Wednesday, March 16, 2005 - Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Kenny Anthony has
dismissed claims that his Government is plunging the country deeper and deeper
into debt. Dr. Anthony sought to clarify this misconception on Monday, in his
weekly radio address to the Nation.
In response to claims that other Caribbean neighbours were laughing at the
island on the issue of its current debt, Dr. Anthony used available statistics
to show that Saint Lucia in-fact has the best Debt to GDP ratio among the
Independent States of the Caribbean, except Trinidad and Tobago, whose economy
is driven by its abundant natural resource, oil.
Debt is expressed as a ratio of a country’s Gross Domestic Product, which is the
total value of goods produced and services provided in a country in any one
year. Presently, the Gross Domestic Product of Saint Lucia is EC$2.07 billion.
Using statistics Dr. Anthony said, “In the case of Saint Lucia, the Debt to GDP
ratio at December 31, 2003 stood at 62.8%. Surprised? If you are, then that is
what happens when you accept, without questioning, the pronouncements of
individuals with no known interest in the truth. If this Government has handled
the debt portfolio so recklessly, why then, does St. Lucia enjoy the lowest Debt
to GDP Ratio among CARICOM States, save, as I stated earlier, with the exception
of Trinidad and Tobago?”
The Prime Minister said St. Lucia had to increase its borrowing, since the
amount of aid and grants received in the past to finance development, had over
the years declined. He said the island had to contend with budget deficits and
had not generated surpluses in sufficient amounts for re-investment in
subsequent years. But despite this, he said the economy in 2003 grew by 3.0%, in
2004 by 3.5% and in the last quarter by 5.4%.
Pointing to why the country needs to borrow Dr. Anthony said, “The stark fact is
that if this Government had not borrowed, there would be no Beausejour Cricket
Stadium, no new west coast highway, no Poverty Reduction Fund, no loans to
students pursuing higher education, no payment of the huge debt of the SLBGA, no
new building for the Ministry of Communications and Works, no new roads for the
Tourism Sector, no BERU to provide support to banana farmers, no new secondary
schools, no new primary schools, no resolution of drainage problems in Castries
and Anse La Raye, no Bordelais Correctional Facility to end the security
problems we inherited.”
Dr. Anthony said in preparation to meet the island’s debt commitments, his
government had established what is described as Sinking Funds, which basically
are accounts in which the Government deposits specified funds to meet debt
payments in the future. As of now, he said, the country had seven Sinking Funds
with some $104 million dollars to meet debt payments.