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Opposition in St Lucia withdraws from committee finalising economic stimulus plan

Jamaica Gleaner 2020-05-22 09:48:00
Leader of the Opposition in St Lucia, Phillip J. Pierre - Contributed photo

CASTRIES, St Lucia, CMC – The main opposition St Lucia Labour Party says it has withdrawn its representation on the multi-sectoral committee that has been mandated to finalise an economic stimulus strategy and plan aimed at boosting economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Opposition Leader Phillip J. Pierre confirmed that the party had written to the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Department of Finance, Esther Rigobert, about the decision to withdraw the party’s representative, Dr Ernest Hilaire.

In his May 18 letter, Pierre said that he was provided with the documents from the first meeting Hilaire attended and as a result could not accept the approach adopted by the Allen Chastanet government.

“Let me make it clear that as a party, we support the need for an Economic Stimulus Strategy and Plan,” Pierre said, reiterating the position that the Minister of Finance should have presented a Statement of Revenue and Expenditure that provides for basic Government functions and COVID-19 specific expenditure.

“This would cover a period of four months whilst we finalise a broader strategy and plan as mandated to the multi-sectoral committee,” Pierre wrote, noting that Prime Minister Chastanet, who is also the Finance Minister, had presented an annual statement for the financial year ending March 2021.

Pierre said that the statement included all the signature projects and programmes which the government intended to implement from pre COVID-19 and that the multi-sectoral committee seems to be continuing with that same approach.

The opposition leader said that he would have thought that given the severity of the COVID-19 crisis and the critical necessity to ensure that resources are available to finance a recovery, the country needed to put all projects, programmes and plans on the table for review and prioritisation, in addition to new ideas and recommendations.

He said that the approach cannot be that the government continues with all its previously announced plans and projects and is simply seeking ‘add-ons’ for a broader recovery plan.

“The reluctance of the Prime Minister to even change his approach was reflected in his comments to the unions when he clearly stated that unions should not be telling him how to manage the country.

“Surely, if a stakeholder cannot share a contrary view or opinion on Governmental plans and action, then the proposed consultation becomes nothing more than a charade. An action meant to create an impression of open-mindedness which in fact does not exist,” Pierre wrote.

“Noting my comments above, I have to inform you that my representative cannot continue to participate in the deliberations of the committee. We wish the committee well and look forward to the presentation of the strategy and plan for review and comment,” he said in his letter.

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