NDP president Arnhim Eustace at the launching of the party's manifesto on Thursday. (Photo: Oris Robinson)

ST. VINCENT:- Leader of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) Arnhim Eustace says that his party is committed to improving the lives of Vincentians and have announced some proposals which the NDP believes will make life easier for citizens.

Speaking at the launch of the NDP’s manifesto on Thursday, Dec. 9, Eustace again said foreign investors are willing to pump millions of dollars into 10 projects, creating 20,000 jobs over the next two years if the NDP is elected to office on Monday, Dec. 13.

“I stand by that statement. I have listened to some of the comments being made by the other side about that. Well, I remember when [former Prime Minister] Sir James [Mitchell] and Carlyle Dougan spoke about Vincentians going to the British Army, they said that would not happen either,” Eustace said, adding that  over 800 Vincentians are now serving in the Britain Army.

Eustace said that his party meets every week to discuss the challenges confronting Vincentians, adding, “many people are worse off than they were”.

“And that drives us all the time to try to do something better, to try to make an improvement in the lives of the people of this country,” the former prime minister said.

“After all, that is what politics is about: to improve the standard of living of your people; to improve the wellbeing of your people and we are heavily committed to that task and that is why I say to you tonight that on the 13th of December you must cast your vote for the New Democratic Party of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

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Eustace said that during its 17 years in office, which ended with the Gonsalves era in 2001, the NDP made efforts to improve lives of poor.

He said the party created a land-owning democracy when it distributed lands across the country.

“Out of that you had a thriving agricultural sector, which today is in jeopardy because of poor policies by the Unity Labour Party. …The New Democratic Party has a plan and a project and a programme to revive agriculture in this country. That is part of our message to the poor,” said Eustace, an economist.

Eustace said that an NDP administration would remove value-added tax (VAT) from 150 items, although Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration has said many of these items are already zero-rated.

“I will have them in different categories. Some will be for breakfast, some will be for lunch and some will be for dinner and some will be for your general benefit. And, when that list is read out, I want Gonsalves to read it properly because he will be reading it from the opposition benches, if he gets his seat,” Eustace told supporters.

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He said the state must “deal with the issues that confront the poor” and that an NDP administration will pay the fee for all Vincentian students writing external O-Level and A-Level examinations.

Eustace further restated his party’s position on the international airport under construction at Argyle, saying an NDP government will appoint a team of international consultants to evaluate the project and guide the party’s decision on the way forward.

“When the work is finished, the NDP administration will finish the airport at Argyle,” Eustace said.

If the NDP is elected to office, beginning on Feb. 1, 2011, there will a six-month period during which persons will get a 50 per cent concession on vehicles imported to be used in the public transportation and tourism sectors, Eustace said.

“It will make a contribution to our tourism; it will make a contribution to the improvement of transportation in our country… that is part of our promise to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and we are serious when we make these promises,” Eustace said.

He further said that freedom is being curtailed in St. Vincent, saying that the party faced challenges securing the Victoria Park as the venue for the launch of the manifesto.

“They didn’t want to see a crowd like this come just before the elections in support of the New Democratic Party but they could bob, they could weave, NDP is here to please and we will please the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace said.

Eustace said that the Gonsalves administration interferes too much in the affairs of Vincentians and employs only its supporters.

“No country can develop if half of its people are discriminated against and the New Democratic Party will not be participating in that victimisation that has characterised this country and this government for the last nine to ten years.

“We will bring a new dawn. Every Vincentian has the right to associate with whatever party they want and that must not affect their right to get a job and the right to a proper standard of living. I promise you that,” Eustace said.

He said when the nation gets “to that stage, we will be moving to the kinder and gentler society that I speak about all the time.

‘I am not guessing about it. I am not suggesting that it is an easy task. I am saying that we, as a party, have to take steps to erase from your minds, to erase from your consciousness that kind of victimisation that you have suffered for the past nine plus years.”

Eustace lamented a recent announcement by the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, the nation’s main healthcare facility, that it would not be providing several routine tests.

“What kind of hospital we have that cannot meet the most basic tests? What kind of hospital where you can’t get the most basic drugs? What kind of hospital where you have to wait for hours and hours for attention, where people are sent home who are too sick to go home and in some cases have died before they could get back to the hospital. The question of health and healthcare in this country is a very critical one.”

Eustace said an NDP administration will build a state of the art hospital and improve its management so that citizens can get service they deserve from the heath system.

He further expressed concerns about free and fair elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“We cannot mash, squeeze and destroy our democracy because that is part of our democratic right to have free and fair elections … people in the constituency must make the decision for themselves but they don’t like that,” he said.