SKNLP: Holding back the IMF Report flies in the face democratic tenets of transparency and accountability

January 21, 2019 in National

The recent statement by Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris reaffirming his decision to withhold authorisation of the publication of the Washington-based IMF Staff Report on the St. Kitts and Nevis economy under the Article IV Consultation has been described as “a defiant and even hostile policy posture towards the IMF.”

The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) in a series of articles aimed at “Debunking Team Unity’s lies and deception agenda,” also reiterated that it also flies in the face of the democratic tenets of transparency, accountability and good governance.

It pointed to Dr. Harris’ assertion during his recent press conference that “the IMF is not doing an audit, the IMF is doing surveillance, the IMF is providing advice and in some of those areas of advice we have to take time to study them and we have therefore exercised that prerogative with respect to St. Kitts-Nevis.”
In the article released over the weekend, the SKNLP noted that the present policy position of Dr. Harris and the professional staff at the Ministry of Finance comes as a shock to the general public as it is very at odds with Dr. Harris’ comments in April 2018 when the IMF visited at which Dr. Arnold McIntrye was introduced as Head of Mission for St. Kitts and Nevis in preparation for the June/July Article IV Consultation.
The SKNLP pointed to a press release issued on April 4. 2018 by the Press Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister in which Dr. Harris told IMF officials that his Team Unity Government has “enjoyed a very beneficial relationship with the IMF” and “we expect that we will have even better cooperation between ourselves and the IMF.”
The SKNLP noted that Prime Minster Harris’ in that release showered praises on the IMF team leaders saying: “Dr. (Arnold) McIntyre is no stranger; he has worn several hats within the region but certainly he has visited St. Kitts on numerous occasions in a multiplicity of capacities and rendered good support on policy advice. We think we have a combination in you as the chief of the mission for sub-region, and Dr. McIntyre, who is a good friend of St. Kitts and Nevis, to help us advance.”
Said the SKNLP: “It appears that in Dr. Harris’ view, the IMF is only ‘a good friend of St. Kitts and Nevis’ when its report tells him what he wants to hear.”
“Neither the Minister of Finance nor the Financial Secretary directly answered the question that the members of the media and every citizen want to know: precisely what is the policy advice or data point that has been presented in the IMF report that this administration takes issue with? That is the million dollar question that remains unanswered which Dr. Harris and the Financial Secretary defiantly refuse to address.”
The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party again called on Dr. Harris to publish the IMF report and to end its campaign of hiding or withholding information that is critical to the national interest.
The Labour Party reiterated the statement made by its National Political Leader and Leader of the Opposition, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas on October 29, 2018: “The parliamentary opposition and the Labour Party demand that the government be forthright in releasing the findings of the latest economic surveillance report of the International Monetary Fund on St. Kitts and Nevis. Today I want to make it clear, as the Leader of the parliamentary opposition that if the government chooses not to make the document public then that would be worse for the government than anything that the IMF would have written in it. Holding back the report flies in the face of all the democratic tenets of transparency and accountability that this country stands for and the people demand to know what the IMF has reported.”
The Labour Party stated the “hostile stance of the Harris Administration is a stark contrast the humble and collaborative approach that was taken by the former administration who was recently praised by the top boss, Madame Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF in her opening address of the 2017 High-Level Caribbean Forum that was held at the Pegasus Hotel in Jamaica on November 20, 2017.”
At this meeting Dr. Douglas received high praise for the tremendous success of the home-grown Structural Adjustment Programme implemented between 2011 and 2014 by his St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Administration which led to the massive reduction of the debt to GDP ratio in St. Kitts and Nevis.
In October 2013, a WINNFM report quoted Deputy Director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere, Ms. Adrienne Cheasty as saying that there was a surplus that year and the debt is coming down.
WINNFM also quoted Chief of Mission for St. Kitts and Nevis, Ms. Judith Gold as saying that St. Kitts and Nevis had recorded a strong economic growth in the first half of 2013, the most solid in the Eastern Caribbean.
In 2014, St. Kitts and Nevis became the first country in the world to return a US$40 million loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The IMF also said that debt reduction is “on a sustainable path, projected to reach a low of 60 percent of GDP in a few years.”
Then Prime Minister Douglas was widely praised for his leadership in the development and implementation of the home-grown structural programme and returning the economy to positive growth in spite of the global economy which continued to negatively impact many countries in the Caribbean region.
In his first meeting in 2015 with a visiting IMF Team in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Douglas was personally congratulated for the substantial improvement in macroeconomic conditions, a return to robust growth, and an overall successful program performance.
The IMF directors noted that the debt restructuring, leading to a steep reduction in overall public debt, had placed debt ratios on a downward path and with the Labour Party’s economic policies, fuelled rapid GDP growth of nearly seven percent in 2013 and 2014.”
“The fact of the matter is that over the twenty years of the Labour Administration, the IMF reports were never concealed. They were always made available to the public whether the report on the country’s economic performance was good or bad. Instead of refusing to take the advice offered by the independent IMF experts, the Labour administration worked with IMF officials to co-author its own home grown plan to turn the country’s economy around which by the above account, was tremendously successful,” the Labour Party statement said.
It added: “Dr. Harris and his administration does not appear to understand this but rather, have chosen to hide and ignore pertinent policy prescriptions put forward by the IMF based on their own false narrative of the economic performance the country which has lost its position as the leading economy in the OECS region and has fallen behind the regional GDP growth average of 3.3% to a mere 2.3%. This is unacceptable.”