(SNO) — The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has accused Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of not speaking the truth in relation to the island’s debt burden.
In his new year’s “State of the Nation” address, Chastanet said that one of the major challenges inherited by his administration was “the limited space to borrow money given the high level of debt accumulated by the previous Labour Party Administration”.
He said his administration “inherited the largest and fastest debt accumulation in five years at $3.1-billion”.
But at a press conference on Tuesday, Leader of the Opposition Philip J. Pierre said Chastanet lacked credibility in his address and doesn’t seems to be aware of the basic principles of accuracy.
“For example, let us start with the issue of debt. International bodies and investors always use the national debt as a measure of a country’s credit worthiness,” he stated. “When a minister of finance speaks about or quotes debt figures he must ensure accuracy. Prime Minister Chastanet does not seem to be aware of these basic principles.”
He added, “The Economic and Social Review states that there was a slowdown in the rate of debt accumulation in 2016 and even a study commissioned by the prime minister by the Caribbean Development Bank states on Page 6 ;in tandem with the gradual improvement in public finances there has been slower growth in debt stock’”.
According to Pierre, it is mind-boggling that Chastanet claimed that his administration’s major challenge was the limited space to borrow money because of the debt accumulated by the SLP.
“Prime minister you must learn to tell the nation the truth,” he stated. “Here is the truth. According to the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, $196.6-million was borrowed in 2016, $241.2-million was borrowed in 2017, and $300.9-million was budgeted to be borrowed for 2018! A total of $738.7 million.”
Additionally, Pierre claimed that Chastanet has borrowed huge sums which were not stated in the Budget.
He stated that the following was borrowed by the prime minister.
* Airport — $270M
* Roads — $135M
* Parker Company — $24M
* Permandu — $13M
* Ti Rocher Wall — $3M
* World Bank — $54M
* Roads in Ti Rocher — $16M
He said this came to a total of $515 million.
“It was also announced that he will borrow another $68 million to waste on a new wing at St.Jude Hospital which the prime minister announced last night, will commence soon,” Pierre stated. “The amount of $1.2 billion would have been borrowed since 2016! And for this year alone, non-budgeted borrowing for a total of $515 million! And we are still two and half months from the end of the financial year. Based on current trends, we can expect that figure to grow.”
He went on to say that Chastanet tried to hide his “reckless borrowing and spending by claiming that there is an income stream for the airport”.
“Borrowing is not as simple as having a dedicated income stream – this is not a world of fairy tales – it’s a real world where events are dynamic,” Pierre remarked. “Income streams are not fixed. The Saint Lucia Labour Party reiterates that the $270 million being borrowed for the Hewanorra Airport is not the prudent way to approach this development and calls on the government to rethink its approach so as to control this mounting debt burden on the backs of the young people of Saint Lucia, and return to the private-public-partnership agreement that was previously negotiated.”