By Philip J. Pierre
The following is part three of the address by the political leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) Philip J. Pierre, delivered at the annual conference of delegates (open session), October 13, 2019.
Emphasis on youth
The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) that I lead respects young people and we will fight to give them every opportunity to succeed. We will ensure that young people are involved in the business ventures that they enjoy. As a party, we are consulting with all sectors of the young in our society. We are engaging Saint Lucian youth island-wide, in person, on the ground, and in the virtual space. Our youth are worth more than photo opportunities and gimmicks to make selfish politicians look good.
We believe that young people:
- Are a significant demographic group
- Are valuable assets
- and positive forces for sustainable development
- Investing in our young people will bring significant social and economic benefits
We also believe that a youth-based economy will enhance youth participation in Saint Lucia’s development process. We have a bold new workable plan for the young people of Saint Lucia.
We will not use their National Insurance Corporation (NIC) contributions to fund phony investments for foreigners. We will not use taxpayers’ earnings to create profit for foreign businesses. Instead, we will construct an inclusive Youth Economy to meet the special needs of young people.
The Youth Economy:
- Economic Empowerment
- Active Youth Participation
- Youth Social Justice
The youth economy will cater to the special interests of young people in certain lines of economic activity such as sports, entertainment, creative industries, modelling, cultural activities, and information technology. Special incentives and finance will be provided to support the involvement of young people in the areas of their special interest at every step there will be consultation and mutual agreement with the youth.
We are committed to creating the next generation of Saint Lucian entrepreneurs, and within the first 100 days in office your SLP government will inaugurate the Youth Economy Think Tank (YETT) with a reasonable budget to immediately address access to finance, training, and development, youth business incubators, promotion of innovation and market access to ensure our young business-minded citizens are provided with the right tools and resources to enter the business space and contribute to their own national development.
The SLP will find the necessary resources to invest in our youth. The consequences of not adequately absorbing and engaging our young people in productive engagement is the creation of an enabling environment for increased youth marginalization, unemployment, delinquency, crime, and destitution. We are listening to the voices of our young people and we will take action.
We will work with existing youth and sporting clubs to improve their organization and outreach. We will double the allocation to the National Youth Council thus allowing them to pursue their long-desired initiatives. We believe that the time for our youth is now.
Under the Saint Lucia Labour Party: Tomorrow starts today
Education as an equalizer
The SLP has always regarded education as the great equalizer; to lift Saint Lucians out of poverty, to empower our people, and to participate as equal partners in our country’s development. It was the SLP, in government after adult suffrage, which pioneered universal primary school education for Saint Lucia. It was also the SLP returning to government, almost 20 years after Independence, which abolished the shift-system of half-day schooling at primary schools, and finally introduced universal secondary education in Saint Lucia. It was under the SLP in government from 1997 to 2006, that many young people were able to obtain.
The SLP regards education is a right and not a privilege. We have a democratic and not an elitist view of education. We invest in the education of Saint Lucian children; we do not subsidise their education. We have confidence in the quality of our education system, we do not denigrate it. We will work to improve our education system, not to dismantle and discard it. We believe in improving standards and quality across the country. We will work to expand the educational institution which bears the name of our Nobel Laureate – Sir Arthur Lewis.
A central platform of labour’s education policy would be to have a university graduate in every Saint Lucian household within a reasonable time. When we return to the government, we will immediately institute a deliberate policy direction and resource allocation strategy aimed at achieving this goal.
Our education policy will also look to seriously address the marginalization of males which is currently crippling our society. We need our boys and young men to take up their responsibility as providers, partners, husbands, fathers, leaders, and defenders of their families and society. They cannot do so effectively in an education system that is not sufficiently sensitive to their challenges and interests. Our education system must rescue our boys and young men from the lure of criminality, particularly drugs, gangs, and violence.
The next labour government will institute deliberate policies which will make our schools more comfortable and attractive for boys as well as girls and facilitate the full expression and development of male talent while continuing to promote female excellence.
I am sure that every day when we wake-up in the morning we pray that we do not fall sick. The truth is sickness is an everyday reality. Healthcare has always and will continue to be a challenge, but never in the history of our island has healthcare been so horrendous.
Never has a government been so callous and uncaring placing horses before humans. The United Workers Party (UWP) government has continued to create and perpetuate a most inhumane, humiliating and unconscionable health crisis that is painful and punishing the people of Saint Lucia.
Instead of completing the St Jude hospital the prime minister boasts about the completion of stables for horses. Instead of completing the Owen King European Union (OKEU) hospital, the government spends millions of dollars on a foreign firm to prepare computer renderings of unrealistic dream projects.
The recent visit of a hospital ship, which thankfully provided much-needed health care to thousands of Saint Lucian, was an indictment on the state of the inadequacy of our health care system. Meanwhile, the prime minister sheds tears in acknowledgment of his failure to prioritize healthcare and at the same time attempt to score cheap political points that he cares.
A Saint Lucia labour party government will do better for the people of our country. Health care will be our priority. We will immediately open the OKEU and St Jude hospitals. We will re-introduce the Universal Health Care (UHC) programme. We will evaluation to improve, the terms and conditions of work for our doctors and nurses.
The SLP government will on assuming office demonstrate a commitment to implementing a people-driven and oriented healthcare policy that will be inclusive, affordable, accessible, equitably distributed and serves the healthcare interest of the people.
New emphasis on small business
The SLP government will create an enabling environment for the small business sector to take up its rightful place as an essential partner in national development. The private sector and in particular the local small business sector in Saint Lucia must be elevated to a position of prominence with all the necessary support to grow to contribute to national development. An SLP government under my leadership will, therefore, carve new and exciting opportunities for growth and expansion of the small business sector in Saint Lucia. Upon resuming office, the SLP will move with haste to establish incentive schemes that will provide finance, incentives and support micro and small enterprises (MSEs).
We will create an enabling environment for cultural expression by making available grants, sponsorship market promotion and loans to encourage the development of artists, public art and new music. Our policies will transform our talented artists into businesspeople.
We will revive the Saint Lucia Jazz festival to enable it to once more become a world-renowned festival. We will work with the cultural community to improve and expand Jounen Kweyol and ensure that it is adequately financed. We will continue to promote the growth and development of Carnival and ensure that our support is aimed at improving the quality and reach of the celebrations.
New thrust in investment
An SLP government understands its role as a facilitator of economic growth and the private sector as the engine of growth. We will encourage real direct foreign investment, not foreign businesses that use our NIC funds or require the Saint Lucian taxpayers to provide working capital for wages and other expenses while profits are shipped out of Saint Lucia.
We will attract real direct foreign investment to our island. We will ensure that locally owned businesses and investors are eligible for the same opportunities and incentives as foreigners. We will facilitate, encourage, and make finance and incentives available to small, micro and medium-size Saint Lucian businesses. The SLP will create an environment that will encourage a viable, profitable local business sector by creating opportunities, ensuring transparency and allowing due process in the procurement of goods and services. We will facilitate through modern legislation and incentives, new business sectors in music streaming and medical tourism. We will ensure that we are not left behind in the business of cannabis production for economic, medical and other uses.
Our national assets will not be handed over to foreigners at $1 an acre but instead, our assets will be preserved in a well-designed Sovereign Wealth Fund. We pledge to strengthen our land acquisition laws so future governments will not be at liberty to appropriate and acquire our lands for the benefit of their friends.
In our plan, we will reform the education system of Saint Lucia to better respond to the labour market needs required for the new and emerging businesses. We will upgrade our school facilities, improve the curriculum to prepare our people for vocations and entrepreneurship and the emerging opportunities in technology.
We are well aware of the benefits of tourism to the economy of our island. Our tourism industry will not be successful if it does not bring economic benefits to the people of the country. The vendors and farmers must do better. The taxi drivers must make more money. The hotel workers must earn increases in wages. The small hotels must prosper. Our tourism policies will be balanced to ensure fairness and equity.
We will encourage the construction of luxury hotels but ensure that small and locally owned properties benefit from tailored marketing efforts and strategic use of airlift policy and incentives. We will expand our tourism outreach and strive to make Saint Lucia a center for eco-tourism and sustainable tourism development. We will be prudent, truthful and responsible in the face of external challenges facing the tourism industry.
An SLP government upon return to power will use its best efforts to ensure that Virgin Atlantic Airlines returns to service our vital UK market.
Our party’s record in the modernization and transformation of agriculture is clear. The SLP will put rural development at the core of its development strategy. Our farmers will be facilitated to benefit from a modern and relevant Agricultural Incentives Act. We will continue to create real opportunities for agri-industrial development and meaningful agricultural diversification.
The rural and producer communities are worse off today than they were in 2016. Their incomes have declined. In this regard, we condemn the UWP plans to destroy the Meat Processing Plant, a gift by the people of Taiwan to the people of Saint Lucia. We believe that the plant would have played an important role in the agricultural diversification programme. This short-sighted move in favour of horses has caused livestock farmers and others to lose opportunities to be productive businesspeople.
An SLP government will introduce new measures to create opportunities for our agribusiness producers. Our party will be realistic in its policy on bananas. We will not promise shipments to Martinique and France that neverland. We believe that Saint Lucia can re-engineer its banana production to the benefit of the farmers.
The SLP will introduce legislation that will encourage hotels and restaurants to purchase more locally produced agricultural produce. An SLP government will make investments in the agricultural sector not only as a pillar of economic growth but as a strategic objective is critical to food security, nutrition and the enhancement of rural livelihoods.
An SLP government will formulate a National Land Use Policy to guide land use in Saint Lucia.
We can no longer afford to ignore the threats posed by climate change as an idea or a concern of the ministry of the environment only. It is a concern for all citizens.
An SLP government will design the school curriculum to educate our children on the impacts of climate change. We will adopt measures and policies to climate-proof all of our major sectors including agriculture and tourism and ensure that our infrastructure is constructed to withstand the impact of climate change. We will ensure that measures are taken to protect our coastal zones and preserve our beaches. We will introduce measures to reduce our carbon footprint by encouraging and providing incentives for investment in renewable energy projects.
Hence the reason why we should be alarmed that the government is plunging the island into unsustainable debt instead of building the climate-resilient fund as recommended by the International Monetary Fund, (IMF).
We can only conclude that the UWP does not understand the threats and impacts of climate change.
Women and Families
Our country is known for its traditional family values. Many of our families are headed by single women who toil to bring up their children to be decent right citizens. The SLP government will treat our women with dignity and respect.
To ensure that both men and women share equal responsibility for the maintenance and upbringing of children we will enact modern paternity legislation that will ensure clarity in parenthood and cause both parents to assume complete responsibility for the upbringing of their children.
We will ensure equality in parenthood by looking into the enactment of responsible fatherhood law that is based on the premise that children have an inherent right to know the identity of their fathers and to be supported by them.
These and other measures will ensure that children are given the best opportunity to become upright and well-balanced citizens. Opportunities will be presented for more women to participate at all levels of political and economic leadership and decision making.
A better deal for workers
An SLP government will ensure that all workers of the country are protected from discrimination and harassment.
We will examine after discussion with all sectors the implementation of a liveable wage that will enable every worker to have an acceptable quality of life. We will enact policies that encourage procedures that maintain a working environment free of sexual harassment where all employees respect each other’s integrity and dignity, their privacy and their right to equal opportunities in the workplace.
Your SLP government will work for every worker to earn a liveable wage, affordable housing and have an opportunity to build a better life while respecting their patrimony and birthright of all our citizens.
Hewanorra International Airport (HIA)
Let it be clear that the SLP has never been against the development of the HIA; hence the reason why in working with the World Bank we put together a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) that would develop the airport and lease it for 30 to the private sector, where the revenue from the airport would be shared and most importantly there would be no debt associated to burden future generations.
Instead, the prime minister is plunging this country into $600 million worth of debt for one project, while at the same time complaining to developed nations about the challenges of building the country’s resilience in the face of climate change. It’s the very uncertainties of climate change that should caution the government against incurring avoidable debt.
The prime minister, of course, appears confused about the priorities of his government and is not helping his case in building a resilient country when he is so reckless, borrowing money that he need not. Meanwhile, the prime minister is faced with trying to repair and fund a horrible healthcare system.
- The country’s crumbling infrastructure
- Absence of affordable housing
- An education system in crisis
Yet the UWP government’s priority is putting the country in $600 million debt with a risky investment while many countries are reversing their debt burden and exposure to allow fiscal space for necessary expansion.
I ask the question: Why is the government borrowing for the airport when a PPP arrangement was already in place? Is it because of the bribes that a former minister was offered or the opportunity to choose the contractors as in the LED lighting project? I can assure you [ comrades] it’s not for your benefit, it’s for themselves and their friends.
The SLP would re-develop HIA without incurring one cent of debt to the people of Saint Lucia – and just imagine how a loan of $600 million even with 50 percent borrowed from local banks would change the face of the country.
A loan of $600 million would build the North-South highway, open both hospitals, repair schools, construct affordable housing, build new roads and enhance the transportation system, build resilient infrastructure and cause a greater multiplier effect in the economy. More people would benefit, more jobs, more contractors, the banks and the country would enjoy the expansion in the economy.
Under the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP): Tomorrow starts today.
Related: Our Country is in chaos – Part 2