ST. VINCENT:- The ruling Unity Labour Party launched its 2010 election manifesto on Sunday, Dec. 5, one week ahead of the Dec. 13 general elections, with party leader, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, asking electors for a third term “to complete certain unfinished tasks”.
Gonsalves and the ULP are trying to stave off what pundits say is a formidable challenge from the New Democratic Party (NDP), led by economist Arnhim Eustace, as he seeks an historic third term for a labour government.
The prime minister, who came to office in 2001, said that a third term will also allow his government “to take the lead in lifting St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the next level in the interest of our people as a whole”.
He told party supporters, who braved rains to hear him speak at Victoria Park in Kingstown, that the ULP administration has “presided over the most impressive achievement” of any government in the history of the multi-island state.
“In the 2001 and 2005 general elections we made pledges to you about what we would do, and we kept our word,” he said.
He told electors they can trust the ULP to keeps its promises because the party has done “what we promised for our nation’s upliftment”.
Gonsalves said his party has a people-centred vision, a philosophy of applied social democracy, and a many-sided economic strategy of sustainable development.
The party is also guided by a socio-cultural quest to advance further the Caribbean civilisation, and creative policies and programmes which are transforming the nation, for the better, he said.
Ten years in government, Gonsalves said, has sharpened his administration for greater achievements “particularly with the unified blending of a core of experienced stalwarts and some fresh faces of the highest quality”.
The ULP, he said, was therefore offering continuity, including consolidation of its policies.
Among these policies, Gonsalves listed wealth and job creation, education, poverty reduction, housing, health and wellness, information and communications technology, and airport development.
“…we are offering, in addition to continuity, change to take our nation to the next, higher level of development,” Gonsalves said, even as he added that the NDP has “wasted its last ten years in opposition”.
He said that the NDP, which celebrated its 35th anniversary on Sunday and which was in office for 17 years ending in 2001, is bankrupt of ideas, opposes everything progressive, and is disunited.
“[I]t trades daily in the currency of untruths and insults; it has a leader whom practically everyone knows is unable to lead especially in these challenging times; it looks forward to the past … in the full knowledge that its future is behind it, and the NDP is yet to purge itself of backward elements who are awaiting for the first opportunity to plunder the resources of the state,” Gonsalves said.
“Simply put, the NDP, as the brethren on the block say, they got to wheel and come again. The nation cannot afford the monumental gamble with this lot.”
He said that the ULP, on the other hand, has focused on delivering good governance, even as he noted that there can be “no perfect governance,” adding, “we ought never to make perfection the enemy of the good”.
“Now, we seek God to have His people return us to government so as to ensure that we do not leave behind any unfinished tasks,” he said.
Gonsalves said his administration has reduced indigence from 25.7 per cent to 2.9 per cent of the population, doubled the Gross Domestic Product, provided secondary education for all of the nation’s children, and improved the physical infrastructure of the country.
He further said his government has advanced natural disaster preparation and management, fought crime and its causes, lifted sports and culture to unprecedented heights, and improved the quality of life of citizens generally.
“Overall, the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are far better off today, in every material respect, than they were in 2001,” Gonsalves said.
The Minister of Economic Development reiterated the ten policies, which, he said, will guide a ULP administration during a third term in office.
These are poverty reduction; job and wealth creation; economic growth and development, including the consolidating of fiscal discipline, balancing prudence and enterprise; emphasis on ICT training and the implementation of the “one laptop per student” policy as part of extending and deepening the “Education Revolution”.
Gonsalves further said that a ULP government will enhance the “Health and Wellness Revolution”, including the relocation of the main hospital; uplift communities by properly addressing vital areas of concern, including road repairs, sports and cultural facilities; and, make the nation safer and strengthen law and order.
He spoke of the building of a new city at Arnos Vale and enhanced access to Kingstown; completing the Argyle International Airport; and, delivering top-notch good governance all round, in every area of public policy, including regional integration.
“This Manifesto elaborates further other programmatic details on these top ten, and other, policies of the ULP. They, collectively, illuminate the only feasible path for our nation’s further progress, subject always to God’s grace and favour,” Gonsalves said.
He noted that the general elections were being held in the wake of Hurricane Tomas, which devastated the north of St. Vincent and damaged 1,200 houses nation-wide at the end of Oct.
“Already, your Government is very busy at effectively rebuilding our country and is daily providing a helping hand to all those who have endured pain, loss and damage, and suffering at the hands of Tomas. I feel sure that the overwhelming majority of Vincentians are more than satisfied that the ULP is best placed to lead ‘Operation Recovery and Reconstruction’ in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the months and years ahead,” he said.
Among those who heard Gonsalves’ speech Sunday night were Deputy Premiere of Nevis Hensley Daniel, Vincentian born Barbadian-based Pan-African Chief David Commissiong, and Gonsalves’ mother-in-law Dominican Ursula Claudia Harris.