An opposition politician says that after 20 years in office, the Unity Labour Party (ULP) is yet to understand the relationship between business, government and society (BGS) and improving the lives of citizens.
St. Clair Leacock told the New Democratic Party’s virtual meeting last Thursday that the Unity Labour Party cannot speak of the EC$85 million land reform that the NDP administration carried out under the leadership of Sir James Mitchell.
He said that the project transformed the lives of people in rural St. Vincent, including in Lauders, Lowmans, Greiggs “and created a significant middle class as a consequence of that investment”.
Leacock, who is MP for Central Kingstown, said that on the other hand, the ULP said that during their tenure, they have seen the emergence of “the genteel poor”.
“People who once were able to cut their lawn, change their wheels and their tyres, change their clothes and put three square meals and can’t do it anymore,” Leacock said, explaining the concept.
He said that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is also leader of the ULP, had invited the University of the West Indies to study the phenomenon.
“The problem is… he wanted to do it but find out is only in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and quickly came to a reason why it is so.
“That is because no other country has this administration running their affairs, so you won’t find genteel poor in Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Dominica, Grenada. In fact, what you find is the growing rich, a burgeoning middle class,” Leacock told radio and social media audiences.
He said that people have to understand some of the underlying root causes “why we are not where we should be”.
He said that SVG has not been able to get together the three “crucial elements” efficient business, efficient government and society.
“In fact, if our government wants to be all three of them,” he said, adding that when the ULP came to office, it formed NESDEC as an umbrella body for civil society organisation.
“They even invited the NDP to become a part of it,” he said.
“Well, that’s not hard to understand. If your mantra all of your life has been to recognise only the state as being important, then, clearly your politics would be of such that you want to have everybody under your roof. And so, St. Vincent is not a country, up to today, with all of the education that generations of political leaders have produced where you can find outstanding civil society.”
He said that civil society has disappeared under the ULP, with the Teachers’ Union and the Public Service Union “working very hard to keep a sense of independence because left alone, they would not see the light of day.
“In fact, we don’t even celebrate Labour Day today, like our country used to. Because civil society, society has disappeared,” Leacock said.
He said that there are no independent views on the national budget from the Chamber of Commerce “because they are under the ambit of government.
“You can’t have an independent position of the Employers Federation, the Tourism Association. The government continues to make fools of the minibus association,” he said.
He said that the common thread of the Unity Labour Party that informs all those examples is “one-man rule”
Leacock said the NDP president, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday reminds the party of the importance of keeping jobs at the forefront.
He further said that the NDP had emphasised recognising the nation’s youth as a part of their reason for being and that women, especially young women, have to be targeted for special attention.
Citing the presentations at the NDP’s Youth Voices event recently, Leacock said that between ages 18 and 23 are terrible years for Vincentian women navigating through the educational course to avoid prostitution and staying out of the hands of “sugar daddies” and on the straight and narrow.
“Well, I am not like some of them going to get mad. I going just get vex,” he said, adding, “But that’s the St. Vincent…
“That change can only come if you understand the mission of Dr. Friday, that is, he will go to sleep at nights thinking about how he can create jobs for young people, and he will wake at mornings, thinking how he could better attend to the elderly.
“The New Democratic Party says that as the government, we will be obsessed with creating those job opportunities. But herein lies the difference. And he (Friday) puts it in a nice way. ‘One Nation, One People. One Vincy.’ That’s another way of saying he understands that triad of business, government and society.
“You’re not going to have effective government unless you have effective business. And you’re not going to have effective business unless you have a vibrant society. They go hand in hand. You, by yourself, cannot do it all. And so an important part of the New Democratic Party’s mission in creating these jobs and these opportunities is providing this mission and vision; it’s to see yourself as an enabler, a facilitator, ensuring that our businesses grow, that we put the money, as the leader says, where the pain is. That we enfranchise our unions; let them be strong, Let them be powerful voices in representing the working class,” Leacock said.
“He said that commentator Kenneth John was correct when he said that “labour” in Unity Labour Party is a misnomer.
“They never came out of the belly of struggle and of working class movement, as obtains in most of the productive and progressive labour movements in the other parts of the Caribbean.
“They saw a singular interest, and it explains why today so many of them who gravitated to the Unity Labour Party see themselves as parachuting into some kind of entitlement to a better life. And that they turn the script around: rather than they being responsible for providing us, the people, or you, the people, or the poor and poverty-stricken, the working classes as they like to call it, with a better life, they ride on the backs of the poor and working class for their better life,” Leacock said.