ST. VINCENT: – A development fund allocating monies to each of the nation’s ministers to finance small projects in their constituencies will be part of the manifesto of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).
NDP vice president and candidate for Central Kingstown, Senator St. Clair Leacock, said his party will release the manifesto soon, as Vincentians prepare to vote on Dec. 13.
He told party supporters in Edinboro, West Kingstown, on Tuesday that an NDP administration would also set up a Ministry of the Private Sector.
This department will foster private sector development and encourage employment to ensure that citizens are not “on the door steps every Monday morning of any prime minister or any parliamentarian”.
He said that Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who is also the Minister of Finance, “not only controls the national purse but votes for himself over EC$750,000 for social development”.
“…as I like I say, so that if you go into town tomorrow and you want a hairdo, you can go up by the Prime Minister and get it. You want to go Kadooment, you can go there and get it from the Prime Minister,” Leacock said.
Leacock said that Gonsalves does not make any such provision for the other parliamentary representative.
“…the other ministers can’t even buy a [dinner mint], not even a snow cone, because not a cent is voted through the Constitution for them to take care of their constituency,” he said.
Leacock told constituents that they elect a representative to advocate on their behalf in the government.
He noted that under the political system, the elected representatives of the majority party select the prime minister, who becomes “the first among equals”.
He, however, said that is not the case under the Unity Labour Party (ULP).
“…they hand over all of their power to that one person called the prime minister. And after that, many of them become like little boys and girls. Everything they want, they have to go and ‘Please, Mr. Prime Minister. Please, Mr. Prime Minister, can you do this that or the other for me?'” Leacock said.
“It should not be so because you empowered someone to represent you in the Parliament,” Leacock added.
He said the party has adopted his proposal that every constituency should be voted a certain sum of money specifically for that representative.
This will allow representative “to be able to do small things that mean big things to the people in his or her constituency without having to go to a prime minister on bended knees to beg for that ability,” Leacock said.
Leacock said that the NDP will try to change the political system and voting monies for ministers will be a start.
“…soon, we will have a formal launching of the manifesto of our party and you will see in it that there will be great innovations in that manifesto. You will see that as a party, we recognise that much of what we say ad do is not cast in concrete…”
He said the NDP would also build low income houses that are truly low-income. The ULP has built some 650 low-income houses since coming to office in 2001.
“You can’t borrow EC$80,000 to build a home and spend 25 years paying back EC$250,000 on a loan of $80,000 where the interest is nearly three time what you borrow,” Leacock said.
He said the NDP will place a limit on the interest payable and suggested an administrative fee of EC$20,000 to EC$30,000 (US$7,407 – US$11,111).
“There will be a number of other projects which we will unleash to you. But, first and foremost … we will put the power in your hands as a people. Vincentians do not want to be cap in hands. Vincentians do not want to be hand to mouth. Vincentians don’t want to be on the door steps every Monday morning of any prime minister or any parliamentarian.
“In my own view, it is your own dignity, your own pride, you own industry [that] makes you a people who want to get up and get and do for yourself if jobs and opportunities can be created for you.
“What I understand and what we in the New Democratic Party understand is that you want a government that will place a lot of emphasis on job creation so you can find work for yourself and for your children,” Leacock said.
He said and NDP administration will float a development bond of EC$40 million “so that the private sector will create jobs for you and you can have a greater faith and confidence in the future”.
He said that under the Ministry of the Private Sector, private investment will “be able to take that pressure off the government and reduce the amount of fiscal and taxation that has to be imposed upon you to create jobs in this country”.
“…the New Democratic Party’s approach to governance will be fundamental different from the ULP, which believes in an increased state control of the economy and we will free it up so that you can have a better St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Leacock said.