By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia – This year, 2020, heralds a time for reflection and introspection – towards a shared vision – leader of the opposition and Saint Lucia Labour Party, (SLP) Philip J Pierre, as outlined in his address to the nation Sunday, January 19, 2020.
“As we look back on the progress and challenges of our nation after forty (40) years of Independence. It is also a time for the re-shaping of the direction our country is heading so as to allow for a better and brighter future. Prior to our Independence, Sir George Charles won us Decolonization and after [him] Sir John Compton political independence. Sir Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott, our two Nobel Laureates, have won us international recognition for their academic excellence,” Pierre said.
But while Saint Lucians also won “global recognition in the fields of medicine, law, politics, sports, music, culinary arts and culture … we are still operating well below our capacity as a nation.”
Opposition leader Pierre continued: “Major problems continue to confront us in the areas of healthcare, crime, education, youth unemployment, economic inequality, and corruption. These problems have been aggravated in recent times by bad governance and in particular, blatant acts of corruption in government. If we are to address these problems adequately as a country, we need a servant-leader we can trust; not a sweet-talking leader telling untruths and doing so unashamedly, indicating clearly his contempt for the people of Saint Lucia.
“In the world of fantasy, we are free to promise anything and if every promise were to have a feel-good factor, then the more the merrier. And so we have been peppered with promises of all sorts: new hotels, major road rehabilitation, hospitals and several more all of which to take place within the space of the next year,” he said.
The government of Saint Lucia and the prime minister “promises of five to seven hotels every year since 2016 and to date, not one has started,” and “the emptiness of the prime minister’s pronouncements is now well-known”.
Leader of the opposition and the SLP, Pierre, delivering his address to the nation distinguished himself and shared some plans for the future.
Restoring hope and confidence
We need as a people a shared vision rooted in the personal aspirations of most Saint Lucians to confront the problems that plague our society,” inclusive of:
- Access to quality health care based on need rather than the ability to pay;
- “Education promoted and widely accepted as a right and not a privilege and learning becomes a lifetime activity with the consistent elevation of the qualifications of our families. The objective, being one university graduate per household;
- A preference for meritocracy over nepotism in the employment of public servants;
- Our people, particularly our children and differently able are granted the full protection of the society from emotional, physical and sexual abuse;
- Good governance – accountability, transparency and fairness- is promoted and widely accepted as an enabler and not an impediment in the pursuit of national development;
- Saint Lucian heritage and patrimony are treated as an integral part of national development;
- The shaping of a sustainable economy with built-in resilience to the challenges of climate change which can bring prosperity to all our citizens especially our youth and not just a few.
This shared vision the SLP leader explained: “Requires a nation working together under the leadership of a prime minister who is respectful of the people and institutions of our country.” Additionally, “Under my leadership, the Saint Lucia Labour Party will work with you the citizens of Saint Lucia to reclaim Saint Lucia for Saint Lucians,” Pierre said. We shall restore hope and confidence in the competence and capacity of Saint Lucians so that together we can chart and control our own destiny. In charting a new path for the years ahead we cannot ignore the wrongs and injustices of the past. We shall, therefore, hold accountable all those responsible for acts of corruption and the misuse of public funds.
A Saint Lucia Labour Party will restore integrity and transparency in the affairs of the government. And as part of a more holistic approach to solving the crime problem, we will restore the necessary safety nets to reduce social alienation and marginalization.
The youth economy
A Labour Party government will demonstrate a visible commitment to youth by harnessing their talents and creative energies in the establishment of a new youth economy. This youth economy will help create a new cadre of young entrepreneurs who will be supported by the government, ensuring greater access to finance, the provision of marketing and skills training.
The youth economy will be open to all areas of economic activity and with special emphasis on sectors most attractive to young people; these are to include the entertainment and the creative industries, information and communications technology, sports and professional services.
An inclusive economy: The perils of excessive debt
Mindful of the harmful effects of rising public debt, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its latest report made mention of the worrying rise in Saint Lucia’s debt profile. An SLP government under my leadership will ensure prudent fiscal management by halting the unnecessary and reckless borrowing that has characterized this current government over the last three and a half years.
To allow for greater inclusiveness and fairness:
- We will encourage the growth of indigenous business by creating a level playing field in the provision of tax and other incentives;
- Promote and assist small and micro business through the provision of special incentives and financial packages;
- We will simplify the tax system to ensure it is not a disincentive to hard work and innovation.
We will encourage the growth and expansion of Credit Unions and Cooperatives.
Our foreign investment policy will be fair, transparent and investor-friendly with the main objective being the creation of sustainable employment opportunities and the transfer of skills.
We shall revisit and make the necessary changes to the Investment Policy Guidelines of National Insurance Corporation to ensure greater internal consistency and to prevent [its] funds being made available directly to foreign investors wishing to invest in Saint Lucia.
Agriculture in regression
Throughout 2019, fishers, banana farmers, crop farmers, livestock farmers and people who depend on agriculture and fisheries for a living reported more difficult and challenging circumstances.
The United Workers Party (UWP) administration has not provided banana farmers with the promised access to ship containers of bananas to France, and therefore, farmers have long concluded that they were deceived by this UWP administration.
Livestock farmers have lost potentially $25 million dollars per year in sales with the closure of the Meat Processing Plant. And fishers are rightfully complaining that their fish are not being purchased regularly, as promised again, by the government. Fishers continue to carry unfairly the burden of an additional excise tax of $1.50 on every gallon of fuel.
A Labour Party government will exempt fishers from this additional tax.
A Labour government will level the playing field and wipe out the related corruption by making the necessary changes to the procurement rules to limit the direct involvement of the political directorate.
Poverty, deprivation and discrimination
An SLP government will endeavour to ensure that every Saint Lucian enjoys a decent standard of living, and we will implement a social policy to support this goal.
We believe in a government of the people by the people and for the people. This philosophy of democracy places people at the center of government. We will, therefore, as an SLP government constantly consult with the people, listen to their concerns, keep in dialogue with them and pay attention to their collective wisdom. We will respect different opinions, even if we were to disagree, and never adopt the route of discrimination and victimization against individuals or organizations that are of a different view.
In recognition of the important role that the National Trust is required to play in national development, we will immediately restore the annual government subvention that was so unfairly and damagingly withdrawn from it. We shall review and amend the National Trust legislation to insulate it from the irrational actions of the prime minister and avoid a repeat of the recent injustice meted out to Jeanine Compton.
The provision of affordable accessible health care
Meanwhile, our sick relatives and friends continue to perish and medical personnel languish in very trying conditions in a makeshift hospital located in a sports stadium and a few hundred yards away, the government has been available to find all the financial resources for the completion of a horse racing track-a case of horses before people.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party government will give the highest priority to the completion of St Jude hospital as a full-service, state of the art hospital as it was always intended to be.
We will also review the existing construction works, financial arrangements and the reasons for the demolition of two existing buildings that would have cost taxpayers millions of dollars. And as it relates to the Owen King European Union (OKEU) hospital, we will immediately commission its opening as a public hospital and review any privatization plans.
I want to remind Saint Lucians that had we remained in government the OKEU hospital would have been in full operation today. The aim of the SLP is to provide affordable and accessible healthcare to all its citizens under a Universal Healthcare system.
Leadership, trust and honesty
Two widely accepted fundamental principles of good leadership are trust and honesty.
I will embark upon this year 2020, to continue dialogue with various groups and organization at home and in the diaspora, in the hope of designing a systematic and inclusive approach to finding solutions to the problems of our country.
I can assure you of my commitment and courage to work with you as we strive to develop a balanced and sustainable country for the benefit of our Saint Lucian people.
I remain inspired and motivated by the words of Nelson Mandela:
“ I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”