KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – This country could have another national hero as soon as next year, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves announced in his Independence Address on Thursday.
“In 2012, we shall commence the process to elevate one more persons to the pantheon of national heroes to join the Right Excellent Joseph Chatoyer, Paramount Chief of the Garifuna People,” he said at the military parade at Victoria Park.
Gonsalves said that beginning next year, the government would twice annually “commend, acknowledge and proclaim exemplars of production in salutation of those who have been exemplary in the production process in their fields of endeavour.
“We will lift up exemplary worker: casual workers, craftsmen, workers at the ports, public servants, businessmen, farmers, doctors, nurses, teachers, fisherfolk, in every single walk of life,” he said.
“… we will lift up a certain number of them and celebrate them and make sure that they are well and properly taken care of not only now but in their sunset years because of their exemplary work,” the Prime Minister said.
“We shall therefore celebrate independent thought and action, creative and discipline production, hard and smart work,” Gonsalves further said.
“It is upon the productive base that civilise living and production rest,” he added.
According to Gonsalves, the Unity Labour Party administration will continue to strengthen the safety net for the poor, including the 5,600 persons on the non-contributory public assistance list, 2,000 of whom are students.
The government this year increased payment to these persons, costing the state EC$4 million.
And in the 2012 budget, Vincentians “will see further enhancements for the poor of this country,” he said.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, announced an EC$2 million road-cleaning programme for Christmas 2011.
He further said that the government would soon announce initiatives to assist the elderly and retirees, including retired teachers who worked at non-state schools and are not currently eligible for any retirement benefit from the consolidated fund.
“This is a historic wrong which must be put right and I shall put it right,” Gonsalves said.
The government will also continue to pursue a full and comprehensive regional solution for policyholders of the failed insurance companies British American and CLICO, according to Gonsalves.
“We are approaching a solution, and, baring any further unforeseen hiccups, I expect a satisfactory resolution before our next anniversary of independence,” Gonsalves said.
The prime minister further said that Cabinet last week announced the names of the six national scholars.
The students, Gregory Tuayev-Deane, Shance Clarke, Kenvorn Cuffy, Gavery David, Jebeel Gibson, and Lianne Wynee, will receive full funding for a five years of study, while Tuayev-Deane will also receive the Prime Minister Award.
The Prime Minister also spoke of the assistance being given to banana farmers affected by Hurricane Tomas and the black sigatoka disease.
He further announced that this year’s concession on barrel would run from Nov. 21 to Dec. 31.