long and distinguished career as Political Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party and Prime Minister of Saint Lucia.  He has earned the respect of leaders regionally and internationally.  Saint Lucia can be proud that he was with us when we needed him.  I would have preferred if he had bowed out in glory but I think he left it late.  But that does not devalue his worth.  Knowing when to go has always been difficult to determine.  Mohammed Ali “The Greatest” got it wrong when he returned to the ring in 1980.  He remains the greatest.  Bless his soul.  Margaret Thatcher “The Iron Lady” fell after she too got it wrong.  Many more can be named.

The wave of protest reflected in the ballot boxes up and down the country was not only because of VAT or unemployment.   VAT is likely to be here for the next five years.  There will not be a dramatic fall in unemployment in a hurry, because of anything the new government does.  People wanted change, and they voted for change. In so doing they voted “against” rather than “for”.

That to me, best explains why in Vieux Fort North a relative unknown shows up two weeks before election day and literally frightens the incumbent in what was considered a very safe Labour seat. The same can be said in Dennery North.  In Choiseul/Saltibus, I am convinced that ninety per cent of the people who voted UWP did not know their candidate.  They simply voted against the incumbent.

Surprisingly, where incumbents seemed to had worked their seats impressively, the results were effectively a slap in the face.  Impressive projects completed or in progress, did not impress.  The individual need for more spending power was of greater concern.  That vote against the Labour Party demands scientific analysis. It must be understood and addressed.

Money has been cited as one of the reasons we lost.  It is quite obvious that a lot of money was spent. But I don’t know of any General Elections where a lot of money wasn’t spent. Campaign Financing is an issue in every democracy.  Where it is regulated it is difficult to police. During a campaign, all parties with the intention of persuading people to vote for their party, spend huge sums.  Giving the head of a household a fair sum in the hope that every voter in that household would support the party is not unheard of. Sad but true.

What is particularly offensive is that on Election Day, money is paid to voters in an attempt to have them change their presumed allegiance.  While risky, it is known to bear fruit. I do not believe however that these Election Day payments wherever they occurred would have made any difference. Of the eleven seats that were captured, six seats were won with majorities exceeding one thousand votes.  Four had majorities exceeding three hundred and the other had a majority of one hundred and forty nine.  I find it difficult to accept that any Election Day payments could have significantly influenced these figures.

Another worry is the fact that some voters who find it difficult to betray their allegiance suddenly disappeared on polling day.  Reports suggest that some bus drivers as well as a number of individuals, known to be committed to the Labour party, became invisible on voting day.  There is reason to believe that in most if not all cases they were paid to become invisible.  Indeed worrying, but it begs the question: how solid is the base? While that may have contaminated the figures, I don’t believe it influenced the eventual outcome.

Every political party must undertake periodic review and at some point radical change. Kenny Anthony has led the St Lucia Labour Party from 1996. His era is now over. This defeat presents an opportunity not just for post mortems and papering over cracks, but for a complete overhaul and radical change. That process must begin now. We now have an opposition that can constructively challenge the Government.  We must now work towards a Government that the opposition cannot challenge.



There has been much discourse on the new Cabinet configuration - a discourse that (by and large) has been “superficial”, showing a measure of meaningful and significant penetration mostly at the level of social media.

While it was indeed heartening to have heard the voices of industry-standard experts in Economics and Finance (like Richard Peterkin and Frank Myers), it was equally disappointing that their voices did little to address the inherent anomalies in our "Sputnik" Cabinet or to attempt quell the ensuing babel (of seemingly national proportions) which only seems to keep on gaining momentum with time.  Apparently their cautious and mundane sound bytes which were proffered in the euphoric moments of the inauguration went with the flow and did nothing to alter the momentum of the discourse.


Two fundamental questions have been either not been asked or have been largely ignored, except for the debate on social media.
The questions are: (a) is the new configuration in its current form “tenable” and (b) if it is, then, "Does it do more with less or vice versa?" 

Our mainstream media on which we depend for enlightenment and a measure of intellectual leadership continue their free fall from omniscience to “peripatetic ignorance” with even some publishers/Talk show hosts going to the point of celebrating and/or defending the new configuration without proper, in depth analysis. In other cases, they downplay the issue (perhaps) in the hope that it will go away and become a “new normal” in our excessively skewed politics.

It appears our media have a Freudian propensity to keep on repeating the same past mistakes of "honeymoonism" with new governments, jumping unto the “bandwagon of bliss” in a way that seems to painfully corroborate our IQ ranking as assessed by “the Economist” magazine a few years ago. 

When Kenny Anthony won the elections in 1997, the Press blindly hopped aboard his train and seemed to have remained there indefinitely until he broke the cycle of bliss by firing a Senator who was a publisher. Almost twenty years down the line, we haven't learned our lesson or have forgotten history.

The question is: is this our true and real St. Lucia or is it a historically momentary, anomalous quirk of fate? I pray it is the later!


 Let's now look critically at the geometric configuration of the new cabinet and also its potential implications. Later, I shall argue that the reduction in the number of the ministries is only a hoax not grounded in rationality – one that was designed to have never happened.

Firstly, the new PM said he would reduce the number of Ministries; and he did! He however did not tell us that he would increase the number of Ministers; but he did! He didn't tell us anything about the consequential fiscal ramifications: for example, (a) the net effect of the reduction in the number of ministries and (b) increasing the number of Ministers; and would it result in cost savings and how?That is one of the puzzles for which we await a solution!

In the meantime, we can only surmise: If it does result in cost savings, then the PM should be applauded and from a fiscal point of view, he is on his way to a fine term; but this however still remains an exceedingly grey area.

Lets us argue rationally: can there be a reduction in the number of ministries, if there is no reduction in the staff or reduction in the “population of structure” of those Ministries?

Let's look at the scenario theoretically: if the number of ministries is reduced by a factor of x, then shouldn't we expect savings by a factor proportional to x? Or let's put it directly in terms of “population of the structure”: if you reduce the number of ministries, then shouldn't also there have been a reduction in the staff compliment of the ministries in proportion to the reduction and doesn't that directly translate to or at least imply redundancy or retrenchment?  A fair question is: is the "cluster configuration" a pre-emptive rationalization to retrench public servants in medium or long-term plan to realise recurrent savings?


Let's still look at the argument at a more "global angle" by bringing in "more factors to the table": With a humongous public wage bill of almost $500 million, a planned reduction and eventual removal of VAT and the new PMs intention to change the fiscal deficit into a surplus, then what are the implications - economic or fiscal - of the new configuration?

The total picture is blurry and the reconciliation is challenging: How do we reconcile a “reduction” in the number of ministries with an increase in the number of ministers?

Is it simply a case of jobs for the boys/girls in the name of a fictitious reduction in the ministries by grouping them into clusters?

Wee can even go further and extrapolate: if this is the PMs calculus of reduction, then what would a reduction in VAT amount to?


I don't expect answers to the above puzzles anytime soon! But I'm concerned and curious! My curiousity and fascination have me looking for insights; and if I am to go by "the language" of the various ministers who all seemed coached to recite the same chorus, I am beginning to see a little clue here and there; and perhaps this might be the place to start. 

All ministers who spoke after the inauguration were saying “post hoc” what they should have said prior to the elections. Before the elections the UWP categorically said that it would remove VAT! After the elections, it is saying that it needs to conduct reviews and assessment going forward.  The question is: Suppose those reviews and assessment say VAT cannot be reduced or removed, then what would the outcome be?

Apparently, there were lots of reckless and untenable promises made to the electorate; and I predict that those may well turn out to "bite their owners". The last elections may have taught politicians a massive lesson: They must eschew recklessness for the purpose of winning elections; for recklessness has its own backlash. All the goodwill currently enjoyed by the government could be frittered away at the snap of a finger because of recklessness.

I fear the chaos and civil unrest that recklessness may bring. Those of us who understand the implications but say nothing might only be adding fuel to the fire.

I regret the experts ignored those angles.