St Lucia should demand reparations of government
It’s that time of year again. Emancipation Day! A day when we Saint Lucians lament a past we know next to nothing about, put Bob Marley’s Redemption Song on repeat, while demanding (in truth, begging) the “white man” give us a hitherto undetermined sum in reparations. In addition, of course, to the myriad quid quo pro grants he already gives. And with hands out, we gladly accept. (For reference, see St Lucia’s annual budget statements, or this country’s “world class” EU hospital). But while we continue to dwell on a slavery long gone, we tragically ignore the slavery that today shackles “Fair Helen”. A slavery we not only have yet to be emancipated from, but haven’t even bothered to ask… No; demand from those responsible, the reparations we crave.
St Lucia reparations: The economics of debt slavery
Every year our government collects 100s of millions of dollars in recurrent revenue. A significant chunk of that revenue comes from taxes we St Lucians pay.
As announced during this year’s budget presentation, the St Lucian government collected $880,169,365 in total recurrent revenue, for the financial year 2020/2021. $812,162,961 of that revenue, came via taxes, with $236,393,718 in personal and corporate taxes. That figure does not even include the millions St Lucians paid last year, in VAT, licensing fees, fines and other taxes. Yet our reward for delivering such monetary yields to government was a record shattering murder rate, high unemployment rate, and a further increase in our national debt. Not to mention our broken down school infrastructure, decrepit roads, sky high utility bills, and a still unfinished hospital in the South.
A closer look at the numbers reveals that in the fiscal year 2015/2016, St Lucians paid over 251 million dollars in income and profits taxes. That’s on top of the more than $183 million paid in VAT on domestic sales. Yet the unemployment rate was 19.65%; with youth unemployment at a staggering 45.52%.
Between 2012 and 2015, our economy shrank every year except in 2014, when the economic growth rate was a whopping 1.76%. Sadly, the level of taxes we contributed to St Lucia’s revenue didn’t shrink with it.
But the reparations case against St Lucia’s government does not end there.
COVID-19 and war in Eastern Europe
During the pre COVID-19 years of 2017, 2018 and 2019; although our economy grew year on year, our crime situation was still a mess; and unemployment rates were nothing to brag about.
Since COVID, the situation has metastasized. In 2020, our economy collapsed, with a negative growth rate of 20.37%. Along with that, our debt levels have skyrocketed. As have our unemployment rates and even the amount of money we pay to hop onto a bus everyday. Wages however, have not gone up together with the rising inflation, food costs and fuel prices.
As for this past fiscal year, “the overall unemployment rate is estimated at 21.9%. And youth unemployment stands at a rate of 37%” (Budget Speech 2022)
For that appalling reality, Big Brother Government tells us to be grateful for the subsidies he provides. Yes. We must pat the government on the back for its magnanimous subsidies; paid for in large part by taxes levied on us.
Anyway, as ever with government these days, the default excuse for failure is COVID-19. Added to that now is the war in Ukraine. Undoubtedly, the cataclysmic impact on the world economy by both of these events, is undeniable. But in the decade plus leading up to COVID-19, followed by the war in Ukraine; our national debt increased year on year. That too, is undeniable.
It should come as no surprise then, as the Prime Minister informed during the Budget Speech; that “At $3.9 billion, we now have the largest public debt in the Monetary Union”.
How much will it take in reparations to rescue St Lucia from violent crime?
Our hard earned tax dollars have not brought any respite on the crime front either.
In 2017 there were 60 homicides, a record at the time. 56 of those were murders, another record. For that level of violence and crime, St Lucians paid government nearly $270 million in taxes on income and profits; and north of $176 million in domestic sales VAT.
As previously mentioned, government collected over $800 million in taxes last year; a lot of that coming from citizens and businesses. What flies in the face of those figures though, is the record 74 homicides the country suffered. And with 25 homicides in the first five months of 2022, the situation isn’t improving.
Tragically, despite the billions our people have paid through myriad taxes since Independence, the crime situation grows increasingly morbid; as a criminally underfunded police force can attest. Obviously, our brave men and women in uniform, cannot and have not been able to deal with the untold levels of crime plaguing the island; far less with the corruption that cripples the force from within.
St Lucia reparations should start with a Potpourri of Prime Ministers
It’s quite astonishing that in our House of Assembly sits three predecessors of the current Prime Minister. And there they sit every month, wooden statues; relics of our nation’s failure to stem the crimson tide of rising murder rates, ever increasing national debts, a failing school system combined with a steady diet of high unemployment rates. But what these men, our “Dear Leaders” most remind of, is the tragedy of the unfinished St Jude Hospital.
Between the three of them, they were unable to complete a hospital the Prime Minister all the way back in 2011 promised, would be a “modern state of the art healthcare facility [that] will be designed and constructed as a sustainable, multi-purpose hospital”, and “earmarked to be the hallmark of the South.”
11 years following that empty promise, there’s still no hospital. Rather, since 2010, government after government has spent in excess of $200 million on St Jude’s reconstruction.
Yet as the wasted millions continue to pile up. For zero return, no less. And in spite of the endless broken promises over the last decade plus. St Lucia should, according to one Parliamentarian; trust that “the only way the hospital will not be finished before the end of our term, is if the world ends before our term has ended”.
For the country’s sake, let’s hope today’s PM succeeds where yesteryear’s failed.
Far from a “hallmark”, the incomplete bones of St Jude Hospital, stand as a skeletal reminder of the incompetence of St Lucia’s leaders; especially our heads of government. Leaders, (Masters?) we unfortunately, fear to hold accountable. Enslaved, as we are, by a misguided sense of loyalty, even centuries after slavery’s abolition.
Party Hacks and Modern Day Slave Drivers
St Lucia was emancipated in 1834. Nearly two hundred years later, our country has been captured by an unfettered criminal element.
Trapped by terror, behind bars of our own making, we hope alarms, locks and bolts can keep our homes safe from ravenous thieves, who feel entitled to our hard earned property. When we do leave our homes, we pray not to join the swelling statistics of murders, rapes, and robberies.
Our fear is compounded by an annual mishandling of the national economy, by Parties under the vigilant protection of their hacks and trolls. No matter how deplorable our condition, if anyone speaks out against the irons of economic and criminal oppression, clasped about our necks by “governments elected to serve; the verbal lash of partisan lapdogs is sure to follow. Accompanied by a litany of finger pointing and whataboutisms that solve nothing.
In light of all of this. In light of the billions we have paid to have a safer and more prosperous St Lucia. Why not? Why not demand reparations of the real criminals? Criminals who have robbed us of our freedom, by all they have squandered!
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