This was the prediction of the leader of the People’s Labour Party, (PLP), and the man who has been tipped to lead a coalition of opposition parties, (PLP, PAM, CCM), if they manage to gain a majority of seats following the next elections, expected anytime soon.
According to Dr. Timothy Harris, while speaking on local radio last week Friday, more hard times are coming from next year when the government begins repayment of a huge loan received three years ago from the International Monetary Fund, (IMF).
He explained that the IMF programme is a seven (7) year initiative and the government was given a grace period of three years before both the principal and interest payments were to kick in.
He said that the so called Standby Arrangement enters its fourth year in 2014 and the loan, which is in the region of 228 million, or over a quarter billion dollars, has to be repaid over the remaining (4 year), life of the programme.
“So we are not out of the woods, we are in fact getting into the forest, in relation to that indebtedness and that is a story that will not go away,” said Harris.
To support his argument, Dr. Harris pointed to the experiences of other Caribbean countries that also went through similar programmes.
He said, the experience of other countries, such as Guyana, Antigua, Grenada, Jamaica…any country that has entered into the arms of the IMF, never leaves it without pain and suffering and it takes a long time.
He pointed out that in Jamaica, where the IMF has been operating for years, especially the 1970s and 1980s, people have said that they lost 30 years of development. During the course, Jamaica, said Harris, has experienced much degradation.
The former Senior Government Minister said the St. Kitts & Nevis will continue to see the effects long after the IMF would have exited and that is because the pressures, or austerity measures, are basically the programmes that bring hardship to a country and its people. These he added would take a long time to overcome.
The opposition politician indicated that what the country would have lost over the last four years, since the start of the austerity measures, Kittitians and Nevisians would not be able to regain in the next four years. “That is the damage that would have been done to the economic life, and to the psyche of the people,” stated the PLP leader.
Harris argued that the people, who would have lost their shops and other businesses, are not going to be able to rebuild them in the next four years and be at where they were before. “So it is a period of lost opportunity”, he pointed out.
“We have to address our minds to the fact that our Social Security contributions are going to go up in the near future because the government has forced that entity to write off 30 million dollars and for any entity in a country, this is a significant loss”, outlined Harris.
He warned that, if next year, if per chance Dr. Denzil Douglas remains in office as Prime Minister, the country will face the challenge of increased cooking gas prices, recognizing that Douglas already said he could not continue to subsidize this item.
Harris presented the view that the Prime Minister only delayed his decision because he was faced with an imminent election. Harris warns that this increase is still planned by Dr. Douglas once the elections are over and if he gets back into power.
Also expected to increase according to Harris are the fees for cable television. He reminded that customers of The Cable had already received their letters of notice that the rates were about to increase. But it is the charge of Dr. Harris that the company was asked to delay the price hike until the elections and in the interim the government used SIDF funds to subsidize The Cable.
However, as Harris pointed out, all those areas of concession which have been waived “conveniently”, as part of an election gimmick, would come back to burden the people of the country, “unless we get rid of the government”, said Harris.
Harris charged that the government is not telling the people the truth and we have to look for information independent of the government to get a real sense as to where we are as a country.
Though the political activities have heightened in recent weeks, there still is no clear indication as to when the elections may be announced.