By Caribbean News Global
USA / TAIWAN / ST LUCIA – The government of Saint Lucia has found it necessary to orchestrate its own “Panama Accounts” in a non-mysterious US$20 million (approximately XCD 54 million) loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to conceivably, finger, bite and turn on the people and democratic country of Taiwan, that continually finances Saint Lucia’s budget, social and economy wellbeing.
St Lucia parliament turns on Taiwan
The political theatrics initially stemmed from the privileged confines of parliament on September 12, 2023, debating – Saudi Fund for Development SAR281,250,000 to finance the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of St Jude Hospital Project – SJHRP, and the selective release of information about an agreement between the former United Workers Party (UWP) administration, the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan), and the Taiwanese-owned Overseas Engineering and Construction Company,(OECC).
This was also incarnated in utterances which was said to facilitate the rerouting of loan funds to a bank account in Panama, instead of the country’s [Saint Lucia] consolidated fund, and that the agreement also resulted in a $2.56 million commission being paid to a bank account in Panama.
St Lucia loan was transparent, says MOFA
“The OECC is a construction company formed by various Taiwanese syndicates to handle infrastructure projects funded by the government in the nation’s diplomatic allies.
“Based on the contract terms, the money can be sent to the OECC’s account in Taipei after approval by the Saint Lucian government to fund the hospital’s renovation, MOFA spokesman Jeff Liu (劉永健) said on Saturday. The construction company is willing to provide all remittance details for review by the Saint Lucia government.”
In a bid to seemingly untangle loose utterances, the OPM in a press release Friday, September 15, 2023, said:
“Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Philip J. Pierre, has become aware of a previously arranged transaction in which a loan originating from a foreign government entity was channelled to a privately controlled bank account,” and referenced the Public Finance Management Act.
The prevailing points of contention centres around:
“In 2020, the government of Saint Lucia secured approximately XCD 54 million in loan financing from the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to fund the St Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project.
“There is no evidence to indicate these monies were deposited into the Consolidated Fund as is legally mandated by the Finance (Administration) Act of Saint Lucia. Diverting monies raised for the government to privately held accounts significantly limits the government’s ability to adequately account for its usage.
“To ensure accountability and preserve the integrity of the government’s fiscal management practices, the prime minister is seeking to retrieve all relevant documentation and information associated with this transaction,” Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
The denial of reality
The self-styled “Panama Accounts” has been accessed – a smoke screen and flashing mirrors – intended to mask the awkwardness of the government and governance of Saint Lucia, two years in office – still pregnant with opportunities, unable to deliver 24-plus months.
Any serious government of reputable governance decorum and stature of repute, would and can, easily account for and/or initiate appropriate channels for legitimate information, using the resources of the state; and in so doing issue a statement of fact and truth with supporting documents. This is standard practice in legitimate democracies that understand law, statutes, governance and international conventions.
Instead, Saint Lucia parliamentarians of a low degree, choose to fuel and finger speculation that is ostensibly adversarial to Taiwan, at least in diplomatic circles, embassies and countries that have great influence on Saint Lucia and can easily exert their command willingly.
Advisable, the political theatrics of the government of Saint Lucia on display in parliament [September 12, 2023] and thereafter on friendly media, albeit gauchely, are in essence, directed at inherent domestic politics with the intent to shore up weak polling data and salvage disappearing political advantage. On the other hand, the repute is echoed externally, when diplomatic allies are wittingly and/or wittingly referenced directly and/or directly.
Why the political theatre, that has now revealed the ‘genie in a bottle?’
The actions and utterances are now in the hands of international institutions and governments under review, and according to sources, foreign accounts of Saint Lucian parliamentarians, including the activities of election financing.
Furthermore, if the said grievance of the government of Saint Lucia – “Panama Accounts” – violates the Finance (Administration) Act 2020 of Saint Lucia – why not apply the statute law of Saint Lucia?
Saint Lucia is overburdened with financial constraints, short and tall priorities … volatile GDP, rising inflation, healthcare crisis, lawlessness, whooping unemployment and little export capability, depending heavily on tourism.
Is the hypothesis that certain Saint Lucian parliamentarians, lobbyists, friends and surrogates prefer diplomatic ties with China, but are left to support Taiwan, hesitatingly, now, the biggest donor of grant aid and assistance?
Meanwhile, the cat was dropped among the pigeons in parliament, diplomatic injury and external pressures were widely communicated.
The OPM communique, Saturday, September 16, 2023, in part, reads:
“[…] A directive was issued by a senior public official to have the loan monies transmitted directly to a bank account controlled by a private entity as payment for work on the (SJHRP). There is no evidence to indicate these monies were deposited into the Consolidated Fund as is legally mandated by the Finance (Administration) Act of Saint Lucia.
“The government of Saint Lucia and the Republic of China (Taiwan) have together nourished an enduring diplomatic relationship built on common democratic values, mutual trust and shared interests in advancing the development of both our peoples.
“Upon assuming office in 2021, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre embraced the opportunity to continue building on Saint Lucia’s friendship with Taiwan in the interest of the people and the government of Saint Lucia.” […]
The government of Saint Lucia 180-degree Mea culpa to palatable senses emanated four days after the damage was done and pertinent decisions on Saint Lucia were sealed and delivered.
The focus hereon is not – “what the government of Saint Lucia is thinking, but on producing a desired result,” a diplomatic source said, as embodied in the OPM concluding paragraph, September 16, 2023. “As stated on September 15, 2023, the prime minister is pursuing all relevant documentation and information associated with this transaction and looks forward to continuing cooperation with Taiwan in all areas of mutual interest.”
Subsequently, this avoidable diplomatic snag has exposed two-facedness and plausible aggressors of Taiwan. The Parliament of Saint Lucia and governance taboos have seemingly developed physical exposure, and are now feeble to return the “genie in a bottle.”
It will be interesting to listen to Saint Lucia’s position and support for Taiwan at UNGA78.