ST. VINCENT: – The New Democratic Party (NDP) has outlined the major tenets of its campaign for the upcoming general elections, ahead of a major political meeting at Sion Hill on Sunday, Oct. 31.
“The New Democratic Party, under the leadership of the Honourable Arnhim Eustace, is campaigning on the theme ‘Enough No More’,” NDP public relations officer and candidate Vynnette Frederick told I Witness-New this week.
“This theme reflects the overwhelming feeling of the majority of Vincentians, who have felt the decline in St. Vincent and the Grenadines over the past nine years, and even more acutely over the past two years and who are now openly saying they have had enough…and can take no more!” Frederick added.
“… [T]he NDP has painstakingly prepared a series of programmes and plans to tackle the wanton corruption, the absence of transparency and good governance and the decline in the economy in every sector. We are ready to lead the change the people of the nation so desperately require,” she said.
Frederick said the “core issues” that Vincentians are “railing against” are victimisation, corruption, no transparency in government, failure in every sector of the economy, a failing economy, and the sufferings of the populace.
“People have had enough and can take no more of a government for whom victimisation is a matter of policy,” she said, mentioning public servants “Anesia Baptiste and Otto Sam and others who would have dared question the conduct” of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government.
Baptiste received 16 charges for comments she made while campaigning for the NDP-headed “Vote No” campaign last November.
Sam, a career teacher, has been transferred to the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) amidst allegations that he was being disciplined for criticising the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves ULP administration.
“Persons have had enough and can take no more of the corruption, which now seems to characterize the conduct of the ULP and its elite members,” said Frederick who will represent the NDP in West St. George.
She mentioned former chairman of the National Commercial Bank (NCB) Desmond Morgan, husband of Attorney General Judith Jones Morgan, who the High Court this year ordered to pay the bank EC$2.251 million for the loans and interest accumulated.
“[N]othing is seized and sold to recover the monies owed to the NCB while the average man’s car and house are sold off without ceremony for defaulting on loans of far less than $2 million,” Frederick said.
“Look at the obvious corruption in the Ministry of Health, thousands spent under false pretences [was] exposed by the Internal Audit of the Cuban Doctor programme.”
Frederick further said there was an “absence of transparency” in the country, “evidenced by the arrogant refusal of the Prime Minister to answer the questions being asked by the electorate regarding the cash deposit of US$1 million into the Accountant General’s account without explanation.”
“The refusal of the Prime Minister to lay open to Parliamentary scrutiny the financial situation regarding the airport construction and cost and funding sources…there is nothing shown on paper about how this is to be financed and what the cost of construction can be,” she told I Witness-News.
Frederick further said there was failure in every sector of the Vincentian economy, adding that the main hospital was “deteriorating”, with no money to finance basic medication for the populace”.
She mentioned that the CAT scan machine purchased by the state will be housed at a private facility owned by Dr. Roslyn Ambrose, sister of Minister of Culture Rene Baptiste, “without any conversation in Parliament on the issue”.
“With a failed programme for agriculture, where nothing is being done to battle black sigatoka and where grant monies to the tune of $3 million have had to be returned to the EU because the government did not know how to spend it, there is more than ample reason for people to say ‘Enough No More’,” Frederick said.
“More than ever, our economy is in a tailspin. The deterioration of our fiscal situation and the shocking sale of our bank, which was a necessity in order to save it, have so disgusted the population that they have had enough and can take no more!”
She said the government’s “utter mismanagement” of more than EC$100 million in loans and overdraft facilities to 11 statutory organisations and the central government has resulted in admitted “liquidity problems” at the NCB.
“In order to stop the bank from going under, the government approached the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) for a $100 million loan. The bank agreed with the condition precedent to disbursement, requiring that the controlling interest in the bank, which was previously held by government, be sold! No amount of sugar coating can change the reality that the ULP government burst the bank and had to sell it to save it,” said Frederick, an attorney.
“This coupled with the fact that persons are finding it harder to make their ends meet, has galvanized the population into clamouring for change …”
Why vote NDP
Frederick said NDP leader Arnhim Eustace, an economist, “knows how to handle the economy”.
“Arnhim Eustace has experience in development economics and can do the job of stimulating our economy.
“We have a good team with youth and experience coming together. We believe that our policy of non-victimisation, our committed and capable leadership within the party, our committed team of candidates are poised to take St Vincent forward and we wish to do this for everyone regardless of what is your politics,” she said.
Frederick said the NDP “understand that St. Vincent and the Grenadines cannot progress on the strength of only half of our
population and we are committed to the cause of ensuring progress for all”.
“And I can’t reiterate enough…We have a leader who understands world economies, who understands how to stimulate economies and who understand how to create opportunities for there to be real development and improvement of people’s financial situations in the country. Our economy has to recover and flourish and Arnhim Eustace knows how to make this happen.
“This is why we should be given the chance to lead. We know that we can do it, and our country needs this now more than ever before,” she said.
The NDP’s plan
The NDP will stimulate the economy by floating a bond to raise EC$30 million to EC$40 million to pay off government debts to the local private sector.
“This should go a long way towards stopping layoffs in the private sector,” Frederick said, adding that the NDP will remove value-added tax (VAT) from basic goods, “which will give the average man 15 per cent more of their money to spend at the supermarket, which they will spend.”
The NDP will “tackle corruption”, removing “sweetheart contracts”, which pay almost EC$1 million per year to “party hacks for essentially nothing”.
“That is money we can save and apply to a sector to impact average Vincentian people who need it,” Frederick said.
An NDP administration will further “conduct an internal forensic audit and bring to justice before the court — and not expensive commissions of inquiry — those within the system who have broken the law”.
The party will approach agriculture with a view to getting into cocoa production and having a more market driven approach to production.
It will use the existing infrastructure and relationships in Portsmouth and supermarkets in Britain to get new markets for farmers so that diversification will be market-led.
Emphasis will be placed on developing the information technology (IT) sector as channel in realising the NDP’s policy of employment for at least one person per household.
The NDP will also use existing legislation to attract new IT businesses, will empower the youth “to drive this sector of our knowledge based economy”, and will provide free wireless internet throughout the entire country.
Regarding healthcare, the NDP will examine the management and structure of the system, implement a basic National Health Insurance programme and will build a state of the art medical facility,” Frederick said.
Frederick said her party will “empower more people to own homes, which if they are described as low income, should really be low income”.
She said the NDP is proposing to have the Housing and Land Development Corporation manage the programme and charge the person the cost of construction and an administrative fee only.
“…[S]o that instead of entering 30-year mortgages with commercial banks for low income homes whose cost can run up to $250,000, they would pay far less and own their homes more quickly”.
In education, the NDP hopes to benefit from its “creative IT programme by enabling students and teachers to embrace IT with our one laptop per child programme and our one laptop per teacher programme,” Frederick said.
The party will continue the “Universal Access to Education” programme while placing greater financial resources into primary schools “to ensure that children streaming into the secondary system are more prepared to see it through and graduate successfully”.
An NDP administration will also pay the external examination fees for each fifth and sixth form student in whatever the subject areas.
The party will also “improve representation at constituency level by providing, through the system, finance for small projects to be executed within the constituencies in the entire country”.
“In this way, Members of Parliament who represent constituencies can do the small projects which persons need done, for example roads, back walls, road trimming — make people see about and take charge of their own communities within the framework for financing this that government regulates,” Frederick said.