Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday. (iWN file photo)

By Dr. the Hon Godwin Friday, leader of the New Democratic Party


Fellow Vincentians, friends, in this, our 41st year of Independence, we are grateful to almighty God for his grace and his mercy for keeping us together and hopeful about our future.

During this time, especially we reflect on our journey as a nation, as a people and recognize and appreciate early generations and persons among us today. What a valuable contribution to our social development, to our cultural heritage and to our unique insentient way of life.

I sincerely and profoundly appreciate our public servants, who despite many challenges continue to do their best in the service of our country and our people.

So, to you, public servants, I say we are grateful for your efforts and indeed sacrifices that you make to keep our country running day after day. I know that many times it is not easy. Therefore, we celebrate your commitment and hard work and urge you to continue to give of your best. I am aware of your concerns of graduates in the service and for pensioners, and we’ll address them.

Our present Independence celebrations come at a time of unique challenges. First, the COVID-19 pandemic is a clear and present danger to our health, our economy, and to our way of life.

In addition, the dengue fever outbreak has taken seven precious lives and has wounded our collective spirit. It did not have to happen that way. It was preventable. What was brought about by failure and neglect by those responsible for keeping us safe from such calamities, principally the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister.

The global economic downturn, high unemployment, high taxes, poor healthcare and other uncertainties about the future, lead our people to wonder: What next? How will we recover? When will we begin to grow and prosper again?

Also informing our Independence celebrations this year, and indeed overshadowing them is the fact that we are on the verge of our most important general elections in a generation.

Yes, dear friends, this election is pivotal for every Vincentian. It will affect our future. Well beyond the normal five years of a mandate. We have a clear choice, between the present government that has broken its promises and put us in the economic doldrums and a new government of the New Democratic Party that will bring a fresh start and a prosperous future.

Let us set aside the rhetoric, the propaganda, the distortions, and the downright lies, of the ULP: Who after years have failed to deliver jobs and good health care system, of failing of people; will say anything to get your vote.

Let us put our hearts and minds together to confront our difficult conditions. Let us examine where we are, where we need to go. And the best way to get there.

Unemployment in our country is higher today than it was 20 years ago. Our young people have been hardest hit. The IMF and Eastern Caribbean Central Bank reports bear this out.

As I walk through the towns and villages across St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I see the struggles of families trying to make ends meet, but who are falling further and further behind.

I see the frustration in our young people who are desperate for an opportunity to earn a steady income, for meaningful jobs. Or to be able to continue their education to better themselves and their families.

We will provide help, we will provide hope for our young people. Hope in providing affordable loans so that they can continue their education and greater opportunities for them to study and develop themselves.

There is the fear of them losing who and sinking into desperation. It is palpable; it is real. We can see the needs of the faces of young people, and you can hear the worry and the concern in the voices of their parents and grandparents. We need to get St. Vincent and the Grenadines working.

This is a top priority for my team and me, and we will not fail you.

We will work to deliver new jobs for the people of this country, jobs that will secure, a better standard of living for everyone. We will make our country work and we will make it work for all. The current state of our healthcare system is far below acceptable standards and threatens the welfare of our people.

Scarcity of beds, medical supplies and the deplorable conditions of our healthcare infrastructure, including the district clinics, tell a story of gross neglect and a complete disregard care of our people.

The wealth of our nation depends on the health of our people. Any government that fails to provide quality health care to its people is one that has lost the moral right to rule.

Moreover, the way that this government has handled the dengue fever outbreak is further evidence that they are unfit to look after the healthcare needs of our people. We deserve better. We deserve a healthcare system that delivers quality care to everyone and ensures access, not just in the central locations, but in the rural areas as well.

Everywhere throughout our blessed country, every person has the right to quality and affordable healthcare. This is a priority for an NDP administration.

We will work hard to improve the healthcare services in this country because you, our people are our most precious resource deserve it.

Many Vincentians continue to suffer from the neglect of our roads and general infrastructure. Our roads have become obstacle courses and badly need repair. This includes feeder roads, which are the worst of all, even though they are essential to the productivity of our farmers. They need urgent attention.

Safety, and security is also a major problem. We have seen rising crime and violent crimes under this ULP administration. Violence against women is a major threat to our social development.

Too many of our women are victims of domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse. We need safer homes. We need safer streets. We need safer communities. At this time of our Independence these are pressing concerns that must be addressed.

The economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has performed poorly under the ULP government — compared to our Caribbean neighbours with very similar socioeconomic challenges. Our country is that the bottom of the list for economic performance, every sector of our economy: tourism, agriculture fishing, for example, every sector of the economy has failed to meet the development targets.

Our economy has been struggling for a long time, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a grim truth we cannot avoid and cannot ignore any longer. Corrective action is needed now.

The broken promises of the ULP continue to keep our people and our country stagnant in a circular pattern of barely making ends meet, with higher levels of taxation and no opportunities for meaningful jobs and a steady rising income.

While some like the boast about creating and increasing more Public Assistance, I would rather boast about creating permanent jobs and better jobs for our people. And, of reducing the tax burden by reducing the VAT from 16% to 13% so that we can live prosperous and independent lives.

Getting a hand up from poverty is more valuable than a handout. It is time to get our people back to work by creating jobs so that they can improve their lives — especially, our young people who have not been able to get a foothold in this economy. When one asks the questions, are you struggling to find a decent job? Are you worried about the poor state of our healthcare system? Are you concerned about rising crime and violence and about your safety and security? Are you tired of the poor roads, the poor schools and the absent government services? The answers I hear, and I am sure that most of you hear is yes, yes, yes, and yes.

But we must put the blame where it must go, on the government that has ruled this country for the past 19 years, and that has failed to deliver and continue to negatively affect the lives of our people, to negatively affect your homes and your communities. They have failed to deliver a better quality of life for you and your loved ones.

And, for this reason, you must vote for a change in the upcoming general elections.

We ask you to vote for the New Democratic Party: as the best vehicle for bringing that change into being for our people.

We are just days away from the general election — the most important in a generation. Both young and old would have an opportunity to change the direction of our country: from a stagnant economy, with declining prospects, to a better place of hope and a brighter future.

As your leader, I am dedicated to getting St. Vincent and the Grenadines working. My team is dedicated to creating jobs, creating an economy that works, fixing our broken infrastructure and providing quality healthcare and making our communities safe.

We will focus not merely on buildings, but on people.

Believe that on Nov. 5, you can change your destiny, our destiny, and be builders of a brighter future. Come, let us use Nov. 5 to bring a fresh start and build a new country together.

One nation, one people, one St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Thank you.

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].