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Gonsalves says Vincentian youth have a choice between progress and stagnation (File photo by Oris Robinson)

ST. VINCENT:- The ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) launched its youth manifesto on Tuesday, Dec. 7,  with party leader and Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, saying Vincentian youth have a choice between continuation of  the ULP’s policies or “to return to the old, tired, lack lustre ways of the stagnation of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP)”.

“Whatever we do on [Dec. 13] will influence the lives of young persons and this nation for many years to come,” said Gonsalves, at Sion Hill, East Kingstown, where the ULP’s youngest candidate, Luke Browne, 25, is running against NDP president and Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace.

“It is for this simple reason that young persons — we had asked them to register to vote, inform themselves of the issues of relevance to them, assess the positions on those issues of the political parties, reflect on the quality and effectiveness of the respective leaders and candidates, and then vote for the party or candidate of your choice,” Gonsalves said.

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Gonsalves told party supporters that the ULP’s policies have brought, over the past ten years, much progress to the country, including to the youth.

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“Under the ULP, there has been a massive enlargement of opportunities for young persons in vital areas such as employment, business, education, housing, sports and culture, and targeted youth programmes of one kind or another. Never in our history have the interests of young persons been so favourably addressed as under the ULP government,” he said.

Gonsalves said that the ULP’s candidates for the general elections on Monday reflect the party’s emphasis on youth, mentioning Luke Browne, the ULP’s youngest candidate.

“The approach of the government is that nothing should interrupt your flight or flow. The commitments made in the [this manifesto] show that we understand the challenges young people face and the supportive role that government must play,” Browne said in the manifesto.

“This document is an expression of the youth. It is a tribute to the ideas, energy and dedication of the upcoming generation and the elders who permit our uninterrupted flow,” the national and Rhode scholar further said.

Gonsalves further said that of the party’s eight new candidates, two will turn 30 next year, two others are in their 30s, one is in his 40s and other, though in his 50s, spent most of his working life as a teacher and pastor.

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“All of these persons are fresh political faces; all of them are accomplished and deserving of the high office of being an elected representative. This quest for young, vibrant representation in Parliament is part of the ULP’s enduring record since 2001. Our future leaders are being groomed today,” Gonsalves said.

He said the youth manifesto, which also outlines the party’s positions on sports and culture and was launched two days after the main manifesto, “encompasses the central policy stances and programmatic details which touch and concern young persons”.

Among these central polices, Gonsalves mentioned jobs and wealth creation; the making of young entrepreneurs; education; health and wellness; housing and lands; sports and recreation; culture and the arts; and the construction of the Argyle International Airport.

“The ULP has given to me an excellent team of experienced and youthful candidates to lead for a third term. I am deeply honoured to do so. Together, in communion with you, we shall continue to make St. Vincent and the Grenadines a better place, a much better place to live, especially for the young persons,” Gonsalves said.

“I exhort all young persons to take to head and heart the wise counsel of the Book of Ecclesiastes which tells us: Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy’,” Gonsalves said.

“I promise to be here with you, our young people, in your mighty efforts to uplift yourselves, our nation, and humanity. I shall lead, yet walk hand-in-hand with you … listening, learning, and accomplishing together with you,” he added.

The NNP, the other main contender in the elections, is yet to launch its manifesto.