The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
Recently I was making a statement that turned into a discussion, then into an argument. What sparked this argument was what sounded like an attack on Hon. A. Eustace, president of New Democratic Party in homeland St. Vincent by me.
What I meant to do was to commend him for what I dubbed as “improvement in strategic politics”.
In past elections, I’ve noticed that Dr. Gonsalves will strategically promise incentives for electing him back as the prime minister of St. Vincent and the grenadines, in turn, forcing the opposition’s hand to make same promises or oppose a policy that a vast amount of voters would like. And in all instances, that I’ve witnessed, he has opposed. Here is where I stated that things like that caused his party to lose votes.
At this point, I was interrupted. Apparently, what I was saying made no sense whatsoever. If the NDP moved from 3 seats to 7 seats between two general elections they must have gained votes, so you can’t move from a lower number to a higher number if you are losing. I was accused of not knowing simple math because even a child in kindergarten could tell anyone; if asked, that for you to move from 3 to 7 you just add 4.
For the record, I do understand simple math. I swear if he didn’t say that the answer was 7 I could’ve counted on my fingers and get that right.
And if I could’ve gotten enough time to speak I would’ve used an equation like
We really didn’t have to argue about anything because all I was doing was commending Hon. Eustace for saying he will honour the percentage increase that Hon. Gonsalves promised for January. I see that as well planned politics. Eustace cancelled out a portion of the public servants and their household that would’ve voted for the ULP just for that percentage increase. Bringing things back to a level ground, to an extent.
Now, I’ve had the pleasure of reading the manifestos from the ruling ULP and the opposition NDP for the upcoming general elections on December 9th… I have also read a few policies that the Green Party plans to put in place if they were to be elected into office.
After reading the policies outlined on the Green Party’s website I asked myself:
- Who is this Ivan O’Neal?
- What are his accomplishments why he thinks he deserves to be running St. Vincent (besides graduating from universities)?
I journeyed over to Google for some answers. Wikipedia informed me that Mr. O’Neal was actually affiliated with the ULP where he served as treasurer before severing ties in 2000 — just before their general election victory in 2001. Awwww, don’t feel bad.
Basically, Mr. O’Neal wants to make each and everything half the price they are now or free … Completely free. VAT will be no more. This abolishment of VAT will coincide with the abolishment of apartheid and the taxation of Mustique’s super rich. Mr. O’Neal’s plans for St. Vincent sounds good. Too good.
This must be the ramblings of a mad man.
Press gas … time for a change.
The NDP’s manifesto said a bunch of things that I was happy to hear:
- Encourage annual, youth-inspired, arts and culture events.
- Revitalizing community spirit.
- Infusing new ideas into Vincy Mas and revamping marketing strategies. (Our youths will agree with this)
These topics really stood out to me and I would like to see each and everyone put into place as soon as possible. There were some topics that I just felt like the NDP wants to take us back before 2001 but for the most I agreed with their plans for SVG in the next 5 years.
Public sector reform had me feeling a bit uncertain. Mr. Eustace said he and his party do not believe in square pegs in round holes. I see that as an impending threat and what will be seen in the future as victimization of public servants if they do get into power. After rummaging through my feelings on this particular subject, I realized I do not oppose such a stance.
If I am standing on the highest point of Sion Hill and I needed a message delivered to bottom town and the messenger was against me then he or she will distort my message — sabotaging my plan.
In short, I will need someone that I can depend on to carry out the tasks at hand.
However, what disappointed me about the NDP’s manifesto was the fact that I wasn’t told much on where or who they were going to get the funds from to initiate and complete their many projects. At the end, I just felt like if the NDP gets into power they will spend the next three years if not five years doing nothing but researching and assessing what needs to be done. I do believe that at times you need to stop moving to make sure that you’re going the right way.
“The good news is: you’ve come a long way. The bad news is: you went the wrong way.”- J. Cole
But…The NDP has been sitting on the sidelines for far too long to have a plan that only tells the general public of things they are going to do. I do not speak for the general public — that is not my capacity here. I do believe that a party should show preparedness, tell us how you’re going to go about doing certain things, with what fund, from who or where, what you are going to change and why do you feel it is necessary to change it.
Many, including that friend I mentioned earlier, do not believe that all these questions are necessary, that even in the position that Mr. Eustace sits, he should just oppose for the sake of opposing. At least that’s what I gathered. We had an argument before this one. I vaguely remember the details, but the general concept was: Prime Minister Gonsalves submitted something to parliament, Mr. Eustace skimmed through the document on his way down to one of the grenadine island, saw a figure that meant that the country would go deeper into debt, proceeded to write a post that I read on I-Witness news facebook page he outlined the figure of the proposal, but basically was saying that he didn’t read it in its entirety. In short he was not going to approve it.
I had no problem with him opposing a bill, but the duties of the opposition is to hold the government accountable, to the public, for how our money is being managed or mismanaged, criticize and oppose any policy that you believe will damage the St. Vincent and the Grenadines society on a whole, and with this, I think the public need details on your standpoint. Not just thinking of the next general election and undermining public confidence in the ruling party- although that is part of your job.
For my friend, all that mattered was the country was going further in debt and that’s all he needed to know to oppose.
Maybe I expect a bit too much from the opposition. Maybe I know nothing about public trust, politics, and manifestos. I haven’t a diploma, certificate, or degree that state otherwise.
The Labour Love…
Just like the NDP’s manifesto it contained a series of things that I liked. I rated it above the NDP’s manifesto because it was more concise. Hon. Gonsalves made sure he stated a lot, if not everything that the public wanted to hear. His plans were broken down in the format that he planned to use. Although being fewer pages, it didn’t go from the beginning straight to the end: he showed a pathway. He was prepared like any leader should be. I praise this manifesto. I was amazed at the “Ask Ralph” slogan coming close to the election, and the fact that this manifesto didn’t stop at five years, it carried plans to 15 years ahead, clearly showing that Mr. Gonsalves was capitalising on events that happened in the recent months/years. (Where Eustace was asked about his plan for SVG for the next 15 years)
I read the NDP’s manifesto first, and the president’s address stood out to me, a percentage increase said to be promised by Gonsalves if public trust raised him to reins of power in St. Vincent and the Grenadines 14 years ago. I took what Mr. Eustace said for granted and when the #AskRalph opportunity presented itself, I missed the “is this true?” question in the series that I should’ve aimed for. This is my question and Ralph’s response:
- Cadougan: In the NDP’s manifesto for the upcoming elections, the party’s president and leader of the opposition: Arnhim Eustace stated that in the 2001 general election the public servants request of a 30 per cent increase was promised by you, Honourable prime minister, later on he inferred that up to this day, 14 years later the public servants have not received their 30 per cent increase. Compared to wages in 2001, at what percentage increase are public servants getting now, and if in fact under the 30 per cent promised in 2001, why didn’t you honour such promise?
Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves: First of all, what Arnhim Eustace said is a falsehood. Eustace was in office as PM and Minister of Finance, and, the public servants demanded 30 per cent. He, first of all, over three years, he said he could only support 9 per cent over three years. He eventually agreed to 12 per cent. And, he continued this falsehood that I said that he should give 30 per cent. I never said that. I made the point that there are some non-wage benefits that would be hugely important to the public servants including the 100 per cent mortgages which I instituted. As a matter of fact, since 2001, the public servants have received increases on an average ranging from the different categories between 60 per cent and 105 per cent because we did a reclassification of the public servants in 2007 in which enormous increases were granted.
In fact, when you discount the inflation which is just about 32-33 per cent over the period, the average increase for the public servants is, in 2001, in excess of 40 per cent when you include the reclassification. And, there are huge non-wage benefits additionally.
Tricked by Eustace.
Let me criticize the ULP to the best of my ability now.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines trusting a government that has been ruling for 14 years for improving health care, paying much more attention to sports and culture, revamping the carnival committee so to improve its marketing, and tapping into the resource of our diaspora seems a folly. I don’t know what measures are in place to tap into the diaspora, and maybe that is some fault of mine, but for this general election I have been bombarded with numerous campaigning emails from the ULP. I was kept in the know of their happenings, and I often asked myself how did they get my email address? In short, whatever method they used for this campaign should’ve been used to tap into the diaspora. Our CDC has been dormant as long as our volcano has. Our children no longer get together to engage in activities outside of the school. Our health care facilities are incapable of handling too many frequent cases, and getting to the MCMH takes way too long, and when they get there the required equipment scarcely work.
The ULP had a strong election campaign, they’re everywhere doing everything. Some may hope that that was the case during their entire tenure and not just an election gimmick, but these gimmicks tend to work. Mr. Francis is second to none when it comes to doing a campaign right. From 2001 to now they have been in the forefront with catchy slogans and show what they are made of. The progress that St. Vincent made from 2001 to 2014 can never be denied, sure there is a lot more that could’ve been done in their tenure and I am sure the prime minister will attest to that, but they do have some amazing accomplishments under their belts.
The NDP continues to talk about the good old days when banana trucks would line up from Kingstown to Sion Hill under the NDP’s tenure while Sir James was prime minister. And I am sure a lot of people would love to return to where they paid half the price of what they are paying now for everyday goods, but we are far past that stage, inflation has taken a toll on the world on a whole, and maybe what your dollar was worth in 2001 it is worth $1.75 in 2015, that’s inflation for you and no government can return those prices to us. The banana industry was put into a chokehold by the ULP government, but trying to appeal to our new generation tech savvy voters to go back to the fields… um, pause. No. I am not toiling in the sun all day, bruh.
Moreover, the NDP’s campaigning strategy seemed to be geared at one man. Hon. Dr. Ralph E Gonsalves, attacking his character while they should be attacking issues affecting the wider nation. All I ever seem to read about is why Hon. Gonsalves shouldn’t be prime minister of our country and not enough on why Hon. Eustace should replace him, besides a degree in some economy field I don’t think I know if another reason.
Last General election the ULP returned to power with an 8-7 majority government, with the NDP picking momentum from the previous term where the ULP had a 12-3 majority government, some might say this indicated a downward spiral for the ULP government, but I do not think so. There are three things that affected that election, they are:
- High public fear-In the Vote Yes campaign where the ULP sorted votes on a referendum. It was highly contested by the NDP who scourged the ULP in that election when they accused them of trying to change the state to a communist state. That fear spilled over into the next general election.
- The 2008-2011 economic recession, the people felt the squeeze and wanted relief.
- The campaign against the Argyle International Airport. We were told that we didn’t need the international airport, the debt that the country is in because of the construction of the airport that small nor big planes would be able to land there because of the wind factor, and the obvious scope increase over the years.
Three of these things aren’t happening right now. The referendum is long gone, our country has made a bit of progress in the economy since then, and even it isn’t in the clear, things are a bit better than they were within the recession. The campaign against the Argyle took on a different tune since the last time the country met to vote, even if the NDP gets into power they will finish the Argyle International Airport, but they will find other methods to do it (this is where I feel that the opposition would wait until getting into power to start researching.)
I believe that the government will return to office with a majority government. I am not sure of the amount of seats or where their seats will be, but if you forced me to make a number I’ll say 11-4
Whatever you think, I encourage each and everyone to make a call on Election Day. Do not stay at home. Your vote counts in the election and what happens to you and your children in years to come.
I have never voted. I was never lucky enough to be present and eligible to vote.
No matter who forms the new government on December 10th, the prime minister will be my prime minister.
Until January 17th…
Vincentian in the diaspora
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].