National development is about people and not about “big buildings and fancy things,” Opposition Leader Godwin Friday told the nation’s youth on Monday.
“I don’t believe that development is about big buildings and fancy things. It’s about making people’s lives better,” he told his New Democratic Party’s youth rally in Kingstown, ahead of Thursday’s general elections.
“… this ULP government, they have had all these big, shiny objects, they have big projects that they say they built and they say that that means that the country develop.
“And then when you ask, ‘How are people feeling today, are lives better off today?’ And they tell you no, because poverty is greater because the economy only grew by 0.4% last year, which means it can’t create jobs, that farmers are finding it harder, that fisherfolk are finding it harder,” Friday said.
He said: “Everybody in this country except those who have a party card, except those who are connected to the ULP (Unity Labour Party) are finding it harder.”
The opposition leader said that the 2018 poverty assessment, data from which was leaked to his party show that not only did poverty increase in the preceding decade, but also that there was greater inequality in the country.
“It also showed that there was greater inequality in our country, which means those who did well are doing better. And guess who did well, it’s those with a party card.
“Them who fat, they’re getting more. They are getting more. So the same people who done get, they getting more,” he said, adding that this is what people all over the country have been telling the opposition.
“… but we are going to change that because we are a government that will make sure that whatever this country produces, it will be for all of us.”
Friday said he wants the nation’s youth to know that an NDP administration would increase the monthly stipend for Youth Empowerment Service (YES) workers, from EC$450 to EC$650.
“I know they’re frightening you and they’re trying to tell you that the NDP will cut jobs, that we will cut the YES programme, that we don’t want the YES programme,” he said of the ruling ULP.
“That’s what they will tell you. But the NDP loves you and the NDP will create greater jobs, more jobs in the YES programme,” he said, adding that the EC$450 that the government currently pays is below the poverty line, according to the leaked data.
“… what we are going to do is – we will increase that amount to $650. So that you have something else to take home. And more than that, for young people don’t buy their fear tactics.”
He said that the NDP will also expand the YES Programme to the private sector.
“We are going to make it so that if somebody in the private sector wants to take on a YES worker, we will pay $650 if they will also match it and pay 650. So that worker gets a good living wage. And they have to keep you on for one year at least so that you have something to put on your resume, and you could go out to look for jobs elsewhere.
“Hopefully they will keep you on because they will see that you’re a good worker; this is something to help the young people to get a start in life. It is very important that we do that for young people,” Friday said.
He said that an NDP administration will expand the technical vocations education programme.
“We’ve got to make it an essential part of our school curriculum so that young people can get the skills necessary to take up the jobs that we are going to create,” he said, adding that this will complement the NDP’s plan to rehabilitate the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard project.
He further said that the NDP’s proposed development bank will provide financial support for fishers and farmers and will also be attractive to young people so that they can get business.
“This election, my dear people, it is about the heart of the country. This election is about creating jobs. It’s about making the heart of this country stronger and fitter, so that we can withstand the challenges that come ahead. This is what the election is about.
“And we will continue to press and find opportunities wherever they are to bring prosperity to our people. We will do so by exploring the opportunities through the Citizenship by Investment Program, which we know is benefiting all of our neighbours in the OECS but the high and mighty ones here, because their bread is buttered, they feel like frightening people and tell them all kinds of things about it; mislead people when in fact that there are opportunities there to be had that we can use here to develop our country.
“And we will use it because we believe in the young people and we want to make life better for them; for you, young people,” Friday said.