St. Lucia Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony has defended his decision not to follow into the footsteps of some regional governments and not taking his island into a programme of austerity measures with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He made the statement while wrapping up debate in the St. Lucian Parliament on the 2015-2016 Appropriation Bill in the face of criticisms from members of the Opposition who claimed that those countries that are under an IMF programme are seeing economic growth.
During her presentation, Opposition Leader Dr. Gale Rigobert accused Dr. Anthony who is also the country’s Minister of Finance of being responsible for another period of economic contraction.
The St. Lucia budget indicated that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by an estimated 0.7% or negative growth of minus 2.7%.
The Members of the Opposition told the House of Representatives that the ruling St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) Government should introduce revenue measures to deal with the severe fiscal situation on the island.
In response, Dr. Anthony said the people of St. Lucia must be told the truth about Grenada which is now locked into an IMF Agreement.
The St. Lucia Prime Minister found nothing pleasing about the IMF program that Grenada is currently grappling with under the Keith Mitchell-led Government.
“It is the most draconian agreement the Grenada has ever implemented, and all the things we take for granted in St. Lucia, in Grenada they don’t exist because of that agreement,” he told St. Lucian legislators.
“I am proud, I am happy that I did not take Saint Lucia to the IMF,” he said.
According to Dr. Anthony, he was advised that the only way the economic problems of St. Lucia could be dealt with was to go to the IMF, but he opted not to go that route.
Among the austerity measures implemented by the Mitchell-led Government in St. George’s is a doubling of the Property Tax, a wage freeze over a three-year period for civil servants, lowering of the income tax threshold to bring more people in the net, as well as huge increases in user fees charged by the State.
A senior Government Minister in the St. Lucia Parliament stressed that it was a collective decision of the Cabinet of Ministers in agreeing with their Prime Minister not to take St Lucia into an IMF programme which would result in the people of St. Lucia having to experience severe pain and hardship.