Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday has outlined his New Democratic Party (NDP’s) plans to maximise the potential of the nation’s maritime resources, the blue economy.
Speaking at the NDP’s launch of its candidate in Owia on Sunday, Friday reiterated that an NDP administration would separate the ministries of agriculture and fisheries.
“My minister of agriculture will focus on rebuilding agriculture because what we have right now is a Minister of Agriculture that gets up every Monday morning with a new idea.
“One day, it’s turmeric, the next day it’s ackee, the next day, it’s something else and the farmers are left behind because it is all gimmick, it’s not performance.”
Friday noted that North Windward, like North Leeward, East St. George and the Grenadines have large fishing populations, where a lot of people depend on the fishing industry.
“We understand the potential that it has. Not only can it create export markets and bring foreign exchange revenue into our country, more importantly, it can provide jobs and better living standards for our people,” he said.
“Agriculture is an important pillar of the economy by itself. There is a commitment from us in the New Democratic Party that we will rebuild agriculture,” he said.
The opposition leader said that the country also needs a minister dedicated to rebuilding the fisheries industry “so that we, too, can export a large amount of seafood.
“He or she will focus on helping the fisher folk so that they can have more efficient boats, they can go out and stay out, they have credit, they can buy better engines and equipment and so that they can make a living, not just subsistence, But one where they’re actually running a business.
“This is not rocket science because it is done elsewhere,” he said, adding that Grenada, which has 32% less seawater under their control, compared to SVG, export 69% more seafood.
“That means that we have a resource that is untapped. And when I tell you that we are going to create jobs in this country, this is one of the key areas. We call it the blue economy.”
Friday said another element of the NDP plan to transformation the blue economy includes a maritime and hospitality institute, to train persons wanting to work in the hotel industry and to train seafarers so that they can get certification and find jobs all over the Caribbean and the world.
He said that the European Union gave Kingstown money for the construction of the institute 10 years ago.
“All those years, we asked them (the government) when is this facility going to be open so that our sailors don’t have to go to Trinidad or to Panama or to Miami in order that they can get employed on the cruise ships and on the cargo ships all over the world.
“But they haven’t done it. That is also part of our blue economy commitment so that we will get this institute up and running, so that our sailors can get certification here and we may even be able to have sailors from Grenada and Dominica and elsewhere come here and get certification.
“And then they are available to get jobs wherever they are available in the region and elsewhere. That is plan number 2 in our commitment to revive our blue economy.”
He said that the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard is also included in the NDP’s maritime plan.
“But this government has killed it. They have neglected it all because it was built by James Mitchell and the New Democratic Party,” he said of the marina, which was the subject of a commission of inquiry.
“So they say they spiting Mitchell, but, in fact, what they doing is they’re spiting the young people of this country because they have over 100 jobs as electricians, as plumbers, as welders, divers, painters, skilled jobs that can make good money.
“Yet it (the marina) is down there rotting because this government, in its wickedness, its spite, trying to get back at James Mitchell and the NDP, left it to rot. If you go there, it’s just completely destroyed; a mess.
“Meanwhile, our young people who could be getting work there are at home and they can’t find work to do. Well, I give you that commitment.”
Friday said that within the first term of an NDP government, “I will go there, we will open Ottley Hall, you will see a thriving business there, young people will find work there, our ferry services all over our beautiful country would be able to go there and have their ships repaired.
“They say that we don’t have a plan. Them fellas joking. Tell them all they could do is go up on a platform nowadays and cuss me and all the members of my team, because they ain’t have nothing to offer. But one of the things that they’re doing too is that they are telling boldface lies about me, about my team, about the things that we plan to do,” the opposition leader said.
He said that North Windward has fishing potential, and while the government built a fisheries centre in Owia, they later abandoned it.
“They just brought it like some big shiny object to try to dazzle the people and doesn’t contribute to developing the lives of the people. We have a plan for the fishing industry,” Friday said of the complex, which is now being operated by the private sector.