A message to the youth of the Choiseul/Saltibus constituency

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Dr Alphonsus St Rose is a consultant physician (internal medicine), internist and gastroenterologist. He is a member of the American College of Gastroenterology and can be reached at: stroserae@gmail.com

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By Dr Alphonsus St Rose, Independent Candidate for Choiseul/Saltibus

A youthful brain is a terrible thing to waste

Alphonsus St Rose, what are your plans for the youth of Choiseul? Well, permit me to be blunt about this. While I do have a framework of ideas in mind, I cannot plan a roadmap for you without engaging you the young people on what your needs, expectations, aspirations, your strengths, weaknesses, your vision for yourselves and the constituency are, including your frustrations and disappointments.

The fundamental point of departure here is, to get you intimately involved as a partner in a process of developing a plan to serve your best interest. That affords you equity and ownership in mapping out your destiny. The overarching plan is to empower you, through education, skills training, equal opportunity access and engagement to the point where your silence and inaction are no longer options.

That is the “integrated bottom-up” approach I am so passionate about because the top-down tactic used for 42 years since independence has not worked for you and serves to dispossess you of your right and ability to make informed decisions on the issues that matter most to you.

To simply chronicle the last four or even eight years, does not tell your full and true story. The profound meaning as a young person growing up in this constituency, is better captured in your painful truth, that you have not been made a priority in this land of your birth; an admission that will never be publicly declared. This is your everyday reality, and there can be no justification for that.

But consider for a moment, that 42-year journey of your parents and even yourselves, and you will see how your struggles and misfortunes as young people have been magnified many times over. This is the cumulative consequence of bad organizational planning, poor governance and perilous fiscal management over 42 years, but made exponentially worse by this present administration in the last 4.5 years. This for you has to be a critical game-changer.

You are the victims of a system of unfair policies stacked up against you because your leaders (who were elected by you and who were sworn to protecting you), have not valued you sufficiently. They must see you as worthy of a secured and sustainable future. Demand it!

Our prime minister announced that the country is broke (on his watch), with a debt to GDP (rebased) ratio running anywhere between 80 and 100 percent. Consequently, the national debt burden imposed on you the young people, is growing at an unjust and unsustainable rate.

The middle class (a critical socioeconomic pillar), many of whom live pay-cheque to pay-cheque or a pay-cheque away from poverty is shrinking ever more often into poverty and therefore widening the poverty pool. The average household wealth is dropping sharply while the gender and wage disparity and inequality gaps are widening.

National “YOUTH” unemployment is at a staggering 50 percent and climbing. The illiteracy rate is unacceptably high while the quality and value of your human capital is diminishing. Crime is a major problem which our prime minister has shamelessly blamed on our single mothers; education he says should no longer be seen as a social good but rather a driver of the economy. Healthcare remains a humanitarian injustice. If these do not give you young people every reason for concern and outrage, then what will?

Our governments must be mandated to provide you with that platform to develop your human potential (human capital and capacity) to drive an economy that works for you. Demand it! But we must also determine what redefines an educated young Choiseulian and Saint Lucian in the context of our development and global trends.

Greater investment and better economic activities for sustainable development and growth must create employment opportunities (right here in your communities), that touch and change the lives of all the constituents but especially you the young people. Your local cooperative credit union for example, must rethink its investment portfolio to target and include you as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility mandate.

There has to be a long-term plan for you which must be an important part of the national strategic development plan that speaks to your broader needs as young people from all communities.

Your human resource potential is your single most important asset for competitive advantage in today’s knowledge-based economy. Our public policies must inspire hope, trust and promote genuine equality of opportunity with an appropriate structure of incentives to allow you young people a platform for equitable growth, development and progress for your secured and sustainable future.

This urgency to develop a quality human resource base is most critical to the poor and disadvantaged citizens as a pathway out of poverty, inequality and social injustice.

You are a key component of our workforce, our voting population and the future of this nation, yet you are the ones who will experience the greatest reductions of your possibilities to improve and make the most of your lives and potentials. We owe it to you to change your circumstances for the better, but this will require your involvement, effort, sacrifice, time, your support and a mindset that is embracing of change, opportunity and optimism.

The extent to which you will impact the future, depends on how well we embrace and prepare you, and for this reason, if you fail, your leaders and community must take the responsibility for not having prepared you adequately. This is what the collective burden and responsibility to you is all about.

To empower young people, through education and the creation of equal opportunity spaces and platforms, is to look towards reducing their poverty, for which, there are humanitarian, economic and social benefits. However, youth empowerment must also involve help in dealing with the issues of unemployment, violence against young people, drugs and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancies, housing, homelessness, incarceration, and the heartlessness caused by the delays in the criminal justice system. This is the time to save our youth, but you can’t be silent; rather you must be thrusted into action!

Our education system must embrace a culture of entrepreneurship among our people that must be passed on to succeeding generations while teaching them how to keep generational wealth. It must prepare and move us from being mere providers of cheap labour and consumers, to owners of the means of production.

You must be handed the tools to harness and positively channel your energy as you collaborate in the process of change for your own good. And for this, we need to speak to you with honesty and clarity when offering solutions to your problems; speak less from the political platform and more from the heart because that is where the genuine empathy and concern for you lies.

This is where and how we get to demonstrate as true leaders, that we trust you, we believe in you, we have hope and confidence in you, and most importantly, that we love you!

You are at a stage of your life when you are ready to work hard and be productive. But do you have a job? If not, is it that you have not tried or is it that you cannot get one? Of course, if you have not tried to get a job, then you must bear some responsibility; but if you have been trying without success, then someone in charge of representing your interest is failing you.

Have you been taught how to apply for a job? Do you know how to present yourself for an interview? Is anybody helping you to navigate this process? Is your district representative offering you any help?

When young people place trust in their leaders with their vote, the least you should expect is a secure and sustainable job to start a future. View your vote as your part of an important social contract with your leaders, that you have lived up to, and they must now live up to their side of the contract and provide the environment that permits you to get a job, among other important things.

If nothing comes out of that contract for you, then you are in an abusive relationship where both you and your vote are being disrespected and taken for granted; you, therefore, must get out of that relationship and find a more appropriate and beneficial construct.

To be a well-rounded person must include a better education program from preschool upwards because the early formative years of your life are when your character, discipline, aptitude and perseverance are formed. It must help prepare you to compete globally, not only in academia but also in vocational skills and occupations, sports, agriculture, fishing, craft manufacturing, in the arts and the creative industries. This will require a comprehensive investment and incentivization plan that works for you.

Sometimes, the only way to capture your attention as young people is through sports, music, arts, craft and cultural activities. That is okay in as much as it serves as a purposeful avenue to harness your energies for your growth and progress.

Sports can help build a healthy lifestyle, team spirit and competitiveness, frame conflict resolution skills, build community leaders, encourage parental education, life skills and an overall perspective to life in general through mentorship.

But we can only develop sports at the constituency level by having functionally sustainable club structures, sponsorship and competition. And so while I remain committed to the development of sports, you the young people do deserve more than just sports for your overall development.

My role in the context of an independent candidate is not to buy you, your vote or make you false promises. Rather, it serves to build a relationship by engaging you the young people. To render a partnership that embraces a vision and ideas to inspire you and give you and your kids hope in a secure and sustainable future. Our relationship must however be based on trust, respect, honesty and integrity. It must be executed in the spirit and principle of good faith in order to restore your dignity and your humanity.

My platform is non-transactional, transformative and people-centred. It is educational and aims to empower you on how to best develop and position your human resource potential to become the principal recipients of a democratic and political system that works for you. There can be no change if you are not an integral part of that process and journey.

As an important voting population, you must always speak out against injustices, corruption and dishonesty by your leaders or their agents irrespective of which side of the political divide they belong. Your road-map to success, as young people must not be based on political patronage, normalization of deviance or a tolerance for corruption. Never allow your leaders to fool you into believing that you can be that which they do not give you an opportunity to be! Your optimism must be both possible and practical.

More importantly, push back and reject any attempts to blackmail or punish you for expressing your constitutional right of free choice and demanding quality representation. The Belrose Doctrine, supported and defended by our prime minister and minister Bradley Felix is one such example that must be rejected outright.

You must be driven by a true sense of reason, humility, conviction and civility. Stand firm in your principles, for you must never accept the notion of two Saint Lucia’s, one for the top 10 percenters and one for the bottom 90 percenters. Always aspire to be a free and independent thinking Saint Lucian! We are one Saint Lucia, one people, and our guiding principles of justice, truth and charity should respectfully work as our ideals in our collective best interests, always!

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